Why The Foya Rice Project Became A Fiasco—The True Story
The stunning, dramatic and brazen demise of the much publicized Foya Rice Project which was initiated and exclusively managed by ADA/LAP has been a topical issue on the lips of many Liberians for some time now, and lately it has obviously become a stimulating political debate considering the rather vague and vicious attempt by some notorious ‘hired guns’—who are desperately struggling to rope-in Vice President Joseph N. Boakai as one of those squarely responsible for the seemingly unsuspected and unthinkable collapse and disaster of the lofty US$ 30 million rice project.
So, I have meticulously and courageously endeavored over the last six months to dig deep into the amazing drama of the project, review the accounts and piece together tangible evidences with the aim of simply revealing the facts to the Liberian people as relates the topical Foya Rice saga—what went wrong, who were the actors and the perpetrators?
It is my view however; that the unraveling facts embedded in this piece will ultimately bring to a reasonable end the malicious lies, mischief and sheer blame-game into what sadly and regrettably became a failed project.
History of ADA and ADA/LAP
The African Development Aid or ADA started here as an Agriculture NGO in the early 2000s. Its concept and mission was to train and transform ex-combatants and disable people into mainly rice production experts.
Mr. Windell McIntosh, the founder of ADA cleverly networked his NGO way through the national disarmament and demobilization program and won an impressive and greasy deal that saw hundreds of ex-combats transitioned to his program to be trained into rice production under the popular slogan; “Exchanging Guns For Hoes” And “Seeds Not Bullets”.
The program was actually a blessing for hundreds of ex-combats as well as disable people who suddenly became transformed and productive citizens as many of them became progressive farmers after the course of their training. Many Liberians admired the program and extolled McIntosh and his team at ADA for the farsightedness in helping the nation to scale down the profound risk and traumatic consequences of dealing with thousands of young ex-combats whose eyes were still filled with blood and minds accustomed to violence, carnage and savagery.
I recall, global News leader, the Cable News Network or CNN even became attracted to the program and came down here to film and telecast the efforts of ADA thus attracting international attention to the project which was believed to have helped ADA sourced foreign financing and made some greasy and incredible international connections.
It is also believed that it was during this time, McIntosh came in contact with now Vice President Boakai who was then a Board Member and a senior Advisor to the National Commission on Disarmament, Demobilization and Reconciliation or NCDDR, and considering his (Boakai) rich background in agriculture development, he might have supported the ADA agriculture training project for those ex-combats—which was quite profound in many respects.
Well, that project ran its course and eventually elapsed, and after a while, ADA could no longer be heard off and its Congo Town office became ghostly silent for few years. McIntosh, I believe, had gone to hustle for new opportunities, this time; he was going for the ‘big fish’ in the desert oil land of Libya.
Between 2006 and 2007, the ADA Boss returned and excitingly announced to the Liberian people that he has reached a US$30 Million rice production deal with the Libyan government—and many including me, were shocked.
Shocked because for an individual to get such inordinate amount of money from Libya is quite difficult if not impossible, because policy wise, the Libyans do not deal with individuals, they rather deal with governments, but perhaps Windell had the magic, some say he’s a smart talker and a sophisticated phony with immense energy.
But then it was later gathered that the deal was not reached with the government directly but rather the Libyan Africa Investment Portfolio (LAP), an international development fund established by the Mohamed Gaddafi Government to facilitate aid operations in African countries.
Investigation uncovered that LAP was also used to funnel and divert dirty money out of Libya during the repressive and corrupt rule of Gaddafi.
Investigation also credibly established that LAP was incorporated under the laws of Switzerland and had its headquarters in Geneva where hundreds of Millions of stolen Libyan monies were transferred and would later be wired to chains of foreign operations anointed by Gadaffi and his cartel of Mafioso.
So at this point, the ADA, according to documents available, was no longer an NGO, it suddenly became a Business/ investment incorporated under the laws of the Republic of Liberia as ADA/LAP.
By October 2007, the company entered into a concession agreement (ratified by the Liberian legislature) with the Liberian government for the massive production of rice in Liberia under a joint venture.
According to the concession, ADA held 60,000 hectares of swampland and upland in Bong, Grand Gedeh, Lofa, and Nimba Counties granted by the Republic of Liberia through the Ministry of Agriculture for a period of seven years with option for renewal for another seven-year period where possible.
The agreement says the both parties are to engage in massive rice production in and across Liberia for profit. The consortium is a joint venture operating under the laws of Liberia, with LAP of Switzerland holding offices in Monrovia, called LAP (Liberia).
In the same regard, under the agreement between LAP and ADA, LAP/Swiss is to make available thirty million United States dollars soft loan to ADA.
Also under the agreement, the ADA headed by Wendell McIntosh shall exclusively manage, administer and control the project and to ensure that all third parties perform for the realization of the project.
The rights of concession given to ADA for the 60,000 hectares of swampland and upland shall also be transferred to the Consortium Company after the registration of the joint venture in Liberia after forty five days.
The point I would like to strongly emphasize is the fact that nowhere in the agreement does the government or any of its official (from the President to the lowest rank) have any part to play in the execution of this agreement. This is purely a business venture protected by the laws of the land, and by virtue of its ratification by the legislature, the country is obliged to respect the terms of the agreement.
McIntosh unequivocally reminded the government and its officials every step along the way that ADA/LAP was his “damn investment”, as such, he will run it his way and not by the dictates of anybody—and of course, he did run it his way to the point it shamefully collapsed. Interestingly, no one is blaming him for the wreck of the project but rather ludicrously and, unbelievably too, blaming others.
So it is completely mindboggling, disingenuous and unfathomable how people will brazenly and devilishly attempt to link Veep Boakai to the failure of this project. But we know that this is how callous, crude and vicious the Liberian politics can be—especially against a candidate that is garnering the populous support in a small way.
This political miscreant and sorry losers must find every means possible to splash a mud even vague and barren their attempt would turn out to be.
Veep Boakai never sat on the board of this company, he never made any financial and/or administrative decision for the company and as far as thorough investigation is concerned, his solid agriculture expertise was never considered in the execution of this Foya project.
For Liberia, it is easy for someone to sit on the radio and in his/her cocoon and throw the failure of the project in the lap of the Vice President only on account of the narrow-minded view that he hails from Foya and as such, he was under obligation to make the project works. How does the Vice President nativity interferes with a concession agreement operating in his homeland?
The concession is law, simple as that, one who doesn’t have shear in it cannot do much when it comes to getting it work the way you want, simply because it is owned by somebody else. Such flabby proposition that he comes from Foya and did nothing to protect the life of the project is not only irrational and unrealistic but undoubtedly infertile and parochial.
Did the Vice President express some concerns and ask some questions about the form and manner in which this project was going? Of course a resounding yes? Did he make some tangible interventions to get it work? Of course Yes! Did the owners and operators of the company listen? Of course, a resounding No! I will deal with this when I get to the aspect of the Vice President.
Who Are The Progenitors Of ADA/LAP Deal?
The ADA/LAP Deal was brokered by three Liberians; they include; Windell McIntosh, Roland Morris and one of the Sirleaf’s brothers who is said to have had strong ties with eminent and influential Bashir Saleh Bashir, a Libyan kingpin who had the ears of President Gadaffi, by the way, Bashir was a favorable nephew of Col. Gadaffi.
Bashir was also a powerful government agent and reportedly oversaw foreign aid funds channeled through LAP/Switzerland.
To finally seal the deal with the Libyans, McIntosh needed somebody influential and it was at this point the Sirleaf brother became a relevant partner to effectuate the perfect connect to Saleh Bashir who later on blessed what became the much heralded Foya Rice Project.
The three men are the owners of ADA commercial and the lead shareholder McIntosh was the one that ran the operations of the projects and made most of the financial and administrative decisions probably in consultation with fellow owners.
The Financing of the Project
The financing chart inserted above reflects the current financing transaction of ADA/LAP up to the point the rice project paralyzed. It was obtained from ADA through a source. As of 2009 when the project stalled and became a total flop, ADA had received a total of US$6.2 M with lingering concerns regarding the balance of the US$30 million plus.
Of course, the rest of the money was not intended for the Foya project as far as the Libyan mafia’s operation is concerned. The Foya project was only used to wire-out this amount to LAP/Swiss and by the time the money reached LAP/Swiss account, the apportionment was determined by Bashir and others kingpins of the Gaddaffi regime.
So for the record, the US$30 million never came to Liberia contrary to what many have being purportedly propagating on the public radio. So, that $30M was expended here on the Foya rice project squarely represents a HOAX, in the Liberian parlance, we say a ‘Black Lie’!
A careful review of ADA/ LAP financial document indicates that the US$6 million plus received by McIntosh ADA was absurdly leveraged over the purchase of very expensive high-tech equipment and exotic salary scale for Executives and employees of ADA.
How the project failed
In addition to the tangible and revealing documents on the implementation of the projects in the possession of this writer, Executives of ADA who prefer anonymity also divulged that the project became disfigured due to the following reasons; lack of appropriate and specialized staff—meaning the project ran without agro specialists especially people with solid background in rice production, lack of serious administrative structure to manage the project and the inability of McIntosh and his team to effectively and efficiently mobilize and rally the people/inhabitants of the communities into the project—by affording them ownership(buy-in) of the project.
In fact, I am told by some Executives of the project that both the surrounding communities/Villages in which the farms were situated and the workers never had a cordial working relationship with McIntosh and his team, hence, accomplishing targeted goals was quite a sheer illusion.
I am reliably told that every time McIntosh when up to Foya, he appeared like a ‘Rebel General’ in the faces of the people with horde of dreadful-looking bodyguards escorting him through the surrounding towns and villages, and would even go on to threaten to manhandle the community people if they ever dare to undermine his project. He rained invectives, threw verbiages at them and called them all sorts of unpleasing names and often called them “bunch of country fools”.
Now, let’s be fair and serious for a moment; can an investor operating anywhere around the world score success with such disdainful, arrogant, disrespectful and inhumane attitude toward the people whose land he/she is operating on? The answer is simply a big NO! If you treat people in such discourteous and inhumane manner, they will certainly revolt in their own unique way.
Some of the reasons attributed to the flunking of the project include; waste, plunder and abuse as well as the exotic lifestyle of McIntosh.
Firstly, he purchased very expensive equipment that were not applicable to the tough tropical Lofa terrain in every respect—and this is because he unreasonably refused to seek experts’ advice on the kind of equipment to acquire for the Foya terrain. Had he sought experts’ advice, they would have advised him accordingly and the equipment challenges would have been minimized—his conduct of the entire project brought to mind more questions than answers.
So now, we know what went wrong with the Foya project and the man clearly responsible for the crash of what could have been a golden opportunity for our country if managed well. Even with US$6 million, I still believe, that project would have been a blessing if managed with a bit of honesty and professionalism.
Now that we have these irrefutable facts on the Foya rice project transaction, I like to respectfully admonish the blame-shifters to readjust and redirect the blame on the proper person culpable for plundering the project and discontinue the throwing of blames on others.
Veep’s Boakai Intervention
When I reached out to executives of ADA in a bid to establish the level of involvement of Veep Boakai—as to whether he expressed any concern, asked questions and made any intervention in the lifespan of the project; they all told me YES, he did on many occasions.
They said prior to the start of the project, Veep Boakai offered several professional suggestions as a way of lending genuine support to the project, but his suggestions were all brushed on the wayside simply because someone felt the project was theirs.
These ADA Executives told me Veep Boakai showed enormous interest in the project with the view that it was going to create jobs for his people and put the country on the path of food self-sufficiency. He was excited about the Foya rice Project to the point he put his office at the disposal of ADA but they chose to do it their way.
They informed me that when the equipment arrived in the country and getting them out of the Port swiftly became a challenge for ADA, Veep Boakai quickly intervened and got Ministry of Agriculture and the National Port Authority management at the time to assist McIntosh to smoothly clear them.
When reports of signs of a possible collapse of the project began to emerge, Vice President Boakai again, I am told by these same ADA Executives, sent a two-man team to Foya, Lofa County to find out exactly what was happening, and following a week of investigation the team returned to Monrovia and made its reports.
Contingent on the report, the Veep made several attempts to prevent the potential collapse of the project but again he never got the cooperation from the project managers. Again, Vice President Boakai could not do more than the moral and professional steps he took because the ADA/LAP project is a concession agreement and it forbids officials of government meddling in its operations. Yes the project was in Foya but Veep Boakai does not own Foya, he is just a prominent citizen from there who is subject to the laws like all.
Another source at the Ministry of Agriculture also told me that when time came to harvest the first plat of rice that was planted, ADA was already out of cash, the bank account was at zero-balance, it was Vice President Boakai who gave and lobbied funds to facilitate the harvest, yet, people in their desperate, malicious and wicked quest to smear and impugn on the heard earned reputation of the Vice President who has now become the ‘Mosaic’ of the Liberian politics, are shamelessly insinuating that he did nothing to help the project survive and succeed.
Finally, everyone knows why people are courageously making all these vicious attempts to link Boakai to the fiasco Foya project. It is obviously because he is populous candidate in the 2017 Presidential elections, and his contenders find him to be a fierce, towering and quite difficult if not impossible to defeat, hence, they must find mud to splash on him by all means possible. That’s the true definition of the African politics—lies, deception, machination and witch-hunt.
But the truths have been told in this matter and we hope people can chew on the solid facts embedded in this piece and deviate from spreading lies. The fact is, the name Joseph Boakai stands tall in our country’s governance history and we all know he has never ever been associated with misgivings and failures. Let McIntosh be a man and tell the whole true to the Liberian people, and refrain from the outright lies and smear campaign he is advancing against Veep Boakai to the delight of his paymasters!
(Moncio)Robert Kpadeh, Contributing Writer