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Senate reviews concession agreements

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Senate reviewsAll concession agreements entered into between the Liberian Government and companies operating in the territorial confines of Liberia are expected to undergo a complete review process.

A communication by a Senator of Rivercess County raising the issue as a recommendation to the Senate’s Plenary is already in the possession of two essential committees of that august body responsible for such matter – the committees on Lands, Mines and Energy and Agriculture, for perusal and recommendation(s).

Senator Francis Paye’s recommendation for reassessment of the operations of concession companies in Liberia is against the backdrop of the inability of companies to add values to raw materials on which their operations are based, noting that such exports were not impacting the Liberian economy.

Members of the Liberian Senate overwhelmingly voted for the review of all concession agreements here. The senate took the decision Thursday, during its statutory sitting in plenary following a communication from Rivercess County Senator Paye, complaining that concession companies operating in his county were not adhering to policies and terms reached between the government and such companies.

Sen. Paye, in his one page communication, added that the operational durations of some of the companies have since expired, but the government, especially the Bureau for Concession Commission, was reportedly reneging on taking decision to checkmate the operations of those concessions.

Making the motion for review, Grand Gedeh County Senator G. Alphonso Gaye recommended that concessionaires and the Executive Branch of Government be invited by the committees on agriculture, contracts and concessions and judiciary to review all contracts, following which the joint committee would report back to plenary within three weeks.

When the issue of reviewing concession agreements was raised, Grand Cape Mount County Senator – also a corporate lawyer and lawmaker, resisted the decision. Senator Varney Sherman at the time said: “Why can’t the logging companies construct sawmills that will add value to our wood products and inversely create additional jobs. Why can’t Arcelor Mittal establish a steel factory and manufacture steel here, instead of shipping the raw ores; why Firestone, LAC and others in the rubber industry can’t establish factories that will manufacture rubber products here?” Senator Gueh stated.

Cllr. Sherman, in his argument, said attempts by the senate or government to initiate a review of agreements already entered into by government and investors, especially foreign investors, could further implicate Liberia in further legal processes and open a Pandora box.

Senator Sherman – a recognized lawyer in Liberia, is known as legal counsel for several concession companies in Liberia, including Firestone Liberia (Rubber Producing Company) and the Former Bong Mines Mining Company.

“We are talking about reviewing these agreements; we don’t have the legal backing to do that, and if we start to do this, we will begin to open a Pandora box to give investors the opportunity to make demands
under the given circumstances, especially Ebola outbreak,” Cllr. Sherman said.

“I also heard people saying that we should consider changing some of these raw materials into finished products. Iron ore alone don’t produce steel rod; we need power-we don’t even have power in Monrovia; we don’t have the commercial power. So, I feel it is best to allow a committee to handle this matter,” the Grand Cape Mount County Senator said.

By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor-Edited by George Barpeen

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