Monrovia, Release-The National Railway Authority (NRA), created by Executive Order #112 of President George Manneh Weah, is in charge of overseeing the government of Liberia’s railway infrastructure as well as other related facilities. The Yekepa Railway, which runs from the station at Yekepa in Nimba County through portions of Bong County to the terminus and associated port infrastructure at or in the vicinity of the Port of Buchanan in Grand Bassa County or Buchanan Port, is one of the key assets owned by the government of Liberia that is considered to be of national importance.
Issuing the Order, President Weah stated that the Government is dedicated to the development and improvement of Liberian Infrastructure Assets in the national interest to enable producers in Liberia to use these strategic assets more often for the export of minerals and other goods for the benefit of Liberia’s citizens and the sustainable development of the Liberian economy, especially in Nimba, Bong, and Grand Bassa Counties. To the detriment of the residents of Nimba, Bong, and Grand Bassa Counties as well as the entire country, he claimed that these Liberian infrastructure assets had previously been underutilized.
The President recalled that “the Government has also entered into a treaty with the Government of Guinea (the “Implementation Agreement”) dated 11 October 2019 and given full legal effect by the Republic of Guinea on 18 February 2020 and by the Republic of Liberia on 6 May 2021 for the export of certain Guinean Products via Liberia that has been identified and approved by the two governments (‘Approved Infrastructure Projects’).”
A release from the Executive Mansion stated that the President’s Executive Order also acknowledges that the “Government has granted the non-exclusive use of the Liberian Infrastructure Assets to ArcelorMittal Holdings A.G. and ArcelorMittal Liberia Holdings Limited (together ‘ArcelorMittal Liberia’) under the terms of a mineral development agreement as amended on 28 December 2006 and 23 January 2013 (the ‘MDA’); and the Government has also committed, pursuant to the terms of a framework agreement with Ivanhoe Liberia Limited (‘Ivanhoe’) and Société des Mines de Fer de Guinee (‘SMFG’) dated 20 December 2019 (as amended on 12 April 2021 and 30 March 2022) (the ‘Framework Agreement’) and the Implementation Agreement (1) to provide access and use of the Liberian Infrastructure Assets to Ivanhoe and SMFG pursuant to their Approved Infrastructure Project; and (2) to enter into a concession and access agreement as regards certain specific terms for the long term use of and access to the Liberian Infrastructure Assets and associated infrastructure and facilities.”
He also indicated in the Order that the Government is committed to the core principles of open, non-discriminatory access on a multi-user basis to the Liberian Infrastructure Assets for ArcelorMittal Liberia, Ivanhoe, and SMFG (or their affiliates) together with any other eligible users, including local companies and mining operators approved as such by the Government (“Eligible Users”), and in accordance with best international industry practice and best technical, safety, social and environmental standards (“Core Principles”).
The Liberian Leader claims that with regard to the use of and access to the Liberian Infrastructure Assets, the Government will uphold its commitments under current agreements, such as the MDA, the Implementation Agreement, and the Framework Agreement, while also making their use accessible to all Eligible Users in a manner consistent with the Core Principles. President Weah noted that in order to enable and coordinate access to the Liberian infrastructure assets in accordance with the Core Principles and to settle any potential conflicts or disagreements, the NRA will be required. According to The Liberian President’s Order, the President’s executive powers to command all pertinent Ministries and Agencies of Government in the performance of their duties and responsibilities are compatible with the NRA’s formation.
He declared: “Pursuant to the authority of the President under the Constitution and laws of the Republic of Liberia, I hereby direct that there shall be established a National Railway Authority under the aegis of the Ministry of Transport pursuant to its lawful authority and responsibility.”
The Executive Order states that the NRA is responsible for developing, regulating, controlling, and overseeing the development of vehicles, boats, ships, fishing vessels, and railways as well as for the inspection and safety of the seas and railways. The NRA shall also establish rules and procedures and enforce standards for infrastructure system management services of private and public common carriers of any kind. It is responsible for establishing and carrying out the nation’s overall transportation policy, creating plans for the movement of people and goods both inside and outside the country, including those passing through Liberia on their way to other countries, regulating the use of ports and harbors, and overseeing any other activities that are related to the aforementioned.
According to the Executive Order, the National Railway Authority must uphold all current legal obligations made by the government to everyone, including those who have the legal right to utilize and access Liberia’s infrastructure assets. The Authority is in charge of upgrading, maintaining, granting open track access to, and licensing Eligible Users on the Liberian Infrastructure Assets. The Authority may also review, approve, and incorporate the Eligible Users’ current maintenance and upgrade obligations as well as their expansion plans.
“In order to provide an organizational structure to manage the Liberian Infrastructure Assets, the National Railway Authority shall appoint an independent operator to operate, manage, plan and implement the development of the Liberian Infrastructure Assets system. The independent operator shall also have the authority to coordinate access to and usage of the Liberian Infrastructure Assets by Eligible Users so as to maximize their fair, safe and efficient use pursuant to the lawful rights of each Eligible User, and consistent with the Core Principles. It is understood, however, that each Eligible User shall operate its own train and port activities for itself, under the supervision and coordination of the independent operator,” President Weah directed.
As per its mandate also, the National Railway Authority shall ensure that Eligible User access arrangements for the Liberian Infrastructure Assets conform to the Core Principles and that in the case of any negotiations or arrangements by the Government with an Eligible User regarding the future terms of their use of the Liberian Infrastructure Assets, the terms of such arrangements shall be consistent with the Core Principles.
The Orders further states: “In the case of any dispute or failure to agree between or among Eligible Users and/or the Government and/or the independent operator (with regard to such individual operations and expansions as each may carry out), the National Railway Authority shall (promptly, and in any case within 30 days of a request from any Eligible User), in consultation with all such Eligible Users, appoint an eminent international neutral third party to serve with authority to resolve any such dispute or failure to agree in accordance with the Core Principles, and in that case, the decision shall be made as promptly as reasonably possible, with the aim of opening within 60 days. The decision of such eminent international neutral third party shall be binding on all parties to such conflict or dispute, although subject to review as permitted under the laws of Liberia.”
Nothing in the Executive Order, according to the President, shall limit or restrict any Eligible User’s ability to access Liberian Infrastructure Assets; rather, it shall be interpreted in a way that maximizes and promotes the overall benefits of Liberian Infrastructure Assets to the Republic of Liberia and its people.
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