MONROVIA – It was an electrifying moment filled with joy and celebrations and the exchange of traditional rites befitting of the visit of a high-profile guest, when recently, Jozephus ‘Joep’ Coenen, CEO of ArcelorMittal Liberia along with other staff of the company, extended their community relations engagement to Bolo Village in Nimba County.
The desire to see and meet with AML CEO was raised at a forum months ago and since Joep Coenen assumed the top office of CEO of AML, he has made it a duty to reach out to people of those communities for face-to-face interactions to explain ArcelorMittal’s vision to them and explore opportunities for stronger partnership and collaboration.
Visiting Bolo village just before the holidays season on the positive note of dedicating three community bridges, the villagers demonstrated what CEO Coenen described as the “highest hospitality” ever experienced.
“You and your people are welcome in Bolo; we are happy to receive you and we appreciate all of what you have started to do for us,” an excited woman said while shaking hands with the AML CEO.
During the visit CEO Coenen and his top departmental heads dedicated three bridges financed by ArcelorMittal Liberia at the cost of US$70,000.
Emmanuel Walakah, Town Chief of Bolo said since the village was established in 1947, it was the first time they were experiencing that level of development, especially from a true corporate partner like ArcelorMittal Liberia.
The road leading to Bolo village is narrow and deplorable with poorly constructed log bridges, but AML through its Environmental Department constructed the three concrete bridges, and the road has now become accessible to light vehicles. The project was contracted to a local non-governmental organization, Liberia Indigenous Firm for the Environment (LIFE).
“We are grateful to AML for the bridge project and the agricultural projects it is bringing to us, and to the CEO for making a great difference in our communities. His presence with elders of Lubgehyee was one of great interest shown to people in mines affected communities. As elders of Yarmein, we are now in consultation with our people to avoid disturbances and violence against AML to approach the company through dialogue,” said Elder J. Nyan Fargah.
His message was also re-echoed by Thomas Gonotee, Yarmein Administrative District Commissioner.
“Mr. CEO, you are the first to come down to community people like this. We the local administration and elders here are willing to accept AML as our friend because what you are doing was not happening before, and we are always advising our youths and others to refrain from violence against the company because with violence, we will not benefit anything as we are benefiting. Thanks for coming down to us,” said Commissioner Gonotee.
In response, CEO Coenen said, “I am emotional, to be honest, about the enormous friendliness that you’ve shown to accommodate and to welcome us. This is not the first time; this is not the second time. I come to the village when we are invited and you always welcome us, and I say thank you for that.”
Additionally, the CEO reminded the villagers about the ongoing expansion of AML operations and its benefits.
“We are building a concentrator or factory, and after that, we will add values to iron ore. It will not only be for ArcelorMittal or our shareholders but for all stakeholders and the communities as well.”
CEO Coenen further assured the villagers that while he has a lot of time talking with the government in Monrovia, it is expedient to consider the communities very important because they will always remain as the government comes and goes. “My people and I will always make it our business to visit you, come and talk to you and share values with you,” he said.
The Head of Government and Community Relations, Mr. Marcus Wleh, also asserted in simple English, “My people, let me tell you. ArcelorMittal is your friend and is here to stay. You see the road from Ganta to Sanniquellie; it is ArcelorMittal that is paying for it. Tell me one company in Liberia that has done this. We can tell you that ArcelorMittal is your friend and here for you. Don’t listen to people who will come and tell you all kinds of things about ArcelorMittal. AML is your company and friend.”