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Over Bao Chico Agreement; Senate defeats House in legal battle

Over Bao Chico Agreement; Senate defeats House in legal battle Featured

 

Following a little over two months of legal tussling between the Liberian Senate and the House of Representatives over the constitutionality of the Bao Chico Mineral Development Agreement (MDA), the Supreme Court of Liberia has handed down a ruling in favor of the latter.

It could be recalled that the Liberian Senate, otherwise known as the Upper House of the Liberian Legislature, passed the Bao Chico MDA and in accordance with legislative procedure, forwarded the document to the Lower House (House of Representatives) for concurrence.

However, the Lower House rejected to review neither concur on grounds that the agreement in question was revenue bill in line with Article 34 d(i) of the Liberian Constitution, which states that all revenue bills must generate from the Lower House to the Upper.

Article 34d(i)states that “all revenue bills, whether subsidies, charges, imports, and other financial bills, shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other.

Predicated upon this, the Liberian Senate ran to the highest arbiter of justice in the country, the Supreme Court and filed a petition, to seek the constitutionality of notification of the Bao CHICO MDA.

Hence, as its best interpretation of the organic law of the country, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Liberian Senate on grounds that the agreement was not revenue bill as opined by the House of Representatives.

The Supreme Court in its ruling read by Senate Secretary, Nanborlor Singbeh in open Tuesday regular session, indicated that said bill is a financial bill and not a revenue bill, as been contested by members of the House of Representatives.

The Senate plenary took the House of Representatives to the Supreme Court for the “wrongful” interpretation of Article 34d(i), of the Liberian Constitution of 1986.

The BAO CHICO agreement is for the extraction of iron ore, to be operated under a Class A mining license for an initial term of twenty-five (25) years in Gbarpolu County within the area specified on the license which covered a total area of 87.4km2 within Gbarpolu County.

The company’s investment is in the amount of US$500million, aimed at improving the country’s economy, creating job opportunities and scholarships for citizens as part of its support to the Government’s Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD).

The BAO CHICO deal, according to the government, is expected to bring in an annual social contribution of US$300,000 and, after five years, escalate to US$500,000 until the end of the term.

Also, an additional US$10,000 is expected for Gbarpolu County as General Education Funding, while US$50,000 will be provided annually as Scientific Reserves Fund.

Meanwhile, following the full reading of the Supreme Court's ruling into the case, President Pro-tempore Albert Chie in consultation with members of the Liberian Senate immediately setup a seven-man special committee to meet with the House of Representatives on the passage of the BAO CHICO agreement.

The committee includes Senators Numene Bartekwa of Grand Kru, Simeon Taylor and Varney Sherman of Grand Cape Mount, Daniel Nateehn of Gbarpolu, Augustine Chea of Sinoe, Marshall Dennis of Grand Gedeh and Jonathan Kaipay of Grand Bassa Counties respectively.

Speaking briefly on the matter at a news conference, the President Protempore of the Liberian Senate, Albert Tugbe Chie, indicated that the just ended legal tussle does not suggest any bad feeling or heavy heart between or among members of the two legislative bodies.

He pointed out that with the court’s ruling, the stage is not set for the two Houses to work together for ratification for the agreement.

“All is now set for the ratification of the Bao Chico agreement. There is no bad feeling among us absolutely; it was only a matter of interpretation, which the Supreme Court has done. It is now over,” stated Pre-Temp Chie.

 

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