Liberia: AFL Demands Lrd200, 000?

-Sen. Sogbie alarms

River Gee County Senator Jonathan Sogbie alleges here that officers of the Armed Forces of Liberia assigned in his county requested 200, 000 Liberian dollars from local authorities to move against illicit miners operating in the county.

Speaking in plenary of the Liberian Senate Tuesday, May 4, Senator Sogbie expressed shock and disappointment that soldiers on national duty would ask for such huge amount from citizens to execute an assigned mission.

The plenary of the Liberian Senate had summoned the Minister of Lands and Mines Gisler Elbert Murray to give reasons and factors responsible for increased activities of illicit miners in the country.

Plenary said illicit miners, including Ghanaians, Malians, Burkinabes and Chinese are invading rivers, creeks, traditional shrines, villages and towns in search of gold and other minerals.

In response to the communication, Minister Murray said that his ministry had since been engaged in combating the illicit miners.

He narrated that the ministry had engaged Forest Rangers from the Forestry Development Authority, the AFL and the Emergency Response Unit of the Liberia National Police that are helping to prevent operation of illicit miners.

But Senator Sogbie notes that upon learning that AFL personnel were reportedly demanding money from chiefs, he (Sogbie) immediately placed a call to the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, General Prince C. Johnson, seeking his intervention.When this paper tried contacting Gen. Johnson for comment, the General's phones rang endlessly without answer.

However, the Senator observes that the attitude of miners in the county suggests the illicit operators are well connected to higher officials in Monrovia.

He narrates that during his intervention, calls from higher-ups in government kept his telephones busy, something he notes is the mean reason illicit miners are ruining the country's mineral deposits.

Liberia is endowed with natural resources, including iron ore, gold, diamond, etc. The country currently has four iron ore concessions and two gold concessions.

However, it remains virtually unexplored and has great potential for economic growth and socio-economic development from these resources. To realise this potential, Liberia needs a strong governance and regulatory framework, backed by regional cooperation in the mining sector.

Since 2006, Liberia has made significant progress towards improving the governance framework around natural resource management. The government has a national mineral policy that is based on the African Mining Vision (AMV), which seeks to promote equitable exploitation of mineral resources. The Liberian government had also established a Mineral Cadastral and enacted a Public Procurement and Concession (PPC) Act, which requires open, transparent and competitive bidding for known resources.

In addition, the government of former president Ellen Sirleaf effected a Revised Revenue Code that provides special fiscal packages for the resource sectors. The country is member of the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) since 2007 and remains Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) compliant for diamonds.

The Armed Forces of Liberia, which prides itself as a "Force for Good", has been involved in series of civil duties across Liberia. The AFL was deployed in 2019 along the Monrovia-Gbarnga highway during the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic here, but that mission was greeted by complaints of alleged extortion from citizens mainly business people and commercial drivers.

Meanwhile, the Senate has set up an ad-hoc committee headed by Grand Bassa County Senator Jonathan Kaipee to investigate the matter and report to the plenary within three weeks.

The committee also comprises the chairpersons of Internal Affairs, National Security, Veteran Affairs, Lands, Mines and Energy, Ways, Means, and Finance. When also contacted, the Assistant Defense Minister of Public Affairs, Sam Collins's number was off and could not be reach

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