Following the announcement by the world’s leading steel company, Arcelormittal of doing additional investment in the tune of US$800 Million for Liberia, the people of have Grand Bassa County, where the company is situated have hired a legal team to battle with the company for it team the company has not doing enough to satisfy the people of the county.
Addressing reporters in Monrovia yesterday, September 15, 2021, the group representative, former Liberia’s Foreign and Affairs Minister, and former Pro-Temporal of the Liberian Senate, Gbehzohngar Milton Findley alongside his lawyer, Cllr. Arthur Johnson, said the company has not met those made during the genesis of the agreement signed between the Liberian government and Arcelormittal.
Speaking to journalists at the news conference, the former Senator said, he hired the service of Cllr. Johnson to address some of the issues in the existence contract between Arcelormittal and the Liberian government, he noted that there some issues that they want to bring to light; asking the company to meet its obligation in accordance with the concession agreement .
“The payment of the Social Development Funds have not been completed, the issue of jobs allocation with the company are yet to be completed, we are calling on the company to meet up with its responsibility and obligations. So we have taken this step to issue a legal action against the company”, Mr. Findley speaking at the news conference said.
For his part, Cllr. Johnson in a rather ferrous mood, said the action being filed by Mr. Findley is an action called ‘PETITION FOR DECLARATORY JUDGMENT’, a petition for declaratory judgment under the Liberian Law Chapter 43 of the Civil Procedural Law that mandates the Court to declare the rights of person or individual or group of individuals or an organization or group of organizations when they feel that their rights are been infringe upon they move to the Court of Court of Law to ask that the Court to declare or decide on a particular law that that person had failed to abide by.
In a petition for a writ of “Declaratory Judgement”, an eminent citizen of Grand Bassa County, former President Pro-tempore’ of the Liberian Senate and Grand Bassa former Senator, Gbehzohngar M. Findley, in his petition prayed the second judicial Circuit Court to grant his petition for a writ of ‘ declaratory Judgement’ , after which the ‘Respondent’, through the Management of ArcelorMittal (Liberia) Holding Limited, represented by its Chief Executive Officer, Maurilio Botelho, vehemently, intentionally, and willfully violated the social contract entered into between the Government of Liberia, and the People’s of Grand Bassa County, on the other hand .
Former Senator Gbehzohngar Findley prayed that the Petitioner entitle to relief as a matter of law; That the Respondent complies and abide by the Concession, particularly Articles 8,10,14,20; SCHEDULE A -PRODUCTION SCHEDULE; APPENDIXES H AND G , AND TO INCLUDE ALL OTHER PROVISIONS IN THE CONCESSION THAT THE RESPONDENT HAD NOT FOLLOW ABIDE BY.
The petition also prayed that the court ‘order the Respondent to paid all remaining payments and benefits and /or contributions that the Respondent is required by the Concession to make to the People of Liberia, and to include Grand Bassa County which the Petitioner is a Resident; Rule all costs of these proceedings against Respondent and grant unto Petitioners other and further reliefs as in such matters, and as is made and provided by law; Order the Respondent liable to pay cost of court, INCLUDING SUCCESSFUL ATTORNEY FEES; and Grant unto the Petitioners all and other further relief that this Court and Your Honour will deem just, fair, and legal’.
The Grand Bassa former Senator, Gbehzohngar M. Findley, stated at a press conference Wednesday in Monrovia, that his decision to pray the court for ‘declaratory judgement’, has no selfish undertone but to ensure that ArcelorMittal live up to its obligation as enshrined in the Concession agreement entered into between it and the government Of Liberia.
Findley further stated that the amendment agreement of ArcelorMittal specified the specifics which the company must address itself to especially issues of living up to the terms of the Concession agreement.
“From all indication, ArcelorMittal has grossly violated the terms of its contract not only with the people of Grand Bassa County but the government of Liberia in revenues.”
“We hope that within the coming days, other interest groups will join this call to ensure ArcelorMittal meets its obligation to the people of Grand Bassa County, including other counties such as Nimba, and Bong Counties.”
“There are issues of Production, Jobs, transfer of technical skills by ArcelorMittal, that have not been adhere up to date, and we want to meet their obligations. Importantly, there new laws that the government has passed, which Mittal Steel needs to incorporate” Hon. Gbehzohngar M. Findley, told news men.
For his part, the lead Counsel on the writ of Declaratory Judgement, Cllr, Arthur Johnson, stated that he is confident that ArcelorMittal has violated the chasity of the concession agreement, and the need to seek the Court for the writ of Declaratory Judgement cannot be overly emphasized.
Cllr. Johnson, stated that requesting the court for declaratory Judgement cannot be misconstrue as trying to undermine the government in its strides’ to encouraging investors, but ensure that the rights of Grand Bassa County, is not violated, neither does it attempting to undermine the rights of counties that are enshrined in the concession agreement.
The Liberia young legal luminary, said since the signing of the concession agreement between the government of Liberia and ArcelorMittal, the company has refused to implement specific terms of the concession agreement as indicated in Article 8 of the agreement, which says that “ArcelorMittal, shall be responsible to construct and maintain Health facilities within the concession area, and use modern standards of Health devices, and shall practice modern Health procedures in accordance with acceptable international standards.
Cllr. Johnson maintained that ArcelorMittal also violated Article 10 of the concession agreement in keeping with shares which must be investigated.
“Under the 2007, concession agreement, ArcelorMittal has 70% share, whereas the Government of Liberia has 30% share. Now, our understanding in keeping with Article six of that concession agreement Liberia share shall no go below 15% But as we speak the country share is now below 15% which warrant investigation and proper explanation.”
“The next issues is the issue of “Management” which Appendix ‘G’ which states that from the day ArcelorMittal begun operations in 2007, the senior management must be 20% Liberians, that must be employ in the first year; Year five, 25% Year 10, 50% senior management must be Liberians which the company has failed to adhere to.” Cllr. Johnson narrated.
On the question whether anything tangible would come out of the writ of declaratory judgement, Cllr. Arthur Johnson, said he was confident that the gross violation of the rights of the Baassa people and other counties mentioned in the Mittal Steel concession will be agreed.
The citation to ArcelorMittal, His Honour Joe S. Barkon, Resident Circuit Judge, Second Judicial Circuit Court for Grand Bassa County, ordered Mr. David Doebah, Clerk, SECOND JUDICIAL CIRCUIT COURT FOR GRAND BASSA COUNTY, sitting in Buchanan City, Republic of Liberia, to issue a Writ of Summons directed to the Sheriff for Grand Bassa County, commanding him to summon Respondent in the above-entitled cause of action to appear before the Second Judicial Circuit for Grand Bassa County, on the 20 Day of September , A.D. 2021, at the hour of ten o’clock in the morning, same being the formal opening day of August A.D. 2021 Term, to Answer or Respond to the Petition of Petitioner in an action of Petition for Declaratory Judgment.
In a twenty counts petition for the writ of declaratory judgement, Eminent Citizen Gbehzohngar M. Findley, states:
- Petitioner says that he is a Liberian Citizen, born in Grand Bassa County, Former Senator of Grand Bassa County, Former Senate Pro Tempore of the Liberian Senate, and now an Eminent Citizen of Grand Bassa County, and Resident of Grand Bassa County, Republic of Liberia. Attached herein is Petitioner’s Exhibit Marked as P/ 1 In Bulk, representing proof of the legal capacity and identity of the Petitioner to form a cogent part of this Petition.
- Petitioner says that as citizen of Grand Bassa County, he has the right to enjoy the rights and privileges accorded to every citizen and resident of Grand Basaa County, and by this, Petitioner says that under the social contract, the rights contained in the Constitution of Liberia as well as statutory rights, guaranteed by the Constitution for all citizens are accorded to him as a matter of law and fact under the laws of the Republic of Liberia. Petitioner says that he has the right and authority under the Constitution of Liberia as a citizen and resident of Grand Bassa County; that any contract or agreement entered into by the Government of Liberia obligating a Concessionaire to accord certain defined rights to him as a citizen and people of Grand Bassa County , and all other citizens( sons and daughters ) of Grand Bassa or Residents, Petitioner has the legal standing and right to demand those privileges and rights defined in the delegated responsibility on the concessionaire by the Government of Liberia, when said rights so accrued . Under this logic of reasoning in the law, Petitioner in the above cause of action respectfully requests this Honourable Court to declare the rights of the Petitioner, and /or all other rights of the Citizens of Grand Bassa County in the manner and form as contained in the following averments.
- Petitioner says that this Petition is the proper remedy sought, and this Court and Your Honour have the legal authority to declare the rights of the Petitioner and every other Liberian citizen who rights accrued and have been denied by agreement, statute, and the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia. For purpose of construction, Chapter 43, Section 43 of the Civil Procedure Law of Liberia, Liberia Code of Laws Revised, Volume 1, Title 1, provides the rights of the Petitioner to seek remedy and the declaration of rights before this Court.
- Petitioner says that for an easy perusal of the statute and law controlling , the following Section 1. Power of courts to render declaratory judgments is herein quoted verbatim:
“Courts of record within their respective jurisdictions shall have power to declare rights, status, and other legal relations whether or not further relief is or could be claimed. No action or proceeding shall be open to objection on the ground that a declaratory judgment is prayed for. The declaration may be either affirmative or negative in form and effect; and such declarations shall have the force and effect of a final judgment. The power granted to the court under this section is discretionary.”
- Petitioner says that further to Count 4 of this Petition, this Court is under the legal authority to declare the rights of the Petitioner because the law grants the Petitioner the right to request this Court to declare the rights of the Petitioner and all other persons under the laws of the Republic of Liberia.
- Petitioner says that the Respondent is a Concessionaire and party to a Concession Agreement with the Government of the Republic of Liberia named and styled as “An Act Ratifying the Amendment to the Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) Dated August 17,2005 Between the Government of the Republic of Liberia(THE GOVERNMENT) and Mittal Steel Holding A.G. and Mittal Steel (Liberia) Holdings Limited (THE CONCESSIONAIRE)” , Approved : May 7, 2007 , Published by Authority , Ministry of Foreign Affairs , Monrovia, Liberia , May 16,2007.” Petitioner herein attached copy of the said Act Marked as P/2 In Bulk , representing the Act and or Concession Agreement between the Respondent and the Government of Liberia, to which under the social contract theory, the Petitioner has a legal standing under the law and the Constitution of Liberia .
- Petitioner further says that under international law, international organizations or corporations are required by law to abide by international standards in the treatment of Concessions and citizens within the Concession areas. International demands the Respondent to engage in fair dealings.
- Petitioner maintains that under the Concession Agreement signed by both the Respondent and the Government of Liberia, Article 8, Amendment to Article X of the MDA (Health Care, Safety and Security) it states that :
“ The CONCESSIONAIRE shall construct , maintain and operate health facilities in the Concession Area , and shall install, maintain, and use modern health devices and equipment and shall practice , modern health procedures and precautions in accordance with accepted international medical standards.”
Petitioner says that Article 8 of the Concession herein referred to had never been implemented by the Respondent since the existence of the Concession Agreement in 2007 and the Operations of the Respondent in Liberia . Petitioner informs Court that from 2007 , the period of the birth of the Concession, it is Fourteen(14) years now, that the Respondent is yet to perform under the requirement of Article 8 of the Concession Agreement herein marked as P/2 In Bulk. Petitioner asks Court and Your Honour to declare the rights of the Petitioner and the people of Grand Bassa Court, Liberia and order the Respondent to perform in accordance with this provision of the Concession .
- Petitioner says that further to Counts 7 and 8 of this Petition, Article 8, paragraph 2 of the Concession herein marked as P/2 In Bulk states that:
“In connection with the Operations, the CONCESSIONAIRE shall install, maintain and use appropriate and modern health and safety facilities and shall train its employees in accordance with generally accepted health and safety procedures and practices. The CONCESSIONAIRE shall provide in the Concession Area free medical treatment, care and attention at acceptable standards to all of its employees and Government officials working in connection with the CONCESSIONAIRE’s Operations, along with their spouses and immediate dependents, consistent with the national health policy of the Republic, and shall acquire qualified medical staff and maintain properly staffed dispensaries, clinics or hospitals. Without limiting the generality of the foregoing whenever the CONCESSIONAIRE employs one hundred or more persons at any permanent work site within the Production Area, it shall maintain there an adequate and properly staffed dispensary or hospital headed by a resident medical doctor. The CONCESSIONAIRE shall also maintain at each of Buchanan and Yekepa an adequate and properly staffed hospital headed by a resident medical doctor . The CONCESSIONAIRE shall keep records and notify the Government immediately of any death of or serious injury to any person in connection with the Operations. For the purposes of this Provision a “ serious” injury is as defined in the labor Practices Law of Liberia .
Petitioner says that the Respondent had failed to follow and perform as mandated by the Concession Agreement herein marked as P/2 In bulk , as quoted above . Petitioner further says that when individuals and institutions subject themselves to the dictates of agreements, they are bound by the very provisions contained in those agreements, especially when their failure to act affect directly or indirectly individuals or citizens of the communities that the implementations of the terms of the Agreement will affect; in this case Grand Bassa County, in which the Petitioner resides.
- Further to Counts 1 to 8 of this Petition, Petitioner says that Article 10 of the Concession signed by both the Respondent and the Government of Liberia which affects the life rights of the Petitioner, is yet to be executed, or fulfilled by the Respondent under the agreement. Article 10 of the Concession Agreement states:
“It is the objective of the Parties hereto that the Operations shall be carried out in a manner that is consistent with the continuing economic and social viability of centers of population that have formed and which may form as result of such Operations during the term of this Agreement . Upon request of the GOVERNMENT at any time , the CONCESSIONAIRE shall consult with the GOVERNMENT and the communities to mutually establish plans and programs for the implementation of this objective, and thereafter the CONCESSIONAIRE shall in good faith cooperate with the GOVERNMENT with regard to its efforts concerning the realization of such plans and programs.
To that effect, the CONCESSIONAIRE shall provide an annual social contribution of US three (3) million which shall be managed and disbursed for the benefit of Liberian communities in Nimba, Bong, and Grand Bassa Counties by a dedicated committee to be formed by the CONCESSIONAIRE and the GOVERNMENT. Disbursements and allocations by the committee to the said Counties of the annual social contributions shall be subject to final GOVERNMENT approval, provided, however, that all disbursement or allocation to the said Counties shall be, on an annual basis, in the proportion set out in Appendix H. Disbursements and allocations by the committee and the GOVERNMENT shall be subject to independent audit in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles.
Petitioner also says that the Respondent had not complied with the provision cited and quoted above, and therefore, this Court is respectfully requested to declare and interpret the Concession in keeping with law, and thereby declare the rights of the Petitioner.
- Further to Count 10 of this Petition, Petitioner says that Article 14 of the Concession Agreement requires that even the shares of the Respondent and the Government of Liberia, are stated that the Respondent shall have 70 percent while the Government of Liberia 30 percent. Petitioner says that the Government of Liberia shares have decreased below 15 percent without any reason whatsoever, thereby adversely affecting the rights of the Petitioner and the Liberian people and the people of Grand Bassa .For the purpose of this Petition, Petition cites Article 14 of the CONCESSION as follows:
“ The CONCESSIONAIRE shall be authorized to conduct business in Liberia through the designation of an agent for that purpose. The intial stated capital of the CONCESSIONAIRE shall be Ten Thousand Dollars(US$10,000) , divided in Ten Thousand (10,000) shares of par value US$ (1) each , allocated as follows in part :
The PRINCIPAL : Seventy (70) percent; and
The GOVERNMENT: Thirty (30) percent .
The GOVERNMNET shall have the right to elect to the board of directors of the CONCESSIONAIRE such number of directors (rounded up to the nearest whole number) that shall give the GOVERNMENT board representation equivalent in percentage terms to the GOVERNMENT’s percentage ownership of the equity of the CONCESSIONAIRE (it being understood that for purposes of this calculation, such percentage ownership shall never fall below fifteen percent (15%) . Between the Amendment Effective Date and the Commercial Operation Statup Date, the PRINCIPAL shall procure to be contributed each in the amount of Thirty Five Million (US$35,000,000) , and the GOVERNMENT shall contribute in kind (i)the Class A Mining License ,(ii)the rights described in Section 3(d) of Article IX of the Agreement in respect of the Railroad and Buchanan Iron Ore Port and (iii) the assets and facilities listed in Appendix F for aggregate value of Fifteen Million Dollars(US$15,000,000).
That as to Article 20 of the Concession, Petitioner says that the Respondent had also failed to perform. Article 20 of the Concession mandates the Respondent that it “shall pay to the GOVERNMENT” in the amount in United States Dollars at the rate of four point five percent(4.5%) of the selling price of each metric ton of commercially shipped Iron ore. This provision shows that the Respondent is earning a considerable amount at the detriment of the Liberian people which includes the Petitioner and the citizens of Grand Bassa County without paying its contribution to the people of Liberia , Grand Bassa Couty. Petitioner requests Your Honour to declare the rights of the Petitioners as a matter of law.
- Petitioner also brings to the attention of this Court that SCHEDULE A PRODUCTION SCHEDULE mandates that the Respondent shall run a mine production as follows: in (i)Year 1: 1.1 run the mine production metric tonnes in millions of 1.1; in Year 2, 5 metric tonnes in millions; (iii) Year 3, 5.0 metric tonnes in millions ; (iv) Years 4 to 6 , 9.0 metric tonnes in millions; and Years 7 onward , 18.0 metric tonnes in millions. This schedule shows that Respondent is adding on its multi-billion dollars enrichment at the disadvantage of the Petitioner and the Liberian people , and also the people of Grand Bassa County. This Court is most respectfully requested to declare the rights of the Petitioner.
- Petitioner brings to the attention of this Court for the declaration of his rights and the rights of the Liberian people to include the people of Grand Bassa making specific reference to Appendix H. Social Contribution to Counties. Petitioner says that the Respondent is required by law in the CONCESSION to make an annual contribution to the counties of Nimba , Bong, and Grand Bassa . For Nimba, the amount 1.5 million annually; for Bong 0.5 million annually, and for Grand Bassa 1 million annually which total is 3 million. Petitioner says that from the date of the passage of the Concession into law and the beginning of the operations of the Respondents, these amounts have not been paid consistent with the provision of the Concession. Petitioner asks Court to declare the rights of the Petitioner.
- Further to Count 14 of the Petition, Petitioner says that Appendix G, Employment of Liberian Citizens , it mandates that form the date of the Operations of the Respondent as a Concessionaire, it shall employ Liberians and the following shall come into effect:
- Senior Management: 20 % of Liberians shall be employed in year 1, year 5 -25 %, year 10 50 %;
- Professional Administrative, Technical and Management: 40 % of Liberia shall be employed , year 5, 75 % , year 10, 90 %;
- Skilled : year 1 , 40 % of Liberian shall be employed, year 5, 80%, year 10, 100 %
- Unskilled : 100% of Liberians shall be employed in year 1 , year 5 , 100% of Liberians, year 10, 100% of Liberians.
Petitioner says that the Respondent had failed to live by Appendix G of the Concession, that the people of Grand Bassa County, to include the Petitioner and the Citizens of Liberia are victims of the wrongful conduct of the Respondent. Petitioner requests Court and Your Honour to compel and declare the rights of the Petitioner to operate in line with the Concession Agreement.
- Petitioner says that reference to Counts 1 to 15 of this Petition, there are also additional provisions of the Concession, the Respondent had failed and neglected to fulfill under the Concession, and this act of the Respondent is due to the powerful nature and capacity of the Respondent taking advantage of Liberia, and the people of Grand Bassa County, as very poor nation, being exploited by a giant and powerful multi-billion-dollar company. This action of the Respondent is even punishable under the laws of the domiciliary of the Respondent mother company in Europe and the United States of America. Petitioner says that our laws prohibit the conduct of the Respondent, and therefore, Respondent should be compelled to abide by the Concession Agreement as a matter of law and facts.
- Petitioner says that he had always been in the campaign to compelled the Respondent to abide by the Concession. One of those occasions is the Petitioner’s efforts in a report in the form of a response to the Former President of Liberia, Madam Ellen Johnson -Sirleaf’s letter dated September 3, 2013, as President Pro-Tempore of the Liberian Senate. In the Petitioner’s response to the Former President Sirleaf, he raised the very same concerns about the continuous violations of the Concession by the Concessionaire in a report called and captioned:” Action Plan Regarding Understanding Given by ArcelorMittal With Respect to Employment, Housing and Benefit for Liberians and Relinquishing of Land in the Concession Area in Buchanan. Petitioner worked with the Executive for the benefit the people of Liberia but still the Respondent had failed. This action plan was developed and the Former President’s letter also speaks to that effect of the Petitioner’s efforts to compel the Respondent to abide by the Concession. Attached herein is Petitioner’s Exhibit Marked as P/3 In-Bulk to form a cogent part of this Petition.
- The County of Grand Bassa County, and the Petitioner as a resident of Grand Bassa County is yet to benefit from the operations of the Respondent because the Respondent had failed to abide by the provisions of the Concession herein mentioned. Petitioenr says that this Court is most respectfully requested to order the Respondent to abide by the Concession and declare the rights of the Petitioner.