-SDF Arrears; Amount Generated From Scrap Metal
By Reuben Sei Waylaun: firstname.lastname@example.org
One Nimba Movement (ONM), a pro-democracy and advocacy organization established to ensure that Nimba County’s population and resources are transformed into valuable assets is demanding the county’s Legislative Caucus to ensure the immediate payment of Social Development Fund (SDF) arrears in the sum of US$6.8 million and the amount generated from the scrap metal.
In a press statement read by the group’s Acting Chairman Bob Yeenuah Karto, members of the group commended the caucus for the efforts made that led to the recent payment of US$1.55 million to the county.
However, the movement said it is concerned that out of the arrears of approximately US$6.8million; only US$1.55million could be remitted without solid commitment on how to settle the arrears.
“The Movement expresses great dismay at the comical display by the Government of Liberia in remitting the amount and making it a newsworthy issue. The money paid is fairly due the people of Nimba County as stipulated in Article 14 of the Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) between Arcelor Mittal Liberia (AML) and the Government of Liberia and its presentation by the Government as if it was a gift from the Government is laughable,” ONM said in a statement read by its Acting Chairman Bob Yeenuah Karto.
The group further added “Moreover, the unprecedented and suspicious manner in which negligible portions of the arrears owed to Nimba, Bong and Grand Bassa Counties were paid for the very first time in pretty close to three years since the ascendency of the Weah’s government gives ample reasons to suspect that there is a coordinated conspiracy on the part of the Government of Liberia and Arcelor-Mittal Liberia (AML) to rob these Counties of their fair entitlements especially at a time when 20% of the SDF is said to be questionably withheld.”
The group alleged that the constant delay in remitting the Social Development Fund to the people of Nimba County is a demonstration of gross insensitivity to the development concerns of the people of Nimba County.
“While development activities by national Government are ongoing in other parts of Liberia, timely remittance of the Social Development Funds to the affected counties of Nimba, Grand Bassa, and Bong could help repair the yellow machines in Nimba County, attend to agricultural projects, provide scholarships to students, strengthen health care facilities, improve economic activities, and support other development projects,” ONM said.
The group said the uninterrupted deferments in the payments of the money while the iron ore is rapidly depleting does not demonstrate good intent on the part of Government.
“The continuous refusal to pay on time and in full, the SDF to these counties gives more reasons to assume that marginalization of counties outside of the South Eastern Region is on classical exhibition by the Weah led Government of Liberia – this act on the part of the Weah’s government is not only wicked and insensitive, but it is also, objectionable, unthinkable and unacceptable,” the statement added.
Additionally, members of the group said their attention has been drawn to what they called ‘grave concern’ that the amount of US$169,925 and L$58.5m have been deposited into Nimba’s account from the proceeds of the scrap metal being extracted by North Star Inc and Sethi Brother.
The group is therefore demanding the Liberian Government to immediately commence the process of review and renegotiation of the Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) with Arcelor-Mittal in keeping with the five (5) years revision clause in Article 36 of said Mineral Development Agreement.
“This has not been done for two review periods. That General Auditing Commission be requested by the Nimba County Legislative Caucus and the Government of Liberia to conduct a full-scale audit of the operations of the Nimba County Social Development Fund and the County Development Fund covering the period after the last audit to ascertain that the funds were used in keeping with law and procedures,” the group recommended.
In its recommendations, the group further recommended that the Nimba Legislative Caucus ensure the Ministry of Justice and Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) proceed to review previous audit reports of the CDF & SDF, especially the 2011/2012 and the 2012/2013 audit reports in order to prosecute and hold accountable wherever necessary, those past and present officials who might be culpable.
“That the Nimba County Legislative Caucus proceeds with the hosting of the next County Council sitting in a manner and style that will reflect the true and genuine wishes, aspirations and desires of the majority citizens of Nimba County. Since the County Administration headed by the Superintendent represents the Executive Branch and members of the Legislative Caucus represent their respective electoral districts and participate directly in the formulation of the Annual Budget, it is more logical to involve the participation of other stakeholders and the Nimba County Civil Society community, including the Teachers Association, Health Workers Association, Farmers Association, Media Association, Business Community, Students and Youth Community, the Nimba Diaspora Community, Women Organizations, etc in the deliberations on the management and utilization of funds generated by the county including Social Development fund, county Development, proceeds from scrap metal,” the group recommended.
Members of the group also want the Nimba County Community Radio Association (NICORA), Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL), Accountability Lab Liberia and all local, national and international anti-corruption and advocacy groups to join them in ensuring that the affected communities truly benefit from the operations of Arcelor-Mittal and other related companies operating in Liberia.
According to them, they stand in readiness to work with the Nimba County Legislative Caucus and the Government of Liberia in ensuring that Nimba County and other affected counties receive their just benefits in a timely manner.