By Julius T. Jaesen II
Credible information coming in from unimpeachable sources confirm to us that part of the reasons for which President Weah is recalling members of the Legislature for a Special Session for “time-bound critical issues” is to rectify the hugely controversial High Power Exploration (HPX) agreement.
As we are aware, month ago, the Executive Branch presented to the Legislature a recast budget that had in it US$30 million provided by HPX to support the national budget when there is absolutely no existing legally binding agreement negotiated and signed between HPX and the Government of Liberia.
Ridiculously embarrassing, our government has been pitifully crawling on her belly under the cover of darkness secretly taking money from HPX and promising them access to our rail and port facilities ignoring the government’s own existing agreement with its biggest post war investor- ArcelorMittal.
It must be noted that HPX only intend is to export the ores from the Samandou mine in Guinea compared to AML who is willing and prepared to invest one billion to expand in Liberia.
According to reliable information, High Power Exploration has given the Government of Liberia a three-month ultimatum to ratify an agreement masked in secrecy which they entered into months ago.
HPX inserts into that agreement a close that mandates the government to pay back $30 million she has so far given if the government fails to ratify their agreement from now to November this year. Interestingly, our government is now under the weight of HPX’s pressure – given that she doesn’t have the money to refund HPX if the November deadline reaches. So, the government has resorted to finding ways to have HPX’s agreement ratified by the Legislature before November.
Critical minds have warned that if the government ratifies HPX’s deal to give her access to our rail and refuses to first act on the third amendment to the AML agreement that will obviously prove dangerous for our country’s image to the outside world, especially to would-be potential foreign investors that our country is not a country of law but a country of men where laws are easily flouted with the government refusing in broad day to honour its own agreement with a global company.
The current legally binding agreement between the Government of Liberia and AML so far has a current lifespan of nine years, which provides AML with the exclusive rights over our rail. So, our government is aware that any attempt on her part to give HPX the access to Liberia’s rail infrastructures without the expressed approval from AML will be a fragrant breach of AML’s agreement our government ratified years ago. But also true, AML has ever since welcomed the coming of HPX and encouraged them to come and help invest in the expansion of our rail.
Sadly, it is clear that HPX and it CEO, Robert Friedland, have zero interest to invest in expanding our rail and port infrastructures other than trying to get rights over our rail to transport their ores from the Samandou mine to Buchanan port for export and later they can sell that rights to our rail infrastructure to a third part in the future which will eventually earn them lots of money as it was done in Liberia with the Western Cluster.
It is only ArcelorMittal that has committed additional $200 million to expand the rail and increase the port’s capacity to handle complex cargo.
Clearly, with the government’s hands being tied and exposed, officials closed to the Office of the President have hinted that under the guise of passing the highly popular AML’s third amendment deal that is dubbed as Liberia’s biggest post war investment deal, the President has decided to sneak in the interest of HPX and have both pass simultaneously.
The third amendment to AML’s agreement amongst other things, calls for multi-user access of Liberia’s rail and port infrastructures.
So, with this clause in AML’s agreement, pundits are saying it will now provide President Weah’s administration the leverage to ratify the AML agreement before that of HPX without violating the agreement signed between AML and his predecessor Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
Let us not forget that it’s stated in the AML existing agreement that no other concession or part can use the rain without the consent and agreement of AML.