Bureau of Concessions Boss Calls For ‘Unconditional Reversal’ of Concession Granting Model

Coleman wants a new approach for the awarding of concession contract to multinational companies seeking to invest in Liberia

Buchanan – Gregory Coleman, the Director General of the National Bureau of Concessions, says Liberia’s mode of granting concessions must unconditionally be reversed to a ‘bottom top approach’.

Coleman said people didn’t get proper communication from a general and technical context of concessions which regularly results in stiff resistance from locals in many cases.

He said the country must adopt the best practice “Free Prior Informed Consent” methodology – which encompasses the rights and respect for local communities, as the new beginning for granting concessions.

By this, the NBC director general said, locals will be aware of concession agreements, their expectations managed and conflict prevention achieved.

“Because, when people are unaware of the terms and conditions of concessions, their thought is that with the investing in their communities, the companies are growing and their lives remain the same,” he said.

He added that after many years of investment in Liberia, communities remain in the affected state. The NBC’s goal for now, he noted is to “move communities from the state of being affected to impacted and on to empowered communities by, creating alternative sustainable livelihood for our people and transform the taxes and royalties to of now to sustainable economic prosperity; beyond the years of extraction and as a gap closure during rehabilitation of plantations for the renewable sector”

The National Bureau of Concessions recently held a Round Table Multi-Stakeholders Platform (MSP) Large Scale Investment Forum in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County.

The two-day forum sponsored by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Peace Building Fund (PBF) aimed to strengthen conflict prevention through the establishment of Multi-Stakeholders Platforms and Improved Economic Empowerment in concession areas.

The Platform also includes community-based civil society members responsible to manage peace between concessions and affected communities.

MSPs are identified as a significant embodiment of the National Bureau of Concession’s mandate: assuring integrity and compliance through monitoring and evaluation.

Additionally, the Bureau of Concessions sees the nine established Multi-Stakeholders Platforms as “potential corporate entities through which communities can enjoy the benefits of mutual co-existence with investors”.

The Buchanan meeting mainstreamed legalization of the MSPs, mandating members to know read their concession agreements and be able to develop a work plan and report writing.

Director General Gregory Coleman expressed optimism that the establishment of the MSPs has decreased violence and shattered forms of disturbances at concession areas in the country.

Currently, NBC has managed to establish nine Multi stakeholders Platforms in seven concessional areas around Liberia. The first three including, Sustainable Partnership for Mine Affected Communities (SPMAC), Arcelor Mittal, Nimba County, United Commodities Initiative (UCI), GVL, SinoeCounty, and Reliable Partnership for Oil Palm Affected Communities (REPOPAC), Maryland County were established in 2007 by ex-Director General Siatta Bishop.

In 2018, Coleman and staff set up an additional six MSPs to include Senjeh Action for Peace and Development (SAPAD) in Bomi County.

The Progressive Action for Sustainable Advocacy and Development Committee (PASADC), Grand Bassa, Concession Communities Development and Advocacy Committee (COCODAC), Grand Kru, Cavalla Progressive Communities Committee (CPCC), Maryland County, Project Affected Communities (PAC) and Zodua Land Management Committee (ZLMC) both in Grand Cape Mount County.

Several representatives of concession companies and members of community reps attended the event in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County

These concessionaires, Mr. Coleman admonished, must buy the idea of supporting the multi-stakeholders platform and warned that concession companies must be aware that the more hit the country’s economy gets, the more pressure locals would assert on their investments.

“The possibility of getting an extension for the initiative is very slim, but we are here to find the necessary way to extend and sustain this initiative,” Coleman said while appealing to donor partners to help expand the program.

Sixty women have been trained as part of the MSPs, and Mr. Coleman says they have worked out a pilot project to enable the MSPs to sustain themselves through “business link” in three concession areas.

The business linkage platform enables affected communities to be contracted by concession as a way of providing jobs and sustained economic activities not only for the MSPs for the entire community in which a concession operates. By this, Coleman said happiness of the people can be improved.

Two major – A concessions in Grand Bassa and Rivercess Counties operate at loss for more than a decade.

Several concessions including the Liberian Agricultural Company, Arcelor Mittal, Equatorial Palm Oil, and the international partners and the UN system lauded the Bureau of Concessions for developing a new model of grassroots engagements to address industrial harmony. Platforms to be established on Firestone and LAC Plantations.

As the concessions made commitments to support the operation if the Multi-Stakeholders Platform, one of Bassa’straditional concessions- The Liberian Agricultural Company announces it has not recovered from the slump in the price of rubber on the market since the outbreak of Ebola.

LAC General Manager Vijay Miara, who attended the meeting, said the plantation is faced with low production and has made no profit in more than 10 years.

Equatorial Palm Oil, which is situated between Grand Bassa and Rivercess counties, disclosed that the lack of adequate space has limited its production substantially. EPO country head Sashi Nambiar disclosed that the concession has invested more than 150 million in Liberia but has repeatedly operated at loss for 12 years.

As the two concessions decried losses, ArcelorMittal Liberia took the reverse and announced it was adding 1,000 new jobs to its operations in Liberia.  AML Government Relations Superintendent Gus Knowldeh said the concession has just received a new chief executive for Liberia, who is committed to lifting the company’s profile.

He didn’t provide details but sources say the steel company is moving into phase two of its project in Liberia which could see about 15 metric tons of iron ore shipped out of the country on an annual basis.

Meanwhile, Grand Bassa County Superintendent Janjay Baikpeh warned concession companies in the county to live by terms and conditions laid down in their concession agreements.

Baikpeh was specific with the management of Arcelor Mittal, urging them to be more engaged with the NBC and the local multi-stakeholder Platform which represents the affected communities within her concession operation areas. By doing this the superintendent believes, conflict can be avoided.