Confusion is said to be brewing over the status of the Arcelor Mittal Social Development Funds given to Nimba every year, as some affected communities have threatened strike actions.
Speaking to the New Dawn in Ganta, the District Commissioner of Sanniquellie Administrative District G. Dunbah Gbarlon said the delay by county authorities to release funds allotted for the affected communities is causing serious problem among the citizens.
He added that the allotment had already been made for the affected communities to received 20% of the US$ 1.5 million given to Nimba every year but such an amount is yet to be released to the people. He said this is not going down well with the citizens of the affected communities in the Arcelor Mittal Mining areas in Nimba County. The affected communities in the mining area include, Yarmin, Sanniquellie, Bain – Garr, Meinpea Mah, among others.
Among these area/districts, Yarmin is the most affected community because it is the district where Mount Nimba and other new prospected mountains are located. It is followed by Sanniquellie Mah where Mount Torkarty , another mountain under Arcelor Mittal Concession is located.
The rest of the communities are receiving compensation for damages because the railroad passes through their districts. They are not affected as compared to the two where the mining is causing environmental, farming and cultural problems.
In Sanniquellie recently, the chiefs, elders, youth, women groups and other permanent citizens from these affected areas assembled for a meeting at the Administrative Building in Sanniquellie City to decide about the 20% allotment and how to share it among the affected districts.
According to Mr. Gbarlon, in the meeting they apportioned the money base on how affected the community is. He explained that, 48% of US$ 300,000 which is 20% of US$ 1.5 million was allotted for Yarmin because they received more damages. 32% was also allotted for Sanniquellie Mah, while the balance 20% was to be shared among the rest of the communities.
“We suppose to receive the sum of US$ 900,000 for the past three years the money had been flowing to Nimba. When we met, we all came up with the resolution and agreed for the money according to the damages each community received but the Caucus headed Hon. Jackson Fiindor are becoming an obstacle to releasing the money,” he explained.
Mr. Gbarlon quoted Hon. Fiindor as saying that the delay in releasing the money was because the allotment done didn’t go down well with some of his colleagues like those from the less affected areas.
“Because of this, Hon. Fiindor told us in the meeting that three of the honorables refused to affix their signatures to the release of the money to the affected communities,” said Mr. Gbarlon. He said after they came up with the resolution, Fiindor condemned it questioning why such a huge percentage had being allotted for Yarmin.
When contacted, Jackson Fiindor said that the resolution done by the chiefs, elders and citizens of the affected areas was done out of ignorance therefore the caucus will meet and come up with a definite percent per areas. There had been disagreement over the usage of the social development funds since it started flowing into the Nimba Covet. The issue concerning the 20% had long been on the table but yet to be released.