Exactly a week after the attacks by rioters on the facilities of steel giant ArcellorMittal in Yekepa, Nimba County by some residents of the county, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has vowed that the county will bear the brunt of the financial losses incurred by the company.
She said though there has not been a full-scale assessment of the damage caused the steel company, Nimba County will have to bear all expenses incurred from reconstruction of damaged facilities undertaken by the government.
"As is to be expected, the government of Liberia will dutifully undertake a repair of the damaged roads and bridges, but the cost will be sourced from funds directly allocated for the development of Nimba County," she said. "The cost to repair the damage and restore the properties destroyed when determined will be a subject of discussion between the government and Arcellor Mittal."
Addressing the nation at the foreign ministry on Thursday, the President also with immediate effect placed a hold on all clearances for mining in the county.
"With immediate effect I have directed that a moratorium be placed on the issuance and use of alluvial mining licenses and permits in Nimba County until the full effects and associated costs on Arcellor Mittal's operations are finally determined and known," she said.
President Sirleaf said the action of the rioters has serious national security implications and should not be taken lightly, adding that people's right to freedom does not been violating the rights of others.
"The attack at Tokodee Nimba County, are harsh reminders, of the consequences of the abuse of freedoms. Overtime individuals were said to have engaged in the unlawful incitement of others to such violent behaviors through the misuse of the media," she said.
"Although the full extent of the direct and associate damage is being evaluated, for the government of Liberia these were more than attacks on a private company. They are attacks on the economy and the future of our country."
President Sirleaf said the violence in Nimba County on Arcellor Mittal's facility appears to be springing up elsewhere in the country, including concession areas and said the exercise of freedom without the associated responsibility, leads to anarchy, something the government is not willing to tolerate.
"Anarchy anywhere in our country undermines our collective progress. We cannot permit this to happen, the Liberian government is absolutely resolved that whatever, whomever, the unlawful incitement of the public to violence, will be dutifully punished according to law," she said.
Flanked by the leadership of the Liberian Legislature in persons of House Speaker Alex Tyler and President Pro-Tempore of the senate Gbehzohngar M. Findley, President Sirleaf said the government's collective response to the attacks must be decisive, immediate and forceful because of the gravity of the rioters' action.
"Few days ago, the safety and security of the main mining facility of ArcellorMittal, located in Tokodee, Nimba County was attacked and violated; staff, contractors, employees of the company were held hostage for hours, without food or water; offices were vandalized and mining equipment, vehicles, construction material, office supplies, buildings were destroyed or looted."
"Law enforcement officers who were attempting to restore calm to the mining area and restore calm to surrounding communities were shot at and injured. Attempts were made by the attackers to burn an important access bridge and damage the road leading to the mining facility." The President regretted the incident apologizing to the company and thanking ArcellorMittal for resuming mining activities on the facility.
"On behalf of the government and people of Liberia, we extend profound regrets to the ArcellorMittal family and all those who were made to endure this dangerous breach to Liberia's cherished peace and security, the hard-earned environment, which continues to make our collective development possible," she said.
The President maintained that all those involved in the fracas would be prosecuted under the framework of the law and promised to set up a committee of prominent persons to assist with the investigation.
"Accordingly, all accused of participating in these destructions will have their full day in court as quickly as possible. All those found to be guilty, will face the fullest penalties imposed by the law," she said. "That process is underway and advancing; I would appoint a prominent counselor, to chair a board of inquiry, to which would be added eminent lawyers and citizens, to undertake a detailed investigation of the root and other causes associated as well as recommend further action to ensure that such attacks are never repeated anywhere in Liberia."
'A Big Joke'
Upon hearing the news that President Sirleaf had announced that the county would be held responsible for whatever damages the rioters caused, the Nimba County Legislative Caucus vehemently disagreed with the President's utterances terming them as 'not serious'. "The President is joking, we will challenge it constitutionally she has no constitutional authority she has no power." Nimba Legislative Caucus represented by representatives Samuel Koigar and Jeremiah Koung.
"This is the president who said she will adhere to the law if she said that then she is not reading her own constitution, she needs to read her budget law if someone commits a crime he or she must be investigated. Let no one provoke Nimba in the term of this crisis, Nimba has condemned the violence in the strongest term and let those who carry out the act take full responsibility and let none provoke Nimba."
Police were professional
President Sirleaf thanked the Police for the level of professionalism exhibited during the riot and thanked the elders and community leaders for the help rendered during the fracas. "We congratulate the Liberia National Police, for the swift and professional manner in which security and calmness were restored," she said.
"We commend the local chiefs, the community leaders, including the Nimba Legislative caucus, for cooperating with the Police in encouraging those who fled, into the bushes, to return home; those who perpetrated this attack to turn themselves in and surrender to the Police and assisting in the retrieval of looted items."