The hierarchy of the Armed Forces of Liberia dismisses claims of soldiers requesting for 200,000 Liberian dollars from local authorities of River Gee County to remove illicit miners from the county. AFL Chief of Staff Maj./Gen. Prince C. Johnson, III, called the New Dawn in Monrovia on Thursday, 06 May and said the army had never gone to River Gee County despite claimed by Senator Jonathan "Boy Charles" Sogbie in plenary this week.
General Johnson said he had been out of Liberia on vacation to the United States, and numbers were off, contrary to claims by this reporter of contacting him. He dismisses the story as "trash."
However, River Gee County Senator Jonathan Sogbie, speaking in plenary of the Liberian Senate on Tuesday, May 4, expressed shock and disappointment that soldiers on national duty would ask for such huge amount from citizens to execute an assigned mission.
He noted 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.
The Senator observed that the attitude of miners in the county suggests the illicit operators are well connected to higher officials in Monrovia.
He narrated that during his intervention, calls from higher-ups in government kept his telephones busy, something, he noted is the mean reason illicit miners are ruining the country's mineral deposits.
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.
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.
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 on Internal Affairs, National Security, Veteran Affairs, Lands, Mines and Energy, Ways, Means, and Finance.