From his comfort zone vacationing in Doha, Qatar, President George Manneh Weah constituted a special presidential committee on Tuesday, 29 November to work with an ad-hoc committee that is to be established by the Executive Chairman of world’s steel giant, ArcelorMittal, Mr. Lakshmi Mittal, to resolve all outstanding issues relating to a Revised Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) between the Government of Liberia and the iron ore mining company.
Members of the three-man committee include the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Dean of the Liberian Cabinet, Amb. Dee-Maxwell Saah Kemayah, Sr., Chairman; Emanuel L. Shaw II, Advisor to the President, Member; and Cllr. Archibald Bernard, Legal Advisor to the President, Member, and Secretary to the Committee.
AML is seeking additional nine years under the revised MDA (besides its 25 years concession with the government) to invest more in the mining sector.
However, our attention is keenly drawn to what seems clear to be sweeping absolute power ascribed to the Committee by the President to execute such a delicate subject like a concession agreement, in which the interest of the State and its people is at stake, and for which its ratification by the Legislature was suspended.
Residents in the operational areas of ArcelorMittal Liberia, particularly Nimba county had complained of the company’s failure to implement social development obligations under the agreement, including roads, health facilities, housing and schools, among others.
But in his letter addressed to committee chairman minister Kemayah, President Weah mandates the Committee to meet with and engage any and all relevant authorities of the Government of Liberia and ArcelorMittal, and any other stakeholders, either individually or collectively, whenever and wherever deemed appropriate in its sole discretion, to ensure the finalization and implementation of the MDA within a reasonable time frame, and report back to his Office with findings, recommendations, and advice.
Mr. Weah’s instructions for the Committee “to meet with and engage any and all relevant authorities of the Government of Liberia and ArcelorMittal, and any other stakeholders, either individually or collectively, whenever and wherever deemed appropriate in the Committee’s sole discretion”, relegates the important roles of all other functionaries of the State, making the almighty Special Presidential Committee a referee and judge at the same time.
Ascribing such power in a government that has a history replete with officials soliciting and receiving bribes from investors to sign and approve concession agreements, it is highly unthinkable that thorough scrutiny and due diligence would be observed in the current MDA with ArcelorMittal Liberia.
Our memory is still fresh from the original agreement signed between the government of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and AML in 2006, when lawmakers on Capitol Hill received unspecified amount of cash and a twin-cabin pick-up each to affix their signatures in ratifying the agreement that is being revised today.
We may not get to know anytime soon, what envelopes are being prepared for members of the so-called Special Presidential Committee under the chairmanship of Minister Dee-Maxwell Kemayah, who is yet to account for how Liberian Diplomatic Passport under his watch got into the hands of a criminal being investigated by the FBI of the United States. However, when the Executive branch of government ascribes such sweeping powers unto itself in a concession agreement, relegating the views and concerns of the people, who directly suffer the misdoings of corrupt investors, it is but fair to raise red flag immediately, for public alert, which is a prime function of the media.