By Patrick N. Mensah, Maryland County
The Country Director of Agriculture Liberia, Chealy Brown Dennis, has accused the Ministry of Agriculture of blackmail.
According to Mr. Dennis, the ministry had reported that a 75-hectare irrigated and well-laid-out field, 18-metric-ton capacity rice mill, along with accessories, storage, offices, generator, and garage were given to his company in October 2022.
He notes that the ministry also claims that the CEO of Agriculture Liberia does not want to appreciate its effort, knowing the good the Ministry of Agriculture has done for him, pointing to role played by Deloitte in the Agriculture Liberia (AL) MOA-LACF grant and how it was misinterpreted by Mr. Jarba and that it was Deloitte that incorporated them, not the Ministry.
But the ministry clarified that Deloitte’s role was to conduct due diligence on business plans submitted by experts hired by the Ministry of Agriculture.
It said the actual champions of Agriculture Liberia’s (AL’s) application for the grant were the Ministry of Agriculture team in Maryland, the STAR project, and the Minister of Agriculture head office in Monrovia.
The ministry frowned at tendency of Liberians to downplay its efforts and glorify foreigners, stressing that credit should be given where it is due, and that in this case, it is MOA and the Government of Liberia.
But Agriculture Liberia in its response said it is not disputing the fact that it received support from the Ministry of Agriculture under Mill and LACF funds but that the grant was approved in June 2022 and disbursement made on July 5, 2023, while inputs were procured the same month and equipment received in November 2023.
Mr. Dennis explained that the MOA materials provided weren’t turned over to his company after signing in June 2022 until mid-2023, as alleged by the ministry.
“We are saying, they are lying on us that we said we didn’t receive the MILL and LACF fund, but it wasn’t 2022. We think their recent action to lie against us is based on rumors circulating within the corridors of MOA that our CEO Mr. Armstrong Jarbah, is one of those being considered by the incoming government to take over and steer the affairs of MOA, and I believe it is against this backdrop they are doing such. But we want to state emphatically that our CEO has no intention whatsoever to work in government because he is a businessman and has made a decision to stick with the private sector, just so they know.”
Dennis continues, “A second reason could possibly be they don’t want our Nimba grant to be approved, since its approval is tied to our Maryland County’s operations and so they come up with these claims so as to deny our Nimba grant during each sitting of the fund’s approval committee, and that they use these false allegations against us to support their claims.”
He says CEO Jarba has been financing operations of their company, including employees’ salaries, and buying everything the company needs.
He notes that despite claim by MOA, Agriculture Liberia single-handedly financed all of its farms in Liberia without borrowing from banks, and without receiving money from government or NGOs since 2014 to June 2023.
“So yes, we received the LACF grant in July 2023 and the inputs received will be used at our farm in Maryland County this year 2024”, he confirmed.
According to him, the LACF funds are not meant to finance entire operation of businesses but rather to help small businesses buy inputs and equipment aimed at supplementing their work.
“Our company has been preaching only one message for the past 10 years and our message hasn’t changed, a message that we can grow our own food as Liberians. And so such wrong information about us not being appreciative needs to stop”.
He said the only way Liberia can get better is for Liberians to stop depending on government and NGOs, which is exactly what they have been doing over the years and become successful.
“We can unite and add our little resources together to establish major corporations in Liberia to have a share of our economy, using our company as an example”, he added. Editing by Jonathan Browne