Liberia: Gbezhongar Findley Takes ArcelorMittal to Court over Alleged Failure to Meet up with Concession Agreement

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Monrovia – Former Senate Pro-Tempore and former Grand Bassa County Senator, Gbehzohngar M. Findley has filed a Petition for Declaratory Judgement against the management of steel giant ArcelorMittal Liberia Holding Limited for failing to live up to its concession agreement as provided by Section 43 of the Civil and Procedure Law of Liberia.

“You will issue a Writ of Summons directed to the Sheriff for Grand Bassa County, commanding him to summon Respondent in the above-entitled cause of action to appear before the Second Judicial Circuit for Grand Bassa County, on the ___ Day of September, A.D. 2021, at the hour of ten o’clock in the morning, same being the formal opening day of _____ A.D. 2021 Term, to Answer or Respond to the Petition of Petitioner in an action of Petition for Declaratory Judgment,” court document in the possession of FrontPageAfrica states.

Speaking Monday, September 15, on behalf of Findley, his lawyer, Cllr. Arthur Johnson said that since the amendment of the ArcelorMittal Agreement in 2007, the company has violated the rights of his client and all citizens of Grand Bassa as well as those who are to benefit from the concession agreement.

As such he believes it was prudent to demand such right through a legal process since the company continues to play deaf ears to the plight of citizens, while it allegedly continues to damage properties of residents within the concession limits.

The petition which was issued at the Second Judicial Circuit Court of Grand Bassa County and a copy which is in the possession of FrontPageAfrica is praying the court to declare the right of Mr. Finley, who is a senior citizen of Grand Bassa as well as the rights of all citizens of Grand Bassa.

According to Findley’s lawyer, any contract or agreement entered into by the Government of Liberia obligating a Concessionaire to accord certain defined rights to him as a citizen and people of Grand Bassa County, and all other citizens of Grand Bassa or Residents, he has the legal standing and right to demand those privileges and rights defined in the delegated responsibility on the concessionaire by the Government of Liberia when said rights so accrued.

“Under this logic of reasoning in the law, Petitioner in the above cause of action respectfully requests this Court to declare the rights of the Petitioner, and /or all other rights of the Citizens of Grand Bassa.”

The petition, Hon Gbehzohngar M. Findley, Liberian, Eminent Citizen, Resident of Grand Bassa County versus The Management of Mittal Steel (Liberia) Holding Limited, represented by is Chief Executive Officer, Maurilio Botelho, respondent wants the company to implement specific provisions of the concession agreement, to include the construction, maintenance, and operation of health facilities within the concession areas, proceeded by the use of modern health equipment and practice of modern health procedures.

He said the company has not lived up to Article 10 of its agreement signed with Liberians, thus, failing to ensure the economic viability of citizens.

Moreover, he said the company is yet to have 10% Liberians employed as was agreed upon, while in year 5 of its operation there must be 25% Liberians which holds them accountable both locally and internationally.

Cllr. Johnson further said that under international law, international organizations or corporations are required by law to abide by international standards in the treatment of Concessions and citizens within the Concession areas. International demands the Respondent to engage in fair dealings. 

“Without limiting the generality of the foregoing whenever the CONCESSIONAIRE employs one hundred or more persons at any permanent work site within the Production Area, it shall maintain there an adequate and properly staffed dispensary or hospital headed by a resident medical doctor.

The CONCESSIONAIRE shall also maintain at each of Buchanan and Yekepa an adequate and properly staffed hospitals headed by a resident medical doctor.

The concessionaire shall keep records and notify the Government immediately of any death of or serious injury to any person in connection with the Operations. For this Provision, a “ serious” injury is as defined in the Labor Practices Law of Liberia,” Cllr. Johnson cited court document.

He further argued that the company is breaking down houses and replacing them with tanks, which does not show a signal of development in the county.

Petitioner says that the Respondent is a Concessionaire and party to a Concession Agreement with the Government  of the Republic of Liberia named and styled as “An Act Ratifying the Amendment to the Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) dated August 17, 2005, Between the Government of the Republic of Liberia(THE GOVERNMENT)  and Mittal Steel Holding A.G. and Mittal Steel (Liberia) Holdings Limited (THE CONCESSIONAIRE)”, Approved: May 7, 2007, Published by Authority, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Monrovia, Liberia, May 16, 2007.”

Petitioner also says that the Respondent had not complied with the provision of US Three Million annually, which shall be managed and disbursed form the benefit of communities in Nimba, Bong, and Grand Bassa, and therefore, request the court to declare and interpret the Concession in keeping with the law, and thereby declare the rights of the Petitioner.

Similarly, he made specific reference to Count 10 of the Petition, which says that Article 14 of the Concession Agreement requires that even the shares of the Respondent and the Government of Liberia, are stated that the Respondent shall have 70 percent while the Government of Liberia 30 percent.

In the same way, Cllr. Johnson noted that the petitioner says that the Government of Liberia shares has decreased below 15 percent without any reason whatsoever, thereby adversely affecting the rights of the Petitioner and the Liberian people and the people of Grand Bassa.

The petition further noted: “That as to Article 20 of the Concession, Petitioner says that the Respondent had also failed to perform. Article 20 of the Concession mandates the Respondent  that it  “shall pay to the GOVERNMENT” in the amount in United States Dollars at the rate of four point five percent(4.5%) of the selling price of each metric ton of commercially shipped Iron ore.”

“This provision shows that the Respondent is earning a considerable amount at the detriment of the Liberian people which includes the Petitioner and the citizens of Grand Bassa County without paying its contribution to the people of Liberia, Grand Bassa Couty. Petitioner requests Your Honour to declare the rights of the Petitioners as a matter of law.”

Meanwhile, Findley in his petition said he had always been in the campaign to compelled the Respondent to abide by the Concession, one of which is his efforts in a report in the form of a response to the Former President of Liberia, Madam Ellen Johnson -Sirleaf’s letter dated September 3, 2013, as President Pro-Tempore of the Liberian Senate.

 In the Petitioner’s response to the Former President Sirleaf, he raised the very same concerns about the continuous violations of the Concession by the Concessionaire in a report called and captioned “Action Plan Regarding Understanding Given by ArcelorMittal Concerning Employment, Housing, and Benefit for Liberians and Relinquishing of Land in the Concession Area in Buchanan.”

Accordingly, this action plan was developed and the Former President’s letter also speaks to the effect of the Petitioner’s efforts to compel the Respondent to abide by the Concession.  Attached herein is Petitioner’s Exhibit Marked as P/3 In-Bulk to form a cogent part of this Petition.

Meanwhile, Cllr. Johnson, reading the petition is requesting the Court to declare his client rights and the people of Grand Bassa Court, Liberia, and order the Respondent to perform by the provision of the Concession.

Cllr. Johnson says that the Petition is the proper remedy sought and that the Court has the legal authority to declare the rights of the Petitioner and every other Liberian citizen whose rights accrued and have been denied by agreement, statute, and the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia.

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