Senate Opens Discussions on Eton Road Financing Agreement

MONROVIA, Montserrado – The Liberian Senate will today convene a special session to open discussions on the Eton Road Financing Loan Agreement.

The decision of the Senate was taken in Thursday’s session after the House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted to ratify the agreement on Tuesday, a day after the joint legislative committee on Ways, Means and Finance conducted a public hearing on the agreement.

If the senators concur with members of the Lower House on the ratification of the US$536.4 million agreement, 505.3 kilometers of paved roads are expected to be constructed, connecting Buchanan to Cestos City, Greenville to Barclayville, and Barclayville to Sass Town. The Medina to Robertsport road and the Tubmanburg to Bopolu Road, including rest stops and roadside service areas, are also part of the government’s plans under the agreement.

Portions of the loan, according to the agreement, would also be used for the construction of a vocational training center in Greenville, Sinoe and mini-soccer stadiums in Harper, Barclayville, Greenville, Cestos City, Zwedru, Robertsport, and Bopolu.

The loan is payable over 15 years with a seven-year interest and principal free grace period. At an interest rate of 1.46 percent, the government is required to pay the principal amount of the loan each year after seven years from the date the agreement comes into effect.

The Lower House has also ratified another loan agreement, from Burkinabe company EBOMAF, also submitted before it by President George Weah. The lawmakers took the decision during plenary on Thursday.

That other loan agreement, which is now also before the Senate, is worth US$426 million and will also finance the construction of an additional 256.2 kilometers of paved roads and bridges in Monrovia and major corridors of the interior of the country. They include an elevated road from Sinkor to Kesselly Boulevard, Zwedru to Greenville, Toe’s Town to the Ivorian Border, and Tappita to Zwedru. It will be redeemable after 15 years with a five-year grace period and a 10-year interest only on payment.

The Executive Mansion issued a statement that said construction would begin shortly after ratification of the agreement.

“Group EBOMAF will begin pre-financing the road project within three months after the agreement is ratified,” a release from the Executive Mansion disclosed.

EBOMAF is a private Burkina Faso construction company whose president and CEO, Mahamadou Bonkoungou, was recently on record for saying he had offered his private jet for Weah to use for his international travels, prior to the announcement of the loan agreement.

There were concerns that Weah may have been offered the plane in exchange for some unknown concessions, especially when he initially failed to disclose the source. There was a widespread confusion in the public about how the president gained access to the plane until Bonkoungou disclosed in a recent interview with the West Africa Democracy Radio in Senegal that he offered the jet to the president to facilitate his foreign travels.

The announcement of the loan agreement with EBOMAG has, meanwhile, been dominated by perceptions of impropriety, because of the jet offer to the president by its CEO.

However, Bonkoungou has said the plane offer had nothing to do with his intent for road construction contracts.

“Mr. Bonkoungou does not need planes to build road. Building roads is the main activity of the EBOMAF group and it has nothing to do with the friendship between Weah and us,” he told the West African Democracy Radio.

Featured photo by David Stanley

Gbatemah Senah

Gbatemah is a graduate of the University of Liberia and a recipient of the Jonathan P. Hicks Scholarship for Mass Communications. In 2017, Senah won three Press Union of Liberia awards: Women's Rights Reporter of the Year, Legislative Reporter of the Year, and Land Rights Reporter of the Year. In 2018, he was also recognized as the Land Rights Reporter of the Year.

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