The Inquirer is a leading independent daily newspaper published in Liberia, based in Monrovia. It is privately owned with a "good reputation".

‘Natural Resources Must Work For Citizens’ … Says CENTAL

By Precious D. Freeman
The Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL) wants natural resources work for citizens regarding western cluster mining operation in Bomi County.
Speaking at a press briefing over the weekend, the Executive Director for CENTAL Anderson Miamen said that the year has begun with troubling developments and that what is more troubling is that one of the counties that have experienced natural resources extraction with virtually nothing to show, is again being placed at the epicenter of the resource’s paradox.
According to him, CENTAL’s attention has been drawn to negotiations around the Western Cluster Concession in Bomi County, which has understandably generated tension between citizens of Bomi County and their leaders on the one hand, and Bomi County and the company itself (Western Cluster Limited) on the other hand.
He added that with utter shock, they have observed violation of fundamental constitutional safeguards such as the separations of powers, in particular, the involvement of Senator Edwin M. Snowe and the Bomi Legislative Caucus in negotiating a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) established has now created a serious conflict of interest on the part of Legislators who have a higher responsibility of oversight regarding matters such as Concessions.
CENTAL boss furthered that the MOU undermines the 2011 Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) between the Republic of Liberia and Western Cluster Liberia Limited as it evades lawful taxes in millions of dollars owned by Western Cluster to the Government of Liberia, and approves potential environmental hazards posed by Western Cluster operations via trucking of minerals from Bomi through the Freeport of Monrovia.
“The lack of citizens’ involvement in the said negotiations are even more telling and constitute flagrant violation of relevant laws including the Land Rights Act of 2018. CENTAL continues to note these unorthodox incidents of corruption in the extractive sector involving some former and sitting lawmakers and ministers with utter dissatisfaction,” he said.
The Executive Director Miamen emphasized that this is and has always been the trend in Liberia, whereby government enters into agreement with companies to extract natural resources, usually at the disadvantage of citizens and affected communities.
“These acts do not only signal corruption, but also undermine transparent revenue generation by multinational firms through corporate lobbying to weaken enforcement of key mineral policies. Also, they influence policymakers’ decisions to win government’s contracts in mining companies’ favor through fraudulent means thereby hindering efforts to garner needed revenues and transform the lives of affected communities or counties and Liberians, more broadly,” he maintained.
He noted, “As a result, Liberia continues to lose millions of dollars through shady concession deals and illicit financial flows in the sector. Unfortunately, these funds mainly benefit corrupt government officials and their allies instead of government itself, thereby creating unnecessary financial burdens for government.
Mr. Miamen stated that the state is then compelled to beg for financial assistance and borrow loans for development purposes, when there is huge potential to generate internal revenues from natural resource extraction if corruption is prevented.
“In 2019, it can be recalled that several former public officials were accused by Global Witness and subsequently indicted for soliciting US$950,000 in bribes from UK-based Stable Mining Company. The aim was to change section of the PPCC Act in favor of the company to award Wologizi Mountain in Lofa without competitive bidding process,” he narrated.
The Executive Director for CENTAL intoned that the likes of Grand Cape Mount County Senator Varney Sherman, Alex Tyler, former Speaker, House of Representative, Morris Saytumah, former Minister of State and now Bomi County Senator, Richard Tolbert, former National Investment Commission head and others were involved in the said corruption saga.
“What is even more disturbing is that some of the same names have resurfaced in this shady MOU arrangements wherein Bomi County Senator Edwin Snowe mentioned Alex Tyler, Morris Saytumah and others as participants, this speaks to the fact that the culture of impunity continues to thrive as a result of a weak and compromised legal system that undermines the rule of law, our democratic tenets as well as effective functioning of our judicial institutions established to reprimand violators of crimes,” Miamen asserted.
Meanwhile, CENTAL is calling on President George Manneh Weah to protect the Constitution and the Liberian people in the Western Cluster deal by demonstrating zero tolerance for corruption and bad governance.
He also wants circumstances surrounding development and implementation of the “bad MOU” be investigated and those found wanting prosecuted for their actions.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.