PYJ Boycotts Session As Senate Ratifies AML Deal -Says it is a bad deal for his people

MONROVIA – Senator Prince Yormie Johnson of Nimba County on Tuesday, February 8, 2022 walked out of the plenary of the Liberian senate when the discussion on the proposed amendment of the mineral development agreement between the Government of Liberia and the ArcelorMittal Steel Company was brought up for deliberations. Terming the proposed amendment as a “bad deal” which he does not want to be part of it to deceive his people, Senator Johnson’s walkout did not however stop his colleagues from approving the amended ArcelorMittal Liberia (AML) US$800 million deal that is supposed to provide employment opportunities for 1,000 Liberians.

Speaking to the media briefly at his office after his walkout, Senator Johnson said he was not happy over how the Senate was proceeding in errors and that if care is not taken, the same grievances that have dogged the first MDA agreement will be repeated thereby keeping the host counties under perpetual sufferings.

Given the genesis of the contentious issues with the agreement, Senator Johnson said, in the first MDA, there was a clause which indicated that Nimba, Bong and Bassa counties should have ownership of their own social development funds accrued from ArcelorMittal, to be given to the counties directly on a periodic basis. Senator Johnson however disclosed that when the bill reached the desk of then President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, she unilaterally changed the component, and decided to place the social development funds into an Escrow account.

“Sadly the joint committee that worked on the bill for presentation to the President did not have the guts to challenge Madam Sirleaf, and for 12 years we were on it; our people were suffering. At times when the money got to the account, the government took some and there was no way we could challenge that. It was going on until President Weah came to power, when we met him and he assured us it was going to be ratified. In fulfillment of his promise, we were able to receive some money which we used to undertake some development for our people”, Senator Johnson said.

He said it was the expectation of the people of the three counties that in the new MDA the issues of ownership of the social development funds and others would have been taken care of but surprisingly nothing of such was done, rather, his colleagues were more concerned about amendment of the MDA.

“That is wrong. You can’t ratify an MDA with an amendment. What should have been done is for all the observations and concerns raised in the old MDA be placed in the new MDA and sent to the President for him to discuss them with the ArcelorMittal people, make the corrections and send them back to us for us to now ratify them and send the documents back to the president for his assent. That is how it is done but for this one they are talking about amendment. Once we amend without these corrections, when it is signed, it becomes law. So how will my people get their money?, Senator Johnson wondered.

He said even Senator Varney Sherman who is the Chairman of the House Statutory Committee on Judiciary had warned against some of the bad deals consented to by the Senate before which were highly criticized and warned his colleagues against taking a hasty decision that will affect the people of Bong, Grand Bassa and Nimba Counties.

“So I called you here to tell you why I have to walk out of the meeting because I know that was a bad deal and I cannot be part of it. I am going to tell my people why I did not sign and have to walk out of the plenary.

Since the news of the MDA became public, there has been mixed reactions to the deal. While the government and some other citizens believe the deal will jumpstart the economy and reset the trajectory towards economic development and change in the wellbeing of the host communities, others, especially leaders and citizens of the three host counties, have been very vocal against it, terming it as being against their interest.

It can be recalled that ratified AML Agreement, the third amendment to the original MDA signed in 2005, called for ArcelorMittal to make US$800 million investment in Liberia, employ over 1,000 Liberians and provide the Government of Liberia with US$55 million within 19 months of ratification.

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