MONROVIA, Montserrado – Barely a week after Rep. Samuel Kogar threatened to sue the government for not providing Social Development Fund allotments owed to Nimba, Grand Bassa, and Bong, the Finance Ministry has issued checks worth US$3.1 million to the three counties in which ArcelorMittal operates.
The funds represent 80 percent of the mining giant’s required annual allocation to the three counties.
Kogar, who represents Nimba’s fifth district, had given the government 30 days to make the funds available or face a lawsuit from him. In giving his threat, he also asked for the House of Representatives to invite Finance Minister Samuel Tweah to appear before the legislative body and “provide a penetrating insight into the government reneging in the disbursement of Nimba County’s Social Development Fund.”
He added, “I may resort to litigation if payment is not made within a month as of the date of this communication.”
In highlighting the urgency for Nimba to receive its payment, Kogar noted that “all earthmoving equipment or ‘yellow machines’ are grounded due to delay in the payment.” The funds from ArcelorMittal would have been used to service the equipment, which would have been used to rehabilitate the county’s roads, Kogar noted.
On July 8, the finance minister presented the checks to lawmakers, including US$1.55 million for Nimba, US$1.02 million for Grand Bassa, and US$527,000 for Bong. The amounts represent 80 percent ArcelorMittal is obligated to provide to the counties. The government had agreed with the company several weeks ago to use the remaining 20 percent to fund development projects in its concession areas.
“The payment to the counties is a break from the past and is also the first time in several years that the government makes full disbursement of the [Social Development Fund] paid by ArcelorMittal to the three counties,” Tweah told lawmakers in his typical use of dramatic language.
“Upon taking office, President George M. Weah mandated that the funds be paid promptly in order to be used by the affected communities.”
He added that the government had also ensured that funds from another mining company, China Union, had been paid to Bong, Montserrado, and Margibi. He promised that the balance amount would be paid in the upcoming fiscal year.
Featured photo by Zeze Ballah