By Stephen G. Fellajuah
Former Senate Pro Tempore of the Liberian Senate, Gbehzohngar M. Findley says his legal team has filed a law suit against the Management of Mittal Steel (Liberia) Holding Limited at the Second Judicial Circuit Court of Grand Bassa County in its August Term of Court, for the company’s failure to meet up with its social corporate responsibility with citizens of Grand Bassa and Liberia at large.
Mr. Findley who spoke to newsmen in a press conference yesterday, September 15, said he filed a Petition for Declaratory Judgment, to declare the rights of the people of Grand Bassa County and rule against the Management of Mittal Steel (Liberia) Holding Limited for its refusal to live up to the mineral agreement signed in 2007.
The former Senator of Grand Bassa said that as citizen of Grand Bassa County, he has the right to enjoy the rights and privileges accorded to every citizen and resident of Grand Basaa County, and by this, he pointed out that under the social contract, the rights contained in the Constitution of Liberia as well as statutory rights, guaranteed by the Constitution for all citizens are accorded to him as a matter of law and fact under the laws of the Republic of Liberia.
He said that he has the right and authority under the Constitution of Liberia as a citizen and resident of Grand Bassa County; that any contract or agreement entered into by the Government of Liberia obligating a Concessionaire to accord certain defined rights to him as a citizen and people of Grand Bassa County , and all other citizens of Grand Bassa or Residents, he (the Petitioner0 has the legal standing and right to demand those privileges and rights defined in the delegated responsibility on the concessionaire by the Government of Liberia, when said rights so accrued .
“Under this logic of reasoning in the law, Petitioner in the above cause of action respectfully requests this Honorable Court to declare the rights of the Petitioner, and /or all other rights of the Citizens of Grand Bassa County in the manner and form as contained in the following averments,” Cllr. Findley averred.
Mr. Findley furthered said that his Petition is the proper remedy sought, and the Court has the legal authority to declare the rights of the Petitioner and every other Liberian citizen whose rights accrued and have been denied by agreement, statute, and the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia, citing Chapter 43, Section 43 of the Civil Procedure Law of Liberia, Liberia Code of Laws Revised, Volume 1, Title 1, which provides the rights of the Petitioner to seek remedy and the declaration of rights before the Honorable Court.
“Courts of record within their respective jurisdictions shall have power to declare rights, status, and other legal relations whether or not further relief is or could be claimed. No action or proceeding shall be open to objection on the ground that a declaratory judgment is prayed for. The declaration may be either affirmative or negative in form and effect; and such declarations shall have the force and effect of a final judgment. The power granted to the court under this section is discretionary,” the petition stated.
Mr. Findley said that Mittal Steel is a Concessionaire and party to a Concession Agreement with the Government of the Republic of Liberia named and styled as “An Act Ratifying the Amendment to the Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) Dated August 17,2005 Between the Government of the Republic of Liberia(THE GOVERNMENT) and Mittal Steel Holding A.G. and Mittal Steel (Liberia) Holdings Limited (THE CONCESSIONAIRE)”, approved May 7, 2007, published by Authority , Ministry of Foreign Affairs , Monrovia, Liberia , May 16,2007.”
Presenting as exhibit, Cllr. Findley provided the Court a copy of the said Act Marked as P/2 In Bulk, representing the Act and or Concession Agreement between the Respondent and the Government of Liberia, to which under the social contract theory, the Petitioner has a legal standing under the law and the Constitution of Liberia.
He furthered that under international law, international organizations or corporations are required by law to abide by international standards in the treatment of Concessions and citizens within the Concession areas, adding, International demands Mittal Steel to engage in fair dealings.
Mr. Findley maintains that under the Concession Agreement signed by both Mittal Steel and the Government of Liberia, Article 8, Amendment to Article X of the MDA (Health Care, Safety and Security) states that:
“The CONCESSIONAIRE shall construct, maintain and operate health facilities in the Concession Area, and shall install, maintain, and use modern health devices and equipment and shall practice , modern health procedures and precautions in accordance with accepted international medical standards.”
According to the former lawmaker, Article 8 of the Concession had never been implemented by Arcelor Mittal since the existence of the Concession Agreement in 2007 and the Operations of the company in Liberia.
He informed Court that from 2007, the Respondent is yet to perform under the requirement of Article 8 of the Concession Agreement herein marked as P/2 In Bulk. He asked the Court to declare the rights of the people of Grand Bassa County, Liberia and order the Arcelor Mittal to perform in accordance with this provision of the Concession.
Findley said that further to Counts 7 and 8 of his Petition, Article 8, paragraph 2 of the Concession herein marked as P/2 In Bulk states that:
“In connection with the Operations, the CONCESSIONAIRE shall install, maintain and use appropriate and modern health and safety facilities and shall train its employees in accordance with generally accepted health and safety procedures and practices. The CONCESSIONAIRE shall provide in the Concession Area free medical treatment, care and attention at acceptable standards to all of its employees and Government officials working in connection with the CONCESSIONAIRE’s Operations, along with their spouses and immediate dependents, consistent with the national health policy of the Republic, and shall acquire qualified medical staff and maintain properly staffed dispensaries, clinics or hospitals. Without limiting the generality of the foregoing whenever the CONCESSIONAIRE employs one hundred or more persons at any permanent work site within the Production Area, it shall maintain there an adequate and properly staffed dispensary or hospital headed by a resident medical doctor. The CONCESSIONAIRE shall also maintain at each of Buchanan and Yekepa an adequate and properly staffed hospital headed by a resident medical doctor . The CONCESSIONAIRE shall keep records and notify the Government immediately of any death of or serious injury to any person in connection with the Operations. For the purposes of this Provision a “ serious” injury is as defined in the labor Practices Law of Liberia .
He added that the Concession Company had failed to follow and perform as mandated by the Concession Agreement marked as P/2 In bulk , as quoted above. He furthered said that when individuals and institutions subject themselves to the dictates of agreements, they are bound by the very provisions contained in those agreements, especially when their failure to act affect directly or indirectly individuals or citizens of the communities that the implementations of the terms of the Agreement will affect; in this case Grand Bassa County, in which he resides.
Further to Counts 1 to 8 of this Petition, Petitioner says that Article 10 of the Concession signed by both Arcelor Mittal and the Government of Liberia which affects the life rights of the people in the concession areas, is yet to be executed, or fulfilled by the Respondent under the agreement. Article 10 of the Concession Agreement states:
“It is the objective of the Parties hereto that the Operations shall be carried out in a manner that is consistent with the continuing economic and social viability of centers of population that have formed and which may form as result of such Operations during the term of this Agreement . Upon request of the GOVERNMENT at any time , the CONCESSIONAIRE shall consult with the GOVERNMENT and the communities to mutually establish plans and programs for the implementation of this objective, and thereafter the CONCESSIONAIRE shall in good faith cooperate with the GOVERNMENT with regard to its efforts concerning the realization of such plans and programs.
“To that effect, the CONCESSIONAIRE shall provide an annual social contribution of US three (3) million which shall be managed and disbursed for the benefit of Liberian communities in Nimba, Bong, and Grand Bassa Counties by a dedicated committee to be formed by the CONCESSIONAIRE and the GOVERNMENT. Disbursements and allocations by the committee to the said Counties of the annual social contributions shall be subject to final GOVERNMENT approval, provided, however, that all disbursement or allocation to the said Counties shall be, on an annual basis, in the proportion set out in Appendix H. Disbursements and allocations by the committee and the GOVERNMENT shall be subject to independent audit in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles,” the petition stated.
Also, he said that the mining magnate had not complied with the provision cited and quoted above, and therefore, this Court is respectfully requested to declare and interpret the Concession in keeping with law, and thereby declare the rights of the Petitioner.
Further to Count 10 of this Petition, Petitioner says that Article 14 of the Concession Agreement requires that even the shares of the Respondent and the Government of Liberia, are stated that the Respondent shall have 70 percent while the Government of Liberia 30 percent. Petitioner says that the Government of Liberia shares have decreased below 15 percent without any reason whatsoever, thereby adversely affecting the rights of the Petitioner and the Liberian people and the people of Grand Bassa .For the purpose of this Petition, Petition cites Article 14 of the CONCESSION as follows:
“The CONCESSIONAIRE shall be authorized to conduct business in Liberia through the designation of an agent for that purpose. The initial stated capital of the CONCESSIONAIRE shall be Ten Thousand Dollars (US$10,000) , divided in Ten Thousand (10,000) shares of par value US$ (1) each , allocated as follows in part : The PRINCIPAL: Seventy (70) percent; and The GOVERNMENT: Thirty (30) percent .
According to the MDA, the GOVERNMNET shall have the right to elect to the board of directors of the CONCESSIONAIRE such number of directors (rounded up to the nearest whole number) that shall give the GOVERNMENT board representation equivalent in percentage terms to the GOVERNMENT’s percentage ownership of the equity of the CONCESSIONAIRE (it being understood that for purposes of this calculation, such percentage ownership shall never fall below fifteen percent (15%) . Between the Amendment Effective Date and the Commercial Operation Startup Date, the PRINCIPAL shall procure to be contributed each in the amount of Thirty Five Million (US$35,000,000) , and the GOVERNMENT shall contribute in kind (i)the Class A Mining License ,(ii)the rights described in Section 3(d) of Article IX of the Agreement in respect of the Railroad and Buchanan Iron Ore Port and (iii) the assets and facilities listed in Appendix F for aggregate value of Fifteen Million Dollars (US$15,000,000).
That as to Article 20 of the Concession, Findley noted that Arcelor Mittal had also failed to perform. Article 20 of the Concession mandates the Respondent that it “shall pay to the GOVERNMENT” in the amount in United States Dollars at the rate of four-point five percent (4.5%) of the selling price of each metric ton of commercially shipped Iron ore. This provision, according to him, shows that company is earning a considerable amount at the detriment of the Liberian people which includes the citizens of Grand Bassa County without paying its contribution to the people of Liberia, Grand Bassa Couty. He requested the Court to declare the rights of the people Bassa and Liberia as a matter of law.
He also called to the attention of the Court that SCHEDULE A PRODUCTION SCHEDULE mandates that Arcelor Mittal shall run a mine production as follows: in (i)Year 1: 1.1 run the mine production metric tonnes in millions of 1.1; in Year 2, 2.5 metric tonnes in millions; (iii) Year 3, 5.0 metric tonnes in millions ; (iv) Years 4 to 6 , 9.0 metric tonnes in millions; and Years 7 onward , 18.0 metric tonnes in millions. This schedule, he said shows that company is adding on its multi-billion dollars enrichment at the disadvantage of the Petitioner and the Liberian people , and also the people of Grand Bassa County. The Court is most respectfully requested to declare the rights of the citizens.
Mr. Findley again called to the attention of the Court for the declaration of his rights and the rights of the Liberian people to include the people of Grand Bassa making specific reference to Appendix H. Social Contribution to Counties. Petitioner says that the company is required by law in the CONCESSION to make an annual contribution to the counties of Nimba , Bong, and Grand Bassa. For Nimba, the amount 1.5 million annually; for Bong 0.5 million annually, and for Grand Bassa 1 million annually which total is 3 million. He continued that from the date of the passage of the Concession into law and the beginning of the operations of the Mittal Steel, these amounts have not been paid consistent with the provision of the Concession, asking the Court to declare the rights of the citizens.
Further to Count 14 of the Petition, he said that Appendix G, Employment of Liberian Citizens, it mandates that form the date of the Operations of the company as a Concessionaire, it shall employ Liberians and the following shall come into effect: Senior Management: 20 % of Liberians shall be employed in year 1, year 5 -25 %, year 10 50 %; Professional Administrative, Technical and Management: 40 % of Liberia shall be employed, year 5, 75 %, year 10, 90 %; Skilled : year 1 , 40 % of Liberian shall be employed, year 5, 80%, year 10, 100 %. Unskilled: 100% of Liberians shall be employed in year 1 , year 5 , 100% of Liberians, year 10, 100% of Liberians.
The former Grand Bassa County lawmaker said that the Mittal Steel had failed to live by Appendix G of the Concession, that the people of Grand Bassa County, to include the Petitioner and the Citizens of Liberia are victims of the wrongful conduct of the company. He requested the Court and to compel and declare the rights of the citizens to operate in line with the Concession Agreement.
He said that reference to Counts 1 to 15 of this Petition, there are also additional provisions of the Concession, the Respondent had failed and neglected to fulfill under the Concession, and this act of the Respondent is due to the powerful nature and capacity of the company taking advantage of Liberia, and the people of Grand Bassa County, as very poor nation, being exploited by a giant and powerful multi-billion-dollar company. This action of the company is even punishable under the laws of the domiciliary of the mother company in Europe and the United States of America. He furthered that the laws prohibit the conduct of Mittal Steel, and therefore, the company should be compelled to abide by the Concession Agreement as a matter of law and facts.
Findley maintained that he had always been in the campaign to compel the company to abide by the Concession. One of those occasions is the Petitioner’s efforts in a report in the form of a response to the Former President of Liberia, Madam Ellen Johnson -Sirleaf’s letter dated September 3, 2013, as President Pro-Tempore of the Liberian Senate. In the Petitioner’s response to the Former President Sirleaf, he raised the very same concerns about the continuous violations of the Concession by the Concessionaire in a report called and captioned:” Action Plan Regarding Understanding Given by ArcelorMittal with Respect to Employment, Housing and Benefit for Liberians and Relinquishing of Land in the Concession Area in Buchanan. Petitioner worked with the Executive for the benefit the people of Liberia but still the Respondent had failed. This action plan was developed and the Former President’s letter also speaks to that effect of the citizens efforts to compel the company to abide by the Concession.