PYJ claims as Senate concurs with lower house
By Ethel A Tweh
Nimba County Senator Prince Y. Johnson says the Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) between ArcelorMittal and the Government of Liberia is a bad deal, noting that he walked out of session Tuesday, 8 February 2022 because he never wanted to be a part of those that passed the deal.
“I cannot support a bad deal that doesn’t give my people the right to their own money. There is no deal we have passed in the Senate before that goes with amendment, every amendment should have been done before,” Senator Johnson told journalists on Capitol Hill Tuesday.
Sen. Johnson suggested that every county should have an account to receive its money [speaking of benefits for counties affected by ArcelorMittal operations], but lamented that the government created one consolidated account for the three affected counties which they have to pass through the President of Liberia before they can get their money.
PYJ, as he is popularly called here, claimed that the House of Representatives made a mistake with the deal, arguing that you can’t ratify a deal with the amendment.
Johnson narrated that during former President Ellen Johnson – Sirleaf’s administration, the oversight committees on both Houses of Representatives and Senate passed the deal, but then-President Sirleaf allegedly changed it from a county account to a consolidated account.
Although the House of Representatives passed on the MDA last year, it did so with a resolution.
The House’s Joint Committee on Investment and Concession, Ways, Means & Finance, Judiciary, Lands, Mines & Energy and Environment, in its resolution, indicated that Article 3 of the proposed Amendment called for the company to have exclusive rights over the country’s railroads and the Port of Buchanan, something the committee argued is seen as a completed monopoly of the government’s two major infrastructures.
The House Committee further went on to urge the Government to take ownership of the railroad, Buchanan Iron Ore Port and related infrastructure. It further recommended that these infrastructures be structured, regulated, expanded and managed on a non-discriminatory multi-user basis for the benefit of all eligible applicants within the country.
The MDA is now headed for a joint committee of both House and Senate to work on details for final approval.
However, Sen. Johnson lamented that the both houses didn’t summon the courage to ask the former president why she made such changes.
“Whenever the counties’ money enter [the consolidated account], the past government used to eat it and even now the present government [is] doing the same,” Senator Johnson alleged.
The Nimba County Senator claimed that they met with President George Manneh Weah and explained that every county needed its own money.
According to the Nimba Senator, President Weah allegedly concurred with them and they received their money about two to three times and used it to carry on meaningful development within the respective counties.
However, Senator Johnson lamented that despite President Weah’s promise that there would be a change in the new agreement, they didn’t see anything change.
He contended that there are many things that the counties should have benefited from in the first MDA, but there was a lack of compliance.
He recalled that recommendations from the House of Representatives when the instrument was sent to the Senate included the need to increase the Social Development Fund from US$3m to US$5m.
He said the House also recommended to the Senate that the National Housing Authority should draw the plan of housing design to be used for ArcelorMittal.
Additionally, he said it was recommended that citizens from the affected communities be recruited and provided jobs and that the company should fix the roads for Nimba, Bong and Grand Bassa Counties and help fix the bridge in Grand Bassa County.https://thenewdawnliberia.com/rail-multi-user-clause-chokes-aml/