LIBERIA: “Invest ArcelorMittal’s Millions in Education”: Nimba University Executives plead with County Leadership
The Leadership of the College of Engineering and Geo-Sciences at Nimba University has pleaded with their county leadership to invest a significant portion of the 1.3 million ArcelorMittal social development fund to build the capacities of young people.
Speaking to a team of journalists who visited the company over the weekend, the Associate Dean of College of Engineering and Geo-Sciences Emmanuel Donseah stressed that the larders of Nimba County must consider technical education as the foundation for development and innovation that can deliver inclusive development
He said the youth of Nimba County has over the years demonstrated commitment to venture into science and technology but that poor funding and meager support to the school has slowed its operation.
“In every setting, there is an area of concentration and when you look at the youth of Nimba, the highest number of students always come from the sciences”
“From the establishment of this school, it has been science oriented because we have concessions all around us so the youths see job opportunity in the sciences”
Through her Mineral Development Agreement with the government, ArcelorMittal Liberia has been supporting the Geology and Mining Departments with $US 50K annually.
According to the associate dean said amount is insufficient and he is asking for other concessions in the county to contribute to the budget of the school.
“We appreciate the 50-thousand contribution of AML a whole lot, but to be honest, this is very insufficient and is just a drop in the bucket”
He wants ALM to also support the county directly as it is doing with several communities with the improvement of the geology lap, as well as faculty development.
Donseah, thinks the county leadership of Nimba has the biggest responsibility in terms of ensuring that the university is fully supported to the greater benefit of the county and county.
In strong words, he contends that one of the best ways that the county social development fund ArcelorMittal gives can assist and make an impact is by educating “your children” to take over the mantle of authority on the mine.
“If you do not train your own people and the people go a bring Ghanaians, why do you complain because your people are not trained”.
Nimba County authorities he believes are not even thinking of supporting the TVET program established by the university which concentrates on giving skills to young people who have not completed high school.
Said Donseah: “we want them to pump more money in the TVET program so that those who are school dropouts can be trained to be middle-level technicians on the mine”
“It is sad that they are not looking at these things and are always going into the center part of the bush to build clinics. Who are those clinics impacting?”
“You don’t want to develop your citizens”? he asked in a frustrating tone before adding that the
Located in Sanniquellie City, the Nimba University, formerly the Nimba County Community College is the only higher learning institution next to the University of Liberia to offer Mining and Geology, two areas mining concessions, like ArcelorMittal are key in terms of staff development.
The funding gap and lack of attention and support from county authorities could impair the realization of its dreams and aspirations given that money set aside for education in Nimba is regularly squandered or mismanaged.
The Directors of Departments of Mining and Geology also expressed similar concerns that staff development and funding gap at the university are the most outstanding challenges that pose a direct threat to its survival.
How have County Authorities moralized the mismanagement of ArcelorMittal and CSDF across Liberia leaving communities in poverty?
Over the past 16 years, ArcelorMittal Liberia has been one of Liberia’s biggest revenue contributors for the country’s post-conflict recovery and national development programs by paying a combined total of more than $US 45 Million in County Social Development Funds.
This payment is consistent with the provision of the government of Liberia’s Mineral Development Agreement agreed with the global steel giant for which the company pause a whopping 1.3 Million, 1 Million, 500 thousand to Nimba, Grand Bassa, and Bong Counties respectively
This payment according to the MDA is to help with social development issues like education, hospitals, roads, etc. in counties affected by the operation of the ArcelorMittal mining activities.
Quite sadly, this money has not practically been utilized for the benefit of ordinary people, especially those who dwell in towns and villages in Grand Bassa, and Nimba counties as dozens of reports have shown verifiable evidence of fraud and gross mismanagement of said money by officials.
The civil society organization, Sustainable Development Institute (SDI) has well documented this mismanagement for over a decade in different reports, claiming that millions of dollars in (CSDF) have been either stolen or misapplied by county officials, especially lawmakers.
Nimba County where ArcelorMittal does its mining is no exception.
A General Auditing Commission (GAC) findings of 2021 uncovered several discrepancies and unorthodox financial practices in the application of the Nimba County Development Fund in the tone of US$800k between 2011 to 2013.
Amongst the many flaws, the GAC uncovered that the County Administration during the period was headed by then Madam Christian D. Dagadu former superintendent and Clinton G. Layweh Project Management committee chairman, and Edith Gongloe Weh, former Superintendent and Patrick Luogan Lah, Shirley Browne PMC treasurer; failed to disclosed additional funds, and violated the Public Procurement Concession Commission Act in the awarding of contracts.
This cuts across to counties like Bong and Grand Bassa where lawmakers have personally directed social development funding to construct their political offices against the wishes of the people who elected.
There has been little or no effort to pun.