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Concessions affected communities in conference

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The National Bureau of Concession (NBC) has organized a multi-stakeholders conference in Monrovia for communities affected both positively and negatively by the operations of concession companies here.The two – day conference which began Thursday, 13 December at Bella Casa brings together all stakeholders established around concession areas that are affected as a result of the establishment of these concessions.

Locals attending the conference come from Sinoe, Grand Bassa, Nimba and other counties.NBC Director General Mr. Gregory Coleman told an interview that in these areas, there are always issues of conflict resolutions and sustainable human development which make this kind of dialogue that is geared toward building their peace and security very important.

Mr. Coleman says the NBC seeks lasting peace and security between concessionaires and citizens.“The NBC hopes that there will be increased and lasting peace between the citizens and the companies, and increased peace and security between the citizens and the companies so as to gain some level of protection to the concessionaires,” he says.

According to him, when investors become afraid they leave and then the country stands to benefit nothing.In response to participants’ concerns that companies’ management teams are slow in informing their field agents whenever a particular issue has been resolved with the citizens, Mr. Coleman says communication is a problem and that’s one issue the NBC has been facing.

He explains that when decisions are being made here, the companies get approvals from their headquarters before enforcing them, which he notes that the locals in the communities may see as delaying.But he notes that part of the NBC’s engagement is to see how it can bridge that gap to avoid many speculations which come about when the people are not informed.

He notes that it is against that backdrop that the NBC went around establishing the platform with the peace and security component to dialogue to allow people to express their grievances and allow them set up their own working relationship with companies.

Earlier, a community chair from UCI of Sinoe County, Mr. Sorboh S. Wesseh narrated that there have been issues between his people and the Golden Veroleum Liberia (GVL), but they had peaceful resolution of conflicts with the company immediately after his induction.He says as community leaders, they partially resolved the issue between GVL estate and other communities, noting that the communities are now moving on and GVL is working peacefully.

Mr. Sorboh explains that it is not the responsibility of the company to give contract to citizens because it is not enshrined in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), noting that the company has the right to give qualified people contracts.However, he says when tension erupted between the citizens and GVL, their local leadership team moved in and they succeeded in resolving the problem.

Mr. Sorboh says the company accepted their request that contracts for unskilled people should be given to the community dwellers instead of hiring people from outside.However, he says the local team faces lot of constraints too, including lack of mobile to facilitate their travels at long distances to settle disputes.

Secondly, he observes that the company too is creating little problem for the community leadership team, citing the management team’s delays in sending down the message to its staff that are in the field when issues have been resolved with the communities.He says this delay from the company leads to the issue resurfacing. Additionally, he says they have a constraint of getting to the NBC due to lack of computers to work and file their reports, among others.Similar views were expressed by community leaders from other counties at the gathering, including Nimba where ArcelorMittal Liberia (AML) operates and Grand Bassa, among others.

By Winston W. Parley and Lewis S. Teh

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