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US$450k stirs controversies in Bong

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By Joseph Titus Yekeryan in Bong

Serious controversies have erupted over the alleged disbursement of US$450,000.00, linking some current top and former officials of Bong County.

The amount was meant for Saywhen Town, a community situated in the operational area of Turkish mining company MNG Gold in Bong County.

The town became affected in 2017 due to a chemical spillover from the operational site of the gold mining company which resulted in the contamination of the community’s drinking water.

Some of the community dwellers who did not know that their drinking water was polluted contracted infection.

In less than twenty-four hours that year, 30 people were hospitalized after the exposure to the chemical spill from the company’s reservoir.

The community people who later saw the action of the company as a violation of their rights immediately decided to file a lawsuit against the multimillion dollar Turkish company.

When the company realized its wrong would have caused it to spend more money in case of a court process, its officials contacted former Senator Henry Willie Yallah of Bong County to talk to his people for the problem to be settled outside of court.

The citizens, after agreeing for the matter to be settled without a court’s involvement, demanded that the company should pay them US$11m for the damage caused.

But the company rejected the demand on grounds that the money was too much.

Following several consultations, the company agreed to pay US$600,000 to the community and also promised to help provide safe drinking water.

How did Representative Albert Hills get involved?

MNG Gold’s operation area falls under the electoral demarcation of Rep. Albert Hills, thus extending his oversight responsibility to the operation of the company.

The Company is specifically operating in Kokoyah Administrative District but electorally, it falls under District #1 which includes Boinsen, Tukpahblee, Kokoyah, and Kpaai Districts.

Mr. Hills and Senator Henry Willie Yallah are said to have been the strong advocates from the county’s legislative caucus in ensuring that the people get the agreed amount.

Our correspondent in Bong County says the people did not get the money until the 2020 Senatorial election which saw the defeat of Mr. Yallah and the Election of former Deputy Speaker Prince K. Moye.

Former Senator Yallah said he did well along with Representative Albert Hills to have demanded US$600,000 but was disappointed to have heard that the money was reduced to US$450,000 just a few months after his defeat.

The former Bong County Senator also said that he and Rep. Hills, in consultation with the citizens, did not hire a lawyer in the matter because the company and the people came up with an agreement that met their satisfaction.

Our correspondent says the concern of the people has seriously been drawn to the “hired” lawyer who walked away with 30% of the $450,000.00 USD despite not pleading in court on behalf of the citizens. 30% of the amount is US$135, 000, 00.

Cllr. George Woah is the lawyer who was allegedly hired and has confirmed to the media that it was an agreement between him and the citizens that if the money is paid by the company, 30% should be given to him for his legal efforts.

Even though he has not presented any receipt to the media as evidence, the Liberian lawyer said he took his portion of the money as agreed upon to cover up the financial expenses he made during the process of negotiating for the money.

Another $35,000.00 USD was allegedly taken from the money to “cover-up” the expenses made by a committee that was set up by the community members to negotiate with the company.

Why is Prince K. Moye involved?

During the 2020 campaign when Moye was seeking the Senatorial seat, he always emphasized the operation of MMG Gold and how residents of Kokoyah were being downplayed when it comes to the benefit they should get from the company.

He promised perfect representation, stating that “when I am elected, I will make sure the people of Kokoyah will have what belongs to them; it will no longer be like the time past where people just go and collect handouts from officials of the Company, leaving the general interest of the poor people.”

Mr. Moye, after his election, immediately started to visit the official base of the company on grounds that he “wants to ensure that the Company pays whatever it owes the people.”

Senator Moye is also on record for criticizing the agreement between the citizens and the company at the time he had not been elected to the Senate but since his election, he has done nothing to revisit the agreement he once criticized.

Rep. Hills has accused Moye of allegedly hiring the lawyer in consultation with a few people, a deal he believes resulted in the lawyer taking $135,000.00 USD to be given to the lawyer.

The Bong County Senator has denied the allegation and stated that he is innocent of the entire issue. He said he was only trying to implement the agreement that he met on the table after his election.

He confirmed to Radio Gbarnga that it was an agreement between the people of the affected community and the lawyer, stating that the issue of the $35,000 USD was used by members of the committee that was set up.

Moye justified that members of the committee were sleeping in hotels, eating, and transporting themselves to Monrovia at the time they were in negotiation with the company for the money.

The justification provided by the Bong County lawmaker has left many of the citizens with no other alternative but to express disappointment in him for not ensuring the right thing is done.

“Assuming this was the agreement saw when he became a Senator, why didn’t he use his wisdom as a Leader to revisit the agreement before this payment? Wasn’t the very Moye who said that he was better than the former Senator so why is he doing the same thing he accused the former Senator for?” Aaron Korvlah, a radio caller from Lofa Road, asked.

“For me, I am not here to accuse Senator Moye of taking the people’s money but I just want to let him know that he has failed in a very short period of time because he refused to do the right thing as a Leader,” James Flomo added.

This paper contacted Kokoyah Statutory Superintendent Conteh Yallah who claimed he was left out in the process both by the former and current Senators.

Superintendent Yallah said he only got to know about the money issue during the distribution at which time the current Senator Prince K. Moye called him on the phone to give the information.

Officials of the committee have not granted this paper’s request for a comment as they keep rescheduling.

Meanwhile, the spokesperson for Advocacy for Kokoyah Resources, Shadrach S. Kollie, has expressed sadness at the leaders and people involved in the matter.

He said it was quite frustrating for people who claim to be the eyes of the poor masses to have benefited from the money at the detriment of the ordinary people of Saywhen town.

He has stressed the need for the people’s money to be immediately restored by those involved. Investigation continues.https://thenewdawnliberia.com/bong-county-pmc-breaks-grounds-for-3-health-centers-mwh/ –Edited by Winston W. Parley

NewDawn

The New Dawn is Liberia’s Truly Independent Newspaper Published by the Searchlight Communications Inc. Office is located on The UN Drive in Monrovia Liberia. The New Dawn is a bilingual (both English & French).

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