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Senate Nullifies Western Cluster Deal

By Bill W. Cooper

The Liberian Senate has declared the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by the company and the Liberian government as “Null and Void.”

The Senate through Pro-temp, Albert Chie announced that it is also seeking legal advice as to how to place a temporary stay order on the operations of Western Cluster in Liberia.

However, the Senate’s decision followed presentations from Finance Minister, Samuel D. Tweah, Justice Minister, Cllr. Frank Musa Dean and Mines and Energy Minister, Gesler E. Murray.

The Chair of the National Investment Concession (NIC) Moleywuleh B. Gray was also invited by the Senate to give the operational status of the Western Cluster Company in the country.

Recently, the Western Cluster Limited has been in the news for the bad reason after citizens of Bomi County complained that the deal signed by the company and the Liberian government was not in the interest of the county.

They also complained that since the signing of the agreement, the citizens of the counties are yet to benefit, be it jobs or development projects, something which they see as disappointing and unfortunate.

 The citizens also frowned on one of the County Senators; Edwin M. Snowe on grounds that he could not prioritize their interest despite being a top-ranking member of the government’s negotiation team that have been engaging the company to resume operations in Bomi, Grand Cape Mount and Gbarpolu Counties.

But according to the government Ministers, who could not clearly answer to all of the questions being asked by Senators, the Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) signed between the company and the government in August 3, 2011 remains the primary document for all of Western Cluster’s activities in the country.

Ministers Tweah in response to the allegation further disclosed that the MoU does not supersede the MDA, but was only intended to ensure the provision of jobs, as well as the development of then concession counties.

“So, our decision to sign the MoU with Western Cluster was to enable our people get jobs and as well develop the Western Cluster region which has been underdeveloped and deplorable for years,” Minister Tweah stated.

“The signing of the MDA is in the interest of the people. We did all the analysis and decided to sign the deal which assured that in the next three years or so, and on year, the port construction work would have started,” Minister Tweah added.

He further noted that the signing of the MoU was to start economic activities and develop the Western Cluster region for the betterment and improvement of the country’s infrastructure development.

But after being cross-examined by Senators for hours during that body’s regular Thursday session, Pro-tempore Chie further noted that the order, when placed, will remain until all documents being requested for by the body are produced.

The Grand Kru County Senator further informed the witnesses that they will be formally informed about the order through the office of the Senate Secretary, Nanborlor Singbeh in due time.

Meanwhile, Pro-tempore Chie at the same time also requested from the witness minutes of all of the meetings held between or among all parties involved to show how a decision was reached to waive the US$14 million to Western Cluster.

He said the Senate stands by its position that the LRA and the Ministry of Finance on behalf of government, waived the US$14 Million while the two entities continue to claim that the decision was made on a win-win situation.

This, the Grand Kru County Senator added that the august body is eager to know the formula used by the LRA and Finance Ministry to also allocate the money to a county.

He stressed that as a matter of fact, the Liberian Senate does not consider the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the government and the company.

According to him, the body has since termed the document illegal, adding that the Senate is now seeking legal direction from its lawyers on how to proceed with the temporary stay order.

“So, let me state that the issues surrounding Western Cluster Liberia Limited have gone 20% now. This body will also need an environmental impact assessment report from the Executive through the Inter-Mineral Technical Concession Committee (ITCC),” he said.

Chie wondered, “We want to know the plans for Western Cluster because we know they are mining the DSO and we know it is for three years because after three years, what happens to the iron ore? Will they run away or will the MDA continue to work? We need concrete evidence to show.”

He added, “The Senate needs the report from the LRA that shows that Western Cluster owes the government US$24 Million from which US$14 Million was waived to the company.”

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