Senator Johnson Commends SDPL

With less than two months after taking  over Sime Darby Plantation Liberia by Mano Pal Oil Industry –MPOI,  the chairman of Concession and Investment in the Liberian  senate, has commended the company for carrying out a positive business strategy  that led to selling out.

According to him, the pull out strategy by SDPL was very responsible  which indicated to Liberians that SDPL is a world class company.

He made the statement recently when he spoke with  journalists at his capital building office.

He said, SDPL  team in Liberia informed  him that they were not not getting returns  their  Liberia investment and decided to pull out. According to him, a  number of buyers   submitted bid for the takeover. After screening all the potential buyers, MPOI was  selected. MPOI is a subsidiary of Mano company, which has over 50 years experience  in Liberia.

The company  singed a-63-year concession agreement with the Liberian government during  the regime of former president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in 2009 to develop 220,000 hectares of land in Grand Cape Mount, Bomi, Gbarpolu and Bong Counties into oil palm and rubber plantations. But it  was not able to develop even half of it due to the unavailability of land and other technical problems. It was only able to develop 10,500 hectors.

“I think the decision by SDPL was a good idea. They had some challenges and decided to sell out. They decided to sell out to another Company-Mano. And I think they went through all of the processes legally and vigorously with the involvement of  the government  and other relevant institutions, “ he said.

He added,  “It is a good thing and the transitional period is working.  I m told that SDPL, some of their expatriates (technical people) will remain here to help the new company for, I think eight months or a year.  And at the end of the time, is optional, either the company hires them or decides not to.”

No Mass Dismissal

He expressed happiness over SDPL’s negotiation skills in which they requested  that any new buyer would not embark on mass redundancy  of employees.

“That was what I capture.   The black managers who are in their positions, will remain to where they  are as the transitional period is on. Based on their work,  they will either stay on their work or reassigned them. He said, the transitional period should be on for close to a year.

“I am  told that SDPL will pay all of their liabilities. That is good. As soon as all their liabilities are paid, then we will look  at the new company how it proceeds. But I think it  is a good thing and a responsible way that SDPL carried out its  exist from here.”

According to him,  heworking with the locals and the new company to see the incorporation of the Project Affected Communities(PAC).  “I was in the county recently and I met with the Project Affected Communities.  We are trying to talk with them to see how they can  be incorporated as the PAC so they can have a smooth operations. The PAC leadership, we met with them, the other senator from Cape Mount, Watson.”

“They are the one you are going to work with.  You have to be in good rapport with them, he added.

Agreement with former president Sirleaf:

 The Concession chairman said the agreement signed with previous government, headed by madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf had some technical issues which were not taken care of from the onset of the entire process.

“The agreement with SDPL was not bad when It was signed during the regime of madam Sirleaf.  That was an attempt to attract investment. The intent was not bad. It was a way to attract investment. If you look at that region, there is no major investment in that region at all.  No big company was there. So, the coming of SDPL under madam Sirleaf was a way to take investment to the people from there. It created the atmosphere of employment where people were not running healthier skater.”

Senator Johnson continued: “the former BF Good ridge was mismanaged by ex-combatants.   You can not have ex-combatants situated at that place. You have to look at the political and security risk.  I stand to be corrected. But because the anxiety for the investment, the people  did not do proper due diligence regarding the land issue.  I think because of the anxiety to have investment in the place they did not do due diligence.”

So, the anxiety to create jobs and have investment  there, the previous government did not do proper due diligence.  “People did not go back to sit down to look at where the land is  and who has the land. So, they left most of that one undone. The concession agreement was done, but they did not   meet the locals first; the government I mean,” he continued.

The company was only able to develop  about 10,500 hectors of the  220, 000 hectors it acquired from the government.

This according to him, was a drop in the bucket. “ So, if SDPL has invested over US80m  to get  to where this investment is today, what you expect?  So, when  people invest money, they expect returns from their investment. I think SDPL  was operating and not getting profit. The land was not given and two, the  housing, the ex-combatants  occupied them.  All of  the ex-combatants remain in the houses with the understanding that SDPL would employ them. So, they did not leave at all. They occupied the properties and refused to leave. They could not give the land and they could not employ all of them. Then the government did not have the political will to act.”

These, SDPL complained about them.  “So, even if you have given them  50,000 hectors, they would have done well, but what  they developed was not good at all.  They were constrained to employ a smaller number of  people because of the land space they had.”

 In this light,  he expects the new company to have good relationship with the locals. “We are saying that they need to have good relationship  with the locals. Because government will not do all for them. They have to open corridors where they will have direct  communication  with the people and the community dwellers.  Once they can find that peace , it will be good and then the  government  will come in. try to encourage them.”

“We want to be thankful to SDPL and the government  to reach to this level we are today. It was a good decision to turn over to another company in a responsible way. That is good and we encourage them to provide the technical support to the new company until they can  be on their  own.”

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