ECOWAS to provide US$25m to restart ADA/LAP Rice Project
It is known that rice is not only the staple food for Liberians, but also a political commodity in Africa’s oldest republic and also one of the poorest in the world. Rice is responsible for the death of one of the leaders of this nation, President William R. Tolbert, on April 12, 1980, and the cause of a bloody riot on April 14, 1979. At that time, it was the young and beautiful Florence Chenoweth who was the Minister of Agriculture. That same Florence Chenoweth, now an old lady and past the retirement age, just resigned as Agriculture Minister, accusing President Sirleaf of paying lip-service to agriculture in the country; writes Jah H. Johnson.
The Hot Pepper has received information that the Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS) has agreed to provide the Foundation for African Development Aid (ADA) the amount of US$25 million to revamp the production of rice in Liberia. According to ECOWAS, Liberia has the soil to grow its staple food and, therefore, should not be an importer of rice.
Unfortunately, this medium has received information that officials of the Unity Party government are on a campaign to discourage ECOWAS from providing the amount to restart the project. They are telling ECOWAS that the project was a total failure; therefore, it will be fruitless for the regional organization to infuse such a huge amount into ADA.
Out of the US$25 million, which is to be provided by ECOWAS, a processing plant for the production and bagging of rice is to be built in Gbarnga, Bong County. The plant, which was designed in Texas, USA, and manufactured in Thailand is already in the country, as was reported earlier by this medium. The plant will be assembled by its Thai manufacturer.
Officials of the UP government, who benefit from kickbacks from rice importers, are doing everything in their power to discourage ECOWAS from refinancing ADA, at the detriment of the suffering Liberian masses because they want to continue getting their twenty-five and fifty cents on a bag of rice. The Hot Pepper wants to inform the public that it has countless documentation of senior UP officials receiving kickbacks from rice importers.
After a grueling 14-year civil war, it is now time that the ordinary Liberians benefit from their country. Any attempt to sabotage the production of rice in Liberia by top UP officials to line up their pockets with kickbacks from rice importers will leave the Hot Pepper with no option but to publish the documents.
With millions being spent on the Liberian agriculture sector but nothing to show but a huge level of failure, providence being on the side of Liberia the Pan-African organization, Libyan African Investment Portfolio (LAP), established by former Libyan President Muhammad Kaddafi to aid African investment, provided a US$30 million loan through a Swiss Bank to the Foundation For African Development Aid (ADA) for the experimentation, development and marketing of rice on the Liberian and West African market.
The ADA project was the crossways between Lofa, Bong and Nimba counties, where hundreds of thousands of hectors would have been cultivated for the production of a rice called "New Rice For Africa", purchased from Fura Bay College, Sierra Leone, and thousands of locals from the three counties would have been put to work. A processing plant, with the capacity of refining and bagging 18 metric tons (three hundred and sixty 50kg bags of rice) of rice daily was to be installed in Bong County. Unfortunately for Liberia, while the project was taking root and production was clearly on its way, the Libyan President Kaddafi was brutally murdered, rendering the project a standstill.
Of late, this medium (The National Chronicle/Hot Pepper), which has intensively investigated and written several articles about the ADA outlining its failure, losses and shortcomings, is reading with interest why the rice project in Foya, Lofa County, failed. The million-dollar question remains: did the ADA rice project in Foya, Lofa County, fail? If yes, then let's go back to the Hot Pepper’s notes, examine the facts and find those responsible for the failure for the production of rice in Liberia.
Even though Mr. Wendell Mackintosh, the boss of ADA, has consistently refused to grant this medium an interview, the facts of this matter speak for themselves. This medium’s investigation suggests that during the reign of former Libyan President, Kaddafi, a Liberian took the risk and lobbied Tripoli for a contract to commence rice production in Liberia. The investigation suggests that the ADA boss would spend six months in the Libyan capital in the quest of improving the living standards of the Liberian people, especially the rural dwellers.
A US$30 million contract would be signed between the Libyan African Investment Portfolio (LAP), established by former Libyan President Mohammed Kaddafi, and the Foundation For African Development Aid (ADA). The contract would be constructed in two major components: first, the acquisition of equipment, predominately a rice-processing plant, which would cover about US$22.5 million and administrational and operational cost, which would cover US$7.5 million, simply summing the cost of the project at US$30 million. A consultant firm based in Switzerland would serve as the middle man, periodically inspecting the project before a quarterly allotment was made through the consultant firm to the ADA.
As of the printing of this article, the ADA has received US$2.5 million in cash, representing both administrative and operational cost. It has also received US$22.5 million in equipment. But due to the death of President Kaddafi, the project was placed on hold and the balance, US$5.0 million, never disbursed.
With the US$2.5 million, ADA employed thousands of employees both at its administrative office in Oldest Congo Town and its regional office in Foya, Lofa County. The ADA also cultivated and planted with rice 1,700 hectors, which produced 170,000 bags of seed rice that was mostly given to the Ministry of Agriculture free for the distribution of seed rice to the local farmers.
Seeing the ability of ADA to supply the local rice market at the very low cost of US$22.5 and still make a 25% profit, if provided the opportunity, the President of Liberia, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and her Vice President Joseph Boakai (who has oversight of the agriculture sector), owing to their huge financial interest in local rice dealers, would sabotage the entire rice production, killing the dream of Liberia becoming a major rice-producing country, and putting out of job thousands of locals who were already employed and those who should have been employed in Bong and Nimba counties.
The ADA, in its pilot project, having cultivated and planted with rice 1,700 hectors, with each hector producing 100 50kg bags of rice which, when computed would sum up to 170,000 50kg bags of seed rice that would have had a market value of US$3,825,000 when processed and sold on the local market for US$22.5. This would have put the local rice importers out of business and end the President and Vice President’s financial interest.
Everything being constant, the ADA had demonstrated its ability to supply the Liberian market every four months with 170,000 and 510,000 bags of rice yearly, at a market value of US$11,475,000, and a yearly profit margin of US$2,868,750 representing 25% of its yearly profit margin.
The rice processing plant was designed in the United States by a consultant hired by ADA and based in Taxes. The processing plant was manufactured in Thailand. The rice processing plant and its auxiliaries cost the ADA US$22.5 million. After the demised of the late Libyan President, Col. Kaddafi, the West would seized the Libyan government’s properties worldwide, but the processing plant would be delivered to the Free Port of Monrovia—some 3 years back.
The ADA, which enjoyed duty-free privilege, saw itself running a wild goose chase, like a chicken without head, trying to free its forty forty-foot containers of processing plant equipment from the Free Port of Monrovia.
The Hot Pepper’s investigation revealed that the owner of the ADA, Mr. Wendell Mackintosh, made several courtesy calls on the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, at her office to get the forty forty-foot containers, containing the processing plant equipment, released from the Free Port, but he would be redirected to the Office of the Vice President, Joseph Boakai, who has oversight of the agriculture sector. The cat-and-mouse game between the offices of the President and Vice President would take exactly three years and ten days, commencing from the day the containers arrived at the Free Port of Monrovia to the day they were released.
Over three years and ten days, commencing from the day the containers arrived in Monrovia to the day they were released, the forty forty-foot containers, containing the processing plant, would accumulate a storage of US$620,000. Dramatically, due to the miscalculation of Liberia's Vice President, Joseph Boakai, the forty forty-foot containers containing the processing plant, after three years ten days of delay, were hurriedly released on a simple telephone conversation from the Vice President of Liberia: the VP instructed the Minister of Agriculture to write the Managing Director of the Free Port of Monrovia to release the containers without any further delay and no storage cost to the ADA. Investigation continues.
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