It is only now beginning to unravel and it is now that it is becoming clear that the criminal prosecution of former NPA Managing Director Matilda Parker and the Comptroller, the late Christiana Paelay was done out of malice with the intent to smear the character of the aforesaid individuals.
This is because Matilda Parker had vigorously opposed the APM Terminals Agreement but was overruled by President Sirleaf acting in concert with the likes of then Representative now Senator Edwin Snowe. He is reported to have been one of those legislators who actively campaigned for the passage of the AOM Concession Agreement into law.
The Freeport of Monrovia was once referred to as the gateway to Liberia, primarily because of large revenue stream derived from vessels calling at the port and also from revenue generated from the robust transshipment of goods from the Freeport of Monrovia to destinations in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and landlocked countries in West Africa.
Since the signing of the APM Concession Agreement in 2010, the story of the National Port Authority has changed from a major source of revenue for government to a major source of revenue for a private multinational global shipping giant.
The APM Concession Agreement is one of 66 Concession Agreements signed under the Sirleaf government. But audits conducted by the Moore-Stephens firm revealed out of the total of 66 Concession Agreements signed under the watch of President Sirleaf, 64 failed to meet the mark of transparency, meaning in other words, they were bogus and illegal.
But just what is in the APM Concession Agreement is now the prevailing question in view of slow-downs and work stoppages called for by the Dock Workers Union acting in concert with the Customs Brokers Union and the Truckers Union.
Their expressed concerns include, amongst others, the lack of quality service including unreasonable delays in the loading of containers, and the immediate reinstatement of 24 illegally dismissed workers of the Dock Workers Union.
Others include the continuous and arbitrary hike in storage and other fees. The trade unions contend that only two (2) active machines are functional. As a result, loading a single container takes two (2) days which results in delays thus incurring extra costs paid to the APM.
It can be recalled that on Friday March 1, 2019, the Liberia Business Association (LIBA) at a press conference expressed surprise that the APM Terminals had increased handling charges a the Freeport which it claimed was done in order to meet demands of its port operations. Moreover, the APM Terminals insist that their actions are in keeping with the Concession Agreement signed between itself and the Liberian government.
But the matter drew the attention of the House and on Tuesday, February 25 a Specialized Committee of the House revealed that a review of the APM Concession Agreement revealed that the Agreement is the only Concession Agreement that lacks an Expressed Review Clause which means that the Agreement is not and cannot be subject to review by the Legislature to reflect current realities.
But just how come the Agreement was ratified and signed into law without a review clause beats the imagination. Senator Edwin Snow who was at the time spearheading the campaign for ratification ought to provide explanations to the Liberian people.
There were suggestions at the time that huge payoffs(bribes) were made to Legislators through then Representative Edwin Snowe.
More to this, the House of Representatives Specialized Committee on February 26, 2020 reported that the APM Terminals was breaching the Concession Agreement.
In the Specialized Committee’s preliminary report on the operations of APM Terminals Liberia, it (Committee) indicated that it held a meeting on Wednesday, February 26, 2020, and observed with a keen concern that the APM Terminals was breaching the agreement.
The Committee noted that Section 7.17 of the Agreement calls for 50% of managerial positions to be filled within five(5) years of capacity building and within ten(10) years Liberians should occupy 75% of managerial positions.
Noting that 2020 made it ten (10) years since the signing of the Concession Agreement. Notwithstanding, the Committee noted, this provision of the Agreement has yet to be implemented and that managerial positions for Liberians have yet to reach the 50% threshold.
Further, the APM Terminals continues to provide marine services beyond the five (5) year period stipulated in the agreement. Such services were previously provided by the NPA but was reportedly transferred to the APM based on an agreement with the NPA.
The House Specialized Committee, since February 2020 mandated the APM Terminals to provide copies of the agreement signed between itself and the NPA, which allows the APM Terminals to continue to provide marine services beyond the five (5) year period stipulated in the Concession Agreement.
But the APM Terminals, to the best of publicly available information, has failed to do so. And it has repeatedly rebuffed efforts by members of the Legislature to have the company address the issue.
And it appears they are emboldened by assurances of support from the US and the European Union(EU) whose Ambassadors recently paid a “shoring up visit” to the APM Terminals to express their solidarity following calls by some members of the Legislature to have the APM Terminals Concession Agreement amended or revoked.
That being the case, a search for alternatives become compelling if the country is to benefit from its national assets.
If the APM Terminal Agreement falls into the category of the 64 bogus agreements signed into law under President Sirleaf, then the country can make a case to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and, if that fails, it can have recourse to class action lawsuits in US and European jurisdictions.
The APM Terminals Concession Agreement is predatory in nature and must be revoked even against the wishes of Washington, London or Copenhagen, if needs be. As the founding Fathers of this nation declared in the 1847 Declaration of Independence noted, “Liberia is not the offspring of grasping ambition, nor the tool of avaricious speculation.”