SANNIQUELLIE, Nimba – A deal has been agreed upon to sell Nimba’s decades-old mining scraps to two companies, Sethi Ferro Fabrik and North Star Industry, Inc.; however, citizens have demanded that the details of the contract be made public.
The scraps were left by the former Liberian-American Swedish Mining Company, which operated the mine before the civil war. They were turned over to Nimba by ArcelorMittal and put up for bidding with two Ghana-based companies competing, North Star and Western Steel.
Although Western Steel won both the first and second biddings, the Public Procurement and Concession Commission called for another bidding, because of complaints by North Star about irregularities in the process.
Nimba was found to be in error of the PPCC Act and North Star was allowed to purchase the scrap.
The Liberian government later allowed Sethi in on the deal because officials said Sethi had agreed to build a steel processing plant in Liberia.
Two weeks ago, Nimba’s superintendent, D. Dorr Cooper, confirmed that a formal contract had been approved, granting the two companies access to the scraps. Sethi, according to the contract arrangements, would pay US$60 per ton, while North Star would pay US$72.
A document obtained by The Bush Chicken and signed by Joseph D. Torlon, acting chairman of the Nimba County Scrap Sale Committee, shows that the county stands to receive a total of US$213,000 from the sale. The vast majority of the 3,400 tons of scrap were sold to Sethi, with North Star receiving only 18.6 percent of the total weight.
According to Cooper, Sethi is paying a lower amount because “Sethi has reached an agreement with the Government of Liberia to open a steel company here to produce steel materials out of the straps and they will be providing jobs for our people.”
By selling at a lower rate to Sethi, Nimba forfeits approximately US$66,000.
Nimba’s fifth electoral district representative, Samuel G. Kogar, has confirmed that the contracts with the two companies have been finalized but said he has no knowledge of how the payments would be made.
The county’s two senators, Prince Johnson and Thomas Grupee, said they were aware of the contracts, but have not yet perused the documents.
One of those leading the calls for the county to make the details of the deal public was Josiah Gboseh, a defeated representative candidate in the 2011 elections.
“We are calling on the County Administration and the Nimba County Legislative Caucus, that the person who made [a] mistake on the bid documents, we are calling on them to halt the entire process because that is a million-dollar investment project,” he said on a local talk show.
Gboseh, who said he has a background in procurement, said procurement best practices dictate that the bidding process for projects exceeding US$500,000 must be advertised both locally and internationally “and what I understood from the superintendent, that was not done and I believe that that was not transparent.”
He said decisions taken today by leaders of the county must be given proper attention, as any negative impact, the future generations are the ones who will be affected.
Another group of Nimbaians under the banner of Concern Nimbaians has also threatened to take the county to court should the administration headed by Cooper fail to provide copies of the contracts.
Featured photo by Arrington Ballah