Written by: Articles

Our Railway is a ‘National Asset’ that cannot be limited to one company — says Mr. Boakai

President Joseph Nyuma Boakai, Sr. has unequivocally, in a very public manner on the world stage stated his Government’s position on the use of the railway between Yekepa and the Buchanan Port, and all other railways for that matter.  At the recently ended annual US-Africa Business Summit held between May 6-9 in Dallas Texas, President Boakai spoke at a forum in which he made it explicitly clear that ArcelorMittal, which since 2005 has had complete dominance and control of the railway corridor between Buchanan Port and its operations in Yekepa will no longer have that exclusive right to operate and control such a crucial national asset.  He made the comments while seated right next to Mr. Joe Mathews, a Senior Executive with ArcelorMittal who also once headed AML in Liberia. He openly called for multi-user access under well-established international best practices and standards. Such standards typically include an independent operator, under a regulatory framework determined by the Government of the country or a designated Rail Authority.

This is a game-changer for Liberia in that long gone are the days when a single mining company will be allowed to use such a strategic economic development infrastructure and asset solely for its purposes and keep other sectors and industries out of it.  The President in his remarks referred to the once active and busy Yekepa as a “ghost town” that despite the presence of Arcelor Mittal for the past eighteen years is a city with “nothing to show.”   Today, if one takes a look at the Bong Mines rail that went from Bong Mines to the Freeport of Liberia and is now under China Union, or the rail that once went from Bomi Hills, those assets are all virtually useless and in most cases dormant infrastructure.  The President is very right to call for multi-user rail infrastructure and preferably under an independent operator, to ensure fair access for other users, as well as the long term sustainability and economic viability of the rail.  Our rails should be used for everything from movement of passengers, freight, agriculture, etc.

AML and others like it are mining companies, not railway operators, so let them focus on their mining operations and leave national infrastructure such as rails and ports under the ultimate control of the Government to ensure that multiple industries can access those assets fairly and equitably.  The Government in 2005 made a grave mistake of allowing AML full and exclusive control over the rail, once it was repaired by them for their operations.  The rail was built over 50 years ago by LAMCO in partnership with the Government and is not a privately owned asset.  We applaud President Boakai in correcting that serious error.  Notwithstanding, AML should also have the same fair user access to the rail just like any other company, but they should not be able to control it to the detriment of other users.  On that issue, we stand with President Boakai.

This was one of the crucial issues raised by the 54th National Legislature in a letter from former House Speaker Bhofal Chambers rejecting the proposed third amendment to AML’s Mineral Development Agreement (MDA). President Boakai’s actions at the Summit are also consistent with principles of a multi-user rail system outlined in Executive Order 112 issued in October 2022 by his predecessor, and widely endorsed by the U.S Embassy near Monrovia in a press release—although the previous Administration never really implemented its own Executive Order.  

As Liberia explores other investment opportunities such as the well-publicized Liberty Corridor project by HPX and the Guma Africa Group, the importance of a multi-user framework that is fair to all parties and that allows for other sectors of the economy beyond just mining, is important for Liberia and is in the right direction.  We therefore call on President Boakai to codify his ideas into law and introduce real legislation to ensure that multi-user access to important public infrastructure is never again allowed to be snugged into any concession agreement for the benefit of just a single company in a single industry.  We support His Excellency and echo his sentiments that this is no longer business as usual!

See the original article here

(Visited 6,006 times, 1 visits today)
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Last modified: May 18, 2024