By Patrick Stephen Tokpah
GBARNGA-Huge controversies have sparked over the disbursement of a $450,000.00 United States Dollars linking some current top and former Officials of Bong County to it.
The amount was meant for Saywhen Town, a community situated in the operational area of Turkish Mining Company, MNG Gold in Bong County.
The town became affected in 2017 due to a chemical spillover from the operational site of the gold mining Company which resulted in the contamination of the Community’s drinking water.
Some of the community Dwellers who did not know that their drinking water was polluted, contracted infection.
In less than twenty four hours that year, 30 people were hospitalized after the exposure to the chemical spill from the Company’s reservoir.
The Community people who later saw the action of the Company as a violation of their rights, immediately decided to file a lawsuit against MNG Gold.
When the Company knew that it was in the wrong and would have spent more money in the matter had it been taken to court, its officials contacted former Senator Henry Willie Yallah of Bong County to talk to his people for the problem to be settled outside of the court of law.
The citizens, after agreeing for the matter to be settled without the court’s involvement, demanded that the Company should pay eleven million United States Dollars for the damage caused, but the Company rejected the demand on grounds that the money was too much.
Following several consultations, the Company agreed to pay six hundred Thousand United States Dollars to the people of the Community and also promised to help provide safe drinking water in the period of time.
Where mining Company MNG Gold operates, falls under the electoral demarcation of Rep. Albert Hails, thus extending his oversight responsibility to the operation of the company.
The Company is specifically operating in Kokoyah Administrative District, but electorally, it falls under District number one, which includes Boinsen, Tukpahblee, Kokoyah and Kpaai Districts.
The Bong County’s 1st Electoral District’s Representative and Senator Henry Willie Yallah are said to have been the strong Advocates from the County’s legislative Caucus in ensuring that the people get the agreed amount.
The people did not get the money until the 2020 Senatorial election which saw the defeat of Mr. Yallah and the Election of former Deputy Speaker Prince K. Moye.
Former Senator Yallah said he did well along with Representative Albert Hails to have demanded six hundred thousand United States Dollars, but was shocked to have heard that the money was reduced to four hundred and fifty thousand after his defeat.
The former Bong County Senator also said that he and Rep. Hails in consultation with the citizens did not hire a lawyer in the matter, because the company and the people came up to an agreement that met their satisfaction.
The concern of the people have seriously been drawn to the “hired” Lawyer who walked away with 30%(US$135.000.00) of the $450,000.00 USD despite not pleading in court on behalf of the citizens.
Cllr. George Woah is the Lawyer who was allegedly hired and has confirmed to the media that it was an agreement between him and the citizens that if the money was paid by the company, 30% should be given to him for his legal efforts.
Even though he has not presented any receipt to the media as evidence, the Liberian Lawyer said he took his portion of the money as agreed upon to cover-up financial expenses he made during the process of negotiation for the money.
Another $35,000,00 USD was allegedly taken from the money to “cover-up” the expenses made by a committee that was setup by the Community members to negotiate with the company.
During the 2020 campaign when Moye was seeking for the Senate’s position, he emphasized on the operation of MNG Gold and how residents of Kokoyah were being downplayed when it comes to the benefits they should get from the Company.
He promised perfect representation, stating that “when I am elected, I will make sure the people of Kokoyah will have what belongs to them; it will no longer be like the time past where people just go and collect handouts from officials of the Company, leaving the general interest of the poor people.”
Mr. Moye after his election immediately started to visit the official base of the Company on grounds that he “wants to ensure that the Company pays whatever it owes the people”.
Senator Moye is also on record for criticizing the agreement between the citizens and the company at the time he had not been elected to the Senate, but since his election, he has done nothing to revisit the agreement he once criticized, according to some citizens.
Rep. Hails has accused Moye of allegedly hiring the Lawyer in consultation with a few people, a deal he believes resulted in the Lawyer taking $135,000.00 USD.
The Bong County Senator has denied the allegation and stated that he is innocent to the entire issue, but was only trying to implement the agreement he met on the table after his election.
But senator Moye later confirmed on a local radio (Radio Gbarnga) interview in the County that it was an agreement between the people of the affected community and the lawyer, stating that the issue of the $35,000 USD was used by members of the committee that was setup.
Moye justified that members of the committee were sleeping in hotels, eating and transporting themselves to Monrovia at the time they were in negotiation with the company for the money.
The justification of the Bong County’s Lawmaker has left many of the county citizens with no other alternative but to express disappointment in him for not ensuring the right thing to be done.
This paper contacted Kokoyah Statutory Superintendent Conteh Yallah who claimed of being left out in the process both by the former and current Senator.
Superintendent Yallah said he only got to know about the money issue during the distribution at which time the current Senator, Prince K. Moye called him on phone to give the information.
Officials of the committee have not granted this paper interview as they keep rescheduling.
Meanwhile, the spokesperson for Advocacy for Kokoyah Resources Shadrach S. Kollie has expressed sadness in the Leaders and people involved in the matter.
He said it was quite frustrating for people who claim to be the eyes of the poor masses to have benefited from the money at the detriment of the ordinary people of Saywhen town.
He has stressed the need for the people’s money to be immediately restored by those involved.