Unabated Fuel and Spare parts Theft at AML Demands Government’s Urgent Intervention

MONROVIA – Investigation has uncovered that violent fuel and spare parts theft is negatively impacting the operations of ArcelorMittal Liberia (AML), the largest private sector employer and the highest private sector revenue contributor to the Liberian government.

With a strong presence across four counties—Grand Bassa, Bong, Nimba, and Montserrado—AML employs nearly 3,000 Liberians directly and provides an additional 5,300 indirect and related jobs.

The company’s annual contribution to Government’s revenue envelope is estimated between $35 million to $40 million.

Threatening these gains is the frequent interruptions of the company’s operations by armed men who seize fuel containers and other valuable equipment from the company’s facilities.

These well-organized armed gangs, often unchallenged due to limited police presence and the threat they pose to peaceful community members. An internal memo seen by our reporter reveals that on several occasions, Police Support Unit (PSU) officers assigned to the mines have engaged in gunfire exchanges with these heavily armed thieves, who are typically from nearby towns and villages.

Last Thursday, a video surfaced showing young men from the town of Zolowee siphoning fuel from a tanker at a mining site in broad daylight and w8th no efforts to stop them.

One individual was seen running along the train track with an empty container after an alarm was raised. The growing boldness of these criminals has created significant safety concerns among AML’s fuel tanker drivers, who fear attacks as they transport fuel from Buchanan and other parts of the county to AML’s concession area in Nimba County.

“We are very afraid, we could get attacked and harmed along the way just for fuel oil,” one driver said. “Something has to be done to put this stealing fuel under complete control. The perpetrators are no longer afraid and would boldly match up the mines and siphon large volume of fuel.”

The situation has escalated to a point where the government of Liberia must intervene through the joint security efforts to bring the situation under control.

This ongoing theft not only endangers the lives of AML employees but also poses a significant threat to the company’s substantial investment in Liberia. Urgent intervention is needed to prevent further economic damage and ensure the safety of all personnel involved.

Flashback: Previous Incidents and Escalation

In a related incident, a report from the Liberian National Police (LNP) detailed an attack on July 28, 2023, at about 02:45 hours.

Police Inspector Sampson Forbay, commander of the Formed Police Unit (FPU) in Yekepa, responsible for security at AML, reported that criminals from Zolowee attacked Segal Security, damaging their vehicle and injuring the driver. The attack was reportedly in retaliation for Segal Security obstructing the thieves’ movements.

Following a call for help, the FPU responded, rescuing the injured driver and pursuing the assailants. The criminals had emptied fuel gallons into a house and parked their vehicle in front.

After obtaining a search warrant, a team comprising court sheriffs, ArcelorMittal staff, and police searched the house. However, citizens of Zolowee Town set up roadblocks to prevent the team from leaving.

When the FPU attempted to remove the roadblocks, they came under heavy gunfire, jeopardizing the entire team’s safety. One person sustained a bullet wound to the chest during the confrontation and was treated at JFK Hospital.

Additionally, Police Officer Varney J. Kromah of the PSU lost two fingers in the standoff and received treatment at AML’s hospital in Yekepa.

Alarmingly, just hours after the security team departed Zolowee Town, another group of armed men reconvened and attacked the ArcelorMittal Tokadeh Mines, damaging properties and shooting an AML employee in the leg and upper jaw.

ArcelorMittal, a multinational steel manufacturing company and the largest taxpayer in Liberia, has repeatedly fallen victim to violent attacks, resulting in the loss of assets worth thousands of dollars.

The company’s ongoing struggle with theft and violence underscores the urgent need for a coordinated security response to safeguard its operations and investments in Liberia.

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