20 November 2012

Liberia: Gov't Admits Error in Signing Some Concession Agreements

Photo: Dan Klotz/Rights and Resources Initiative
Oil palm plantation in Sinoe County.

The Government of Liberia (GoL) through the National Investment Commission (NIC) has admitted errors in some concession agreements it signed with concessionaires. Speaking at a business meeting held between the GoL and the Multi-sectorial Trade Mission from the Netherlands,

the Officer-In-Charge of Concessions Development and Public Private Partnership (PPP), Mr. Othello Z.B. Karr, stated that the government erred in the signing of some concession agreements in the name of creating employment opportunities for Liberians.

"We hurried and in the end, made lot of mistakes in the past in singing some concession agreements. This is simply because government wanted to create employment opportunities for its citizens," said Mr. Karr.

"As you may be aware, the people's anxiety for job was too high, and government on the other hand, wanted to satisfy their desire," he furthered.

Mr. Karr pointed out that some of these agreements signed in the end created problems, especially between the concessionaires and local residents.

According to him, the government failed to conduct what he called proper assessment of available lands and consultation with local citizens before signing and giving out lands for concession purposes.

It can be recalled that sometimes ago, residents of Tawaleta Town, Gbarpolu County, said they were not benefiting any from social agreement promised them by the Bopolu Development Cooperation (BODECO); a logging company operating in their area.

This, they said, was because they were not involved from the initial stage of the agreement.

Also in Sinoe, local residents complained that Golden Veroleum Liberia (GVL) was taking their farm lands and at the same time destroying their ancestral lands.

At the same time, in River Cess County, local residents cried foul of their community being awarded to logging company by the GoL without their and consent.

But in a bid to avoid the recurrence of these mistakes, Mr. Karr pointed out that the NIC is now in a "restructuring" state.

The restructuring process, he said, will not only benefit Liberians, but concessionaires as well.

"We are putting into place proper mechanism that will stop the recurrence of these mistakes that we have made in the past. Currently, we are doing all we can to restructure the NIC. In so doing, we will put ourselves in the shoes of the investors so that they too, get protected. If we don't treat our investors well, they will rather choose another country to make business," the NIC official added.

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