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As Gov’t Ventures Into Mineral-Swap Deal

-Is It Mount Nimba Or Wologisi?

By T. Saye Goinleh

Just under three months after the landmark signing of the ratified version of two loan agreements between the Government of Liberia and Eton Finance Private Limited as well as the EBOMAF SA in the tune of US$962 million, the CDC-led regime is again poised to enter into another contract with a Chinese firm for development purposes for Liberia.

Less than a week after the conclusion of the recent China-Africa summit in Beijing, Liberia’s Finance and Development Planning Minister Samuel Tweah addressing a special press conference on Tuesday, September 11, 2018 at the Ministry of Information disclosed that Liberia and the China Road Facility and Bridge Corporation has signed an agreement in a natural resource swap in which the country stands to benefit US$2.5 billion.

According to Minister Tweah, the agreement is not a loan, but an investment facility framework which will take into consideration the swapping of a portion of Liberia’s natural resources with the aim that in the next five years, the fund accrued will be directed to roads, infrastructural development and electricity across the country.

However, the Liberian finance minister was not clear on what particular mineral resources will be targeted under the ‘swap’ arrangement and what county or counties. He also fell short of disclosing if consultations have already been done with local inhabitants of the political sub-division which this unspecified natural deposit sits.

It can be recalled that when the Government of Liberia and the Eton Finance Private Limited were in the process of the past loan negotiation, similar deal was whispered in the air between the two that as part of the agreement, Liberia was obliged to surrender a special ‘sovereign guarantee’ that was never explained to the Liberian populace.

At the time many Liberians speculated that ‘sovereign guarantee’ in their minds means certain portion of a nation’s resources, a national bank and even a dear sacred emblem of the country that must be surrendered as surety before that particular loan is delivered.

It was also rumored in many quarters in the country during the period that the sovereign guarantee referred to in the document at the time was the Central Bank of Liberia which is measured as a major reserve for the nation. In that vein, people deduced after the abrupt resignation of former CBL governor Milton Weeks that he was pushed to step down because of his apparent refusal to honor the deal.

Now that the Liberian government is at this time clear on the swap of one of Liberia’s natural possessions, what ligers on the thoughts of many is which part of the country, the type of mineral to be exploited and from which region of the country.

Because ArcelorMittal is presently exploiting the Nimba Mountains, people have already begun speculating that the focus of the ‘swap’ contract is probably the Wologisi mineral deposit in Lofa County which is considered by geologists and geophysicists as the last and only natural reserve of high volume the Country currently has.

Many are of the views especially those hailing from Lofa that if Government intends to exploit the Wologisi Mountain, it should in the first place engage the people of the County (Lofians) before even going into any such an agreement with a foreign firm outside of Liberia without the import of those on the ground.

Speaking on a local radio station in Monrovia, Senator Steve Zargo who is chairman of the Lofa Legislative Caucus said he himself has been hearing the speculation on the grapevine, but has not really come to his immediate attention.

Senator Zargo said although Liberia is not a federal state, instead a unitary state, but such discussions surrounding around a detailed mineral deposit in a given region, the custodians (local dwellers) are to be consulted before any form of whatever contract can be crafted.

One citizen of Lofa County residing in the commercial district of Paynesville who confided in the New Republic and only identified himself as Lorma Massagee said the rumors currently going around in the public that it is Mount Wologisi that is about to be swapped under the new arrangement is a joke.

“Government and those in agreement have emptied Mount Nimba since the 1960’s and they are now turning their attention to Wologisi. This will not work with the Lofa people,’’ Mr. Massagee alarmed.

Another son of Lofa in his late fifties who referred to himself as Phalow Kissi told this Paper that he got the news about Wologisi being on swap in Kakata while en-route from Foya, Lofa County where he has gone recently to visit family members.

According to Phalow Kissi, he has personally embarked on mobilizing people in the County and around the country against the planned swap of Wologisi in the name of bringing development to Liberia.

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