AML Third Amendment Suffers Setback, But…

MONROVIA-After several months of discussions and review, the lower house of the Liberia Legislature put the brakes on the much talked about AML Third Amendment.  At a seemingly hastily arranged Executive Session of the House of Representatives, members Monday afternoon were said to have reached a decision to send the bill back to the Executive after heated debates held behind closed doors.

Representatives hurried out of the chambers and ran to their offices, pushing to avoid journalists who justled for position to get a word.

Apparently, sending the ArcelorMittal 3rd Amendment back to the president was a foregone conclusion as advance notice was leaked to the media yesterday announcing that an executive session will be held today to send the bill back to the Presidency.  Social media outlets were bustling with postings that something “big” was about to happen to the ArcelorMittal bill today.

House of Representatives Special Secret Session

Even before elected representatives started arriving in their smartly dressed “Pro-Poor Suits” and brightly colored African shirts, some observers were raising issues of legitimacy around the session.

The Upper House (Senate), ended the session last Thursday until April 13, but business will begin on the 16th of April, leaving the Leadership committee to remain and continue the business. Many news organs reported that the House of Representatives had also closed to resume at the same time.

Then suddenly over the weekend, Robert Haynes of the House Press Team issued an announcement stating that the Honorable House of Representatives will hold an emergency session this Monday, March 28, 2022. The announcement said the emergency session comes as a result of the change in the legislative break. The House is expected this Tuesday, March 29, 2022, to close for the Easter Break, and as such, the emergency session will address some key National issues to avoid a long list of Agenda items on the closing day (Tuesday).

It is not confirmed how many other items were on the agenda, but lawmakers who did not want to be named said the AML deal consumed most of the time.

Acting alone?

Many observers are left scratching their heads wondering what happened to the conference committee that was announced and named last week Thursday to work out the disagreement between the Senate and the House over the AML amendment. Not even one meeting was held between members from both sides when the House of Representatives decided to go it alone leaving the senate in the cold.

Shortly after the session, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Bhofal Chambers, told reporters that the House was acting based on the “best interest of the people.”

When questioned about the unusual approach of the House, said Speaker Champers to reporters: “Did you remember my speech at the refreshment after the State of the Nation address? If you read it, you will know that this is what we have been saying. We must coordinate. If there’s oversight, the other side of the Government must be able to intervene and that is the essence and beauty of democracy. We feel that no one has mastery over all. So, that said, we must complement each other and is our modest way of saying that our people’s interest has been projected by the government and must be on the basis of ‘Pro-poorism’ and that is the essence of our action today.”

The Speaker insisted that in the view of the House, Liberia was the winner as a result of their action.

He also claimed that it was not unusual to renegotiate an agreement. He said “… Well, for us we always do negotiations and discussion. So, the Government is continuous negotiation and discussions. We did not do it in isolation of the other branches of Government, specifically the Executive Branch of Government. So, we worked in concert to ensure that this decision today is in the best interest of Liberians.”

Citizens Supporting the ArcelorMittal Cause

It can be recalled that the Center for the Exchange of Intellectual Opinion-CEIO has described attempts to favor any company over ArcelorMittal Liberia as a desperate effort with bad consequences. The group listed some of AML’s Achievements in Liberia stating:

From 2006 up to 2008, the company created over 3,000 jobs for Liberians both directly and indirectly through several construction projects. By 2013, the total number of jobs created by the company rose to 5,000 because of the phase two construction – thus narrowing the unemployment gap in Liberia which portended danger for the country’s future. It was only when the country was badly hit by the Ebola disease that caused a decline in the number of jobs but again, after the country recovered from the scourge of Ebola in 2015, the number of jobs that dropped to 2,000 increased to 3,500 in 2021 just from AML’s operation alone.

Besides providing jobs to Liberian citizens, the company is providing 45 million towards the budget per annual as payment to the government of Liberia to support economic development. Also, AML is providing 3 million dollars as a corporate social development fund to affected counties per annual where the company operates. Interestingly, up to date, it is no secret as public record is available to prove that the company has paid $45 million towards the corporate social development funds for the affected communities.

Immediate Response from AML

The Communications Manager at AML could not be reached for a response. However, a source familiar with the company’s management (but spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak) said AML was baffled by the actions of a few individuals who were deliberately ignoring the enormous benefits of the would-be amended MDA to the common people to gamble all of that for promises from an exploration company.

This paper has learned that AML senior management was contemplating a response later this week.

The saga continues…



Comments are closed.