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US$1.5m bribery hangs over House

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Reports reaching this paper indicates that the House of Representatives’ Committee on Lands, Mines, Energy, Natural Resources and Environment allegedly solicited US$1.5 million from Hummingbird Resource Liberia for plenary to ratify the Mineral Development Agreement between the Government of Liberia and the British company.

Addressing a news conference on Tuesday, 13 December at the Capitol Building, the Chairman of the Committee, Representative Richard Matenokay Tingban said that he and his committee through the House’s Press and Public Director, Mr. Isaac Redd received an email from someone identified as an agent for Hummingbird, alleging that the committee solicited bribe from the company for the agreement to be signed.

Rep. Tingban disclosed that signature fees to the Government of Liberia, if the agreement were to be passed, is about US$1.5 million, saying “With the government signature fees at US$1.5 million, why would a committee ask for same amount from a company, that’s total nonsense.”

According to him, the agent based in the Ivory Coast also alleged that the committee used Grand Gedeh County Representative Zoe Emmanuel Pennue to serve as middleman for the deal.

Both the House of Representatives and the Liberian Senate had since returned the agreement to the Executive Branch of government on grounds that it did not meet the minimum requirement for ratification.

The Nimba lawmaker pointed out that at no time, the committee ever thought about taking bribe from anyone or any company to perform its statutory duties as enshrined in the 1896 Constitution of Liberia.

Tingban clarified that Rep. Pennue is not member of the committee, adding it does not make any sense for the committee to use him as proxy, and that he (Tingban) had known the Grand Gedeh County lawmaker for years, and such allegation does not represent him.

He maintained that allegation levied against the committee is intended to scare them as lawmakers from doing due diligence to the agreement entered into by the Executive.

Both Director Redd and Rep. Tingban failed to provide copy of the reported email from the unknown company’s agent, but the lawmaker described the action as blackmail, vowing that his committee will stand tall above such scheme.

The Hummingbird exploration area lies in Sinoe, Grand Kru, Rivergee and Maryland Counties, over which the company started exploration in 2005. The targeted mineral is gold, which is mined principally from alluvium in many parts of Southeastern Liberia.

Hummingbird Resources, is a junior exploration company based in London, United Kingdom. It has been searching for hard rock gold deposits in the area since 2005. The company announced several years ago that as the result of detailed exploratory drilling, it has delineated an inferred gold resource of approximately four million ounces in its exploration areas in Sinoe County.

November 30, the Senate Joint Committee on Lands, Mines, Energy, Natural Resources and Environmental; Judiciary, Claims, Human Rights and Petition as well as Investment and Concession have declined to proceed with the ratification of the Mineral Development Agreement between Liberia and Hummingbird Resources.

“The Joint Committee hereby recommends to the Plenary of the Senate to suspend the ratification process of the proposed Mineral Development Agreement between Hummingbird Resources (Liberia) Inc., and the Republic of Liberia, pending explanation from the President of Liberia on the issues concerning the lumping of four exploration licenses into a single Mineral Development Agreement and the lack of a plan in the MDA towards the mining of the over four million ounces of inferred gold resource discovered in Sinoe County.

By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor-Editing by Jonathan Browne

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