Can government and the Indian steel company, Jindal Steel make any headway in exploiting the Wologizi Mountain amidst protest and plan by Lofians to die for their right?
Lofa citizens have over the time become disenchanted upon hearing that Vice President Joseph Boakai, who himself hails from Lofa County, went to India and had talks with the management of Jindal Steel Company for the exploitation of iron ore in the Wologizi Mountain.
Wologizi is so far the largest iron ore reserve in Liberia as the Nimba Mountain, Bomi Hills, and the Bong Range are all being exploited and at the point of depletion.
Putu Mountain that is located in Grand Gedeh County, which was considered the second reserve is now taken over by Putu Iron Ore Mining Company and preparation is underway for exploitation of iron ore in that mountain.
In a mass meeting on the University of Liberia campus recently, Lofa citizens counting on other instances said they must have full participation in any discussion surrounding the exploitation of Wologizi to know what benefit will go to the county before any company can take over.
According to the Lofa citizens many of whom appeared agitated in their approaches, 68 concessions have been signed in the country with none making impact on the ordinary citizens of Liberia.
Some speakers including Cllr. Samuel Kortuma, Gizzie K. Kollince, amongst others recalled that companies including Buchanan Renewable Energy (BRE), African Development Aid (ADA), ArcelorMittal, have been operating in the country but the average Liberian people are not feeling the impact of their activities.
For instance, the Lofa citizens said BRE promised electricity for Monrovia while operating in Liberia, but the promise is yet to be fulfilled. Additionally, they claimed ArcelorMittal in Nimba and Grand Bassa Counties has not built any tangible building for staffs, but are living in tents that can be taken away with them when they are living.
‘The actions of concession companies in Liberia signify that they are here for their own interest and the interest of few hierarchies in government, which we will not accept in the case of Wologizi until government can consult us to know what our county will benefit,’ Cllr. Kortuma indicated.
For Representative Eugene Fallah Kpakar, he supported the stance Lofians are taking in the Wologizi issue and said before any agreement can be reached; it must involve the participations of people of the county who are the custodians.
He added that there should also be a competitive bidding with many companies participating to know which one will have the potential to invest in the Wologizi Range.
Furthermore, Representative Fallah Kpakar called for equity participation which he said involves other Liberians to decide the economic benefits of the mountain to the Liberian people.
Cllr. Joseph Jallah, a prominent son of the county who also spoke to the Daily Observer following the meeting stressed that the law gives government the right to control the resources of the country for the benefit of all Liberians, and there is a bidding process through which a company can go before it can be granting concession right.
Stressing further, he noted that there can also be international bidding process or selective bidding process that can be used to determine which company is accepted to operate in the concession area.
He said the selective process is the one that the country can list some top companies and select among them the best with the financial potential to operate in a country.
He noted that agitated Lofians who are criticizing and lashing at government are not informed; noting that when the process begins government will publicize it.
Cllr Jallah expressed frustration over division among members of the Lofa Legislative Caucus in the Wologizi debate and said they must be the ones to direct the people rather than arguing.
He furthered that advocates who are speaking on air are inciting innocent people to engage in violence which is not good for the country. ‘These advocates are not informed about what is unfolding but want to use the people to oppose the government for their hidden reason,’ he said.