Senate Reminds House Conference Committee Over AML 3rd Amendment
Addressing his colleagues at the resumption of the Senate after a month long break at the Capitol yesterday, May 17, 2022, the Senate Pro-Tempore, Albert T. Chie the House of Representatives in February of this year, the House of Representatives was on the verge of having a conference committee along with the Senate to finalize the third amendment to the ArcelorMittal Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) when everything relating to the amendment, he noted suddenly changed.
He said the House sent it back to the Executive for re-negotiation, however, it appears that the Senate isn’t aware of the return of the MDA to the Executive and it appears that the Speaker of the House of Representatives may have overstepped his bounds as far as the procedure for amendments is concerned.
Speaking further, the Pro-Tempore who is also Grand Kru County Senator said, the Senate is waiting for the House of Representatives to name its members to the conference committee for the finalization of the ratification of the amendment.
Stressing said, “If you follow the procedure, the deal originated from the House of Representatives and we looked at it and their proposal is different from ours, and as per the procedure, it will require a conference committee to synchronize the differences”.
He added, “On February 15, 2022, the Senate communicated with the House of Representatives of its reservation to concur with House’s Engrossed Bill No. 46 entitled Amendment No. 3 to the Mineral Development Agreement among the Government of the Republic of Liberia and ArcelorMittal Liberia and ArcelorMittal Holdings AG and transmitted the names of members of the Senate’s Conference Committee to harmonize the disparities in the inputs of each Chamber.
The Senate has been awaiting the names of members of the Conference Committee on the side of the House of Representatives (HOR) until we adjourned for the First Constituency Break. There is a need to communicate with the Honorable Of Representatives to kindly remind them to transmit the names of its Conference Committee Members to resolve the Chamber-input variance in the 3rd Amendment to the ArcelorMittal Mineral Development Agreement.”
When the news of the return of the MDA to the Executive flooded the media, ArcelorMittal in a carefully worded statement insinuated that it had not been officially informed of the rejection of the MDA which has been sent back to the Executive. The company stated, “For now, AML is awaiting all facts related to the actions by the Legislature before it will make any further statement on this matter.”
According to ArcelorMittal, all they have heard is “unconfirmed media reports that the House of Representatives has made appointments to the conference committee and some other decisions over the past few days regarding the company’s Third Amendment to the Mineral Development Agreement (MDA), which is awaiting ratification by the Legislature”.
The new MDA promises to deliver Liberia one of the biggest mining investments in the region with over US$800 million in direct benefit to Liberia.
The decision to return the Agreement to the Legislature came about after the House and the Liberian Senate failed to settle their differences over the agreement that had spent months languishing at the Legislature. It was initially passed by the House and forwarded to the Senate for concurrence after several scrutiny.
The Senate did not concur with the House in ratifying the draft MDA on grounds that it did not address most of the concerns raised by residents of the affected communities. The Senate accused the government’s negotiators during the crafting of the draft agreement of making several waivers at the detriment of the state. The Senate then drew up several recommendations to be addressed before the ratification of the agreement. It then proposed the setting up of a conference committee with the House to resolve their differences.
Some of the Senate’s recommendations bordered around disputed areas and exploration, Rehabilitation of Infrastructures, third party’s access to rail and port infrastructures, additional revenue consideration and compliance.
Conference Committee Failed to Meet
The House voted unanimously in support of the Senate’s proposal to form a conference committee to find a way forward. The Committee members were Representatives Clarence Massaquoi (Lofa County), chairman, and Rosanna G.D.H. Schaack (Rivercess), co-chair.
Serving as members include Representatives Johnson Gwaikolo (District #9, Nimba), Vincent S.T. Willie (District #4, Bong) Cllr. Kanie Wesso (Gbarpolu), Matthew Zarzar (Sinoe), Acarous M. Gray (District #8, Montserrado County) and Joseph Somwarbi (District #3, Nimba County) as the resource person. They were to join their Senate counterparts, which included Cllr. Augustine Chea (Sinoe) as Chairman, while Senators Cllr. Varney Sherman, Nyonblee Karngar-Lawrence, Numene R. H. Bartekwa, Simeon Taylor, Prince Moye and Sen. Jeremiah Koung are members.
But the House, without announcing whether the committee met, hastily convened a closed-door session on Monday, March 28. At the end of the meeting, Plenary then open the session to the press and public and voted unanimously to send the agreement back to the Executive for renegotiation.
The House’s decision was based on a motion filed by Rep. Ben Fofana of Margibi County, craving the House the return the draft MDA to the Executive since it was solely its prerogative to negotiate contracts and concessions as specified by the Constitution of Liberia.
The House did not explain whether the Conference Committee held any discussion, but House Speaker Bhofal Chambers, in a snap interview with reporters in the corridors of the Capitol Building, said the decision to send the agreement back to the Executive was in the best interest of the Liberian people.
“We did not do it in isolation of the other branches of government; specifically, the Executive Branch. So, we work in concert to ensure that this decision today is done in the best interest of the Liberian people,” Speaker Chambers said.
Asked about his expectations in the wake of the decision taken by the House, he said: “We look for better concession agreement. We know that Mittal Steel has been here. We want to laud Mittal Steel for all that it has been doing. But we also equally feel that if there are gaps, those gaps must be narrowed.”
Addressing his colleagues at the opening of the Senate Session on Tuesday, May 16, 2022 in the Chambers of the Senate, Senate Pro-Tempore, Albert T. Chief reminded members of House of Representatives of the amendment of the ArcelorMittal Liberia Mineral Development Agreement (MDA).
The Grand Kru County Senator recounted that on Feb 15 2022 the Senate communicated with house reminding it of the amendment of the AML Mineral Development Agreement which noted was transmitted to the Senate, and also said the Senate had been waiting for house. we are asking the house to remind it of this variant.