Legislature didn’t Reject ArcelorMittal Deal”, Pro-Tempore Chie Clarifies, Urging the House to Act Accordingly
By Democracy Watch News Desk
Monrovia Liberia: The President Pro-Tempore of the Liberian Senate Albert Chie has dismissed the March 29, 2022 decision of the House of Representatives to reject the ArcelorMittal 3rd Mineral Development Agreement.
In his opening statement on the agenda of the 22nd Day Sitting, 5th Session of the 54th Legislature on Tuesday, Senator Chie informed the Senate that amongst others, ArcelorMittal Mineral Agreement is still on the Senate agenda for this sitting. In his subsequent media briefing after the Session, he told journalists on Capitol Hill that reports in the media that the ArcelorMittal deal has been sent back to the President is not to the knowledge of the Senate, and if that is the case, the House of Representatives will have to act accordingly.
Also in his Tuesday’s media briefing, the Pro-Temp emphasized that the ArcelorMittal deal hasn’t been rejected by the Legislature as far as the Senate is concerned.
Despite the House of Representatives’ shocking and abrupt decision to send back the agreement to the executive, Pro-Tempore Chie in his official address to Senators in chambers on Tuesday which marked the 22nd Day of Sitting and resumption of duties after the Easter Break noted the Senate still anticipates a conference to resolve key issues in the US$1 billion deal with the executive.
He added that the Senate will remind members of the House of Representatives of its communication of February 15, 2022, which contains reasons for which the Senate failed to concur with the version of the ArcelorMittal deal which was passed by members of the Lower House of the legislature.
Said Pro-Temp Chie: “On February 15, 2022, the Senate communicated with the House of Representatives of its reservation to concur with the House’s gross bill number 46 entitled “Amendment Number Three to the Mineral Development Agreement Among the Government of Liberia and ArcelorMittal and ArcelorMittal Holding AG and transmitted the names of members of the Senate’s conference committee to harmonize the disparities and the inputs of each chamber”.
According to him, the Liberian Senate “has been awaiting the names of members of the conference committee on the side of the HOR until we adjoined for the first constituency break”.
The Pro-temp added that it is therefore a need to communicate with the Honorable House of Representatives to kindly remind them to transmit the names of its conference committee members to resolve the variance in the third amendment.
This latest statement by the leader of the Senate is a blow to members of the House who surprised the public by convening an emergency Executive Session on March 29, 2022, just a day before the House’s closure for Easter break, only to arbitrarily send back AML’s deal to the executive for “renegotiation”, without consultation with the Senate.
Even though Liberia runs a bicameral legislative system of two Houses with equal powers, the lower House has since justified its decision with an ambiguous conclusion that the deal is “monopolistic of Liberia’s assets”. This justification has since been dismissed by experts and street bureaucrats, citing Article 3 of ArcelorMittal 3rd amended mineral development agreement which establishes a “multi-user arrangement” for the Yekepa – Buchanan railway and the iron ore port in Buchanan City.
The abrupt decision by the House to send back the AML deal stunned many; particularly, since the House had agreed to go to conference with the senate to resolve purportedly outstanding issues in the deal for which each chamber had proffered alternative perspectives.
Speaker Bhofal Chambers even constituted said conference committee and named Representatives Clarence Massaquoi of Lofa County as chairman.
The House had earlier made heavy amendments to the AML deal which contended to favor Guinean concessionaire HPX, and Russian-funded mining conglomerate Solway, relative to port, railway, and disputed mining areas in Nimba County.
The senate however refused to accept such amendments.
Sources close to the leadership of the Liberian Senate hinted that Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor and Pro-temp Chie are “very astonished” with the manner and form in which the House of Representatives has been handling the AML Deal.
The Senate leaders according to our sources believe it was a total “lack of respect” that the House didn’t even hold prior consultations with the Senate or inform the body of its decision to send back the deal to the Executive.
Several prominent Liberians including Movement for Progressive Change Political leader and economist Simeon Freeman have expressed displeasure over how a major investment and the first of such kind under the CDC administration is being mishandled.
Recently, European Union Ambassador to Liberia warned of imminent economic danger if the government fails to reach an agreement on the ArcelorMittal’s US$ 1 billion investment plan.
Ambassador Laurent Delahousse told local radio Okay FM that if ArcelorMittal did not realize its dream of bringing the needed investment to the country, such would be “detrimental for the people of Liberia”.
He said despite “local politics” and “competition from other mining companies”, a common ground must be found to enable the AML to bring the needed investment which promises more than 2000 new jobs. Other prominent voices of concern on the economic and social benefits of the ArcelorMittal deal also include the United States Ambassador, Michael McCarthy.