Amidst waves of Ebola fight across the country, there is a serious tussle among officials of Nimba County over the recent scrap bid that was awarded to the North Star Company.According to Nimba Legislative Caucus’s Chairman, Senator Thomas Grupee, the recent scrap bid awarded to the North Star Company was done single handedly by Superintendent Fong Zuagele and his collaborators.He accused the county leadership of awarding a scrap contract to North Star without informing them, stressing that they had earlier agreed to award the contract to Western Steel (a Ghanaian Firm) that earlier won the first bid and published in December last year.Senator Grupee said if anything was wrong with the first bid and new bid was required, it would have been a concern for both local leadership and the caucus.Instead, Senator Grupee said the superintendent and his lieutenants cancelled the first bid and put out a new bid without informing them.The first bid was opened on 31st December 2013 and the result was announced in June 2014, but due to some wrangling among the officials, many believed there was a conflict of interest as some groups pushed for North Star while the other pushed for Western Steel.When the bid result was announced, some concern scrap buyers association under the umbrella “Concern Scrap Buyers Association of Nimba” rejected the decision by the Nimba County Authority to award the scrap contract to the Ghanaian Scraping Firm, Western Steel, saying the bid over stayed and therefore it was no longer fair.In a letter of complaint addressed to the Public Procurement and Concession Commission dated June 6, 2014 which the copy is with the Daily Observer, the Nimba Scrapers say their objection to the decision by the Nimba Administration to award the contract to Ghanaian Company was because the bidding process was not transparent.In their letter which contained eight counts, they say the bid process was done under the influence/interference of the lawmakers.“Long before the bid was announced, some of our lawmakers had visited Ghana upon the invitation of the Ghanaian Company and at the company expense,” they said in their letter.In April this year, the head of the scrap buyers, Dennis Maneh raised concern explaining that the Public Procurement and Concession Commission/PPCC stipulated days for bidding is 60 and for the scraps, but bidding in Nimba County went beyond the time frame and that the county leadership releases the result immediately.This controversial scrap bid led to the expulsion of Senator Prince Johnson from the Caucus after he accused his colleagues of receiving “Brown envelope” from the Ghanaian Firm to award them the contract.The scrap issue has been in confusion since it was turned to Nimba by Arcelor Mittal over a year ago even before the coming of Fong Zuagele as Superintendent of Nimba.Prior to the bidding process last year, several Nimba officials, including some members of caucus and Superintendent Christiana Dagadu, County Inspector Reginald Mehn secretly visited Ghana; something that brought feeling of unfairness among Nimbaians.During their visit, it was announced by some lawmakers that Western Steel promised to build a mini steel plant in Nimba if they be awarded the bid so as to create jobs for the locals, but many scrapers believed that the quantity of scraps in Nimba was small for steel plant.The scrutiny of the first bidding process that gave the contract to the Ghanaian Company was presided over by Nimba Assistant Superintendent for Development, Teeko Yorlay, but he continues to remain mute whenever he is contacted by media.He justifies that he is not clothed with the authority to speak, claiming that he has already done his it left with Superintendent.With this new tussle; Teeko Yorlay has been battling in defense of the so-called new bid, which is said to have been awarded to North Star.He has been arguing that the contract was awarded to North Star, because they agreed to purchase a ton of scrap for US $ 78.00, give US$ 1.6 million and construct two schools worth over US$ 200, 000 while Western Steel bided to buy the scrap for US$ 77.00 a ton and build a mini plant.He argued that the highest bid won the bid and therefore they decided to give the contract to North Star (a Liberian/Indian Firm) because what they offered was greater than Western steel.Critics alleged Teeko Yorlay to have received a “Brown envelope” along with a Toyota Jeep from North Star so as to award them the contract, something yet to be verified.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
A Sam Huston State University Professor, conducting research documenting the effects of mercury contamination in freshwater fishes and food webs in the Mazaruni River and tributaries, has found higher than normal levels of mercury in the fishes as well as the water.Dr Carmen Montaña-Schalk from the Department of Biological Sciences has been conducting research in the Mazaruni area for the past two years, and has published some of her preliminary findings over the past week.“Preliminary results by Dr Montaña-Schalk suggest a strong potential for bio-accumulation of mercury in the aquatic food web. For instance, large fish predators contain greater concentrations of mercury.Dr. Montaña-Schalk has also observed that several fishes important in local human diets had Hg (mercury) levels higher (> 1 mg Hg/kg) than the threshold proposed by the World Health Organization (0.5 mg Hg /kg). Therefore, local communities along the Mazaruni River are exposed to dangerous levels of mercury through consumption of fish as well as piscivorous wildlife,” the paper stated.Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni) is predominantly a mining region, and mercury plays a large part in gold recovery there. The Mazaruni River houses one of the world’s greatest concentrations of freshwater biodiversity, and contains high levels of species endemism, with a number of Amerindian communities relying on those fishes for their food. The Mazaruni area is home to thousands of Amerindians.Dr Montaña-Schalk has said that a major problem facing the freshwater biodiversity in Guyana is habitat transformation via deforestation for gold mining operations and the release of mercury from alluvial gold mining activities into water bodies. She said that although there are studies documenting the presence of mercury in freshwater fishes and alluvial sediments in rivers of Guyana, very little still is known about the synergic effects of gold mining or mercury contamination in all components of the aquatic food web and the pathways for inorganic mercury to be converted into organic methyl mercury.For the last two years, Dr Montaña-Schalk and colleagues from University of Guyana have been surveying tributaries of the Mazaruni River, and documenting fish diversity and mercury accumulation on fishes inhabiting these rivers. She documented that, every year, the effects of gold mining operations are greater.There are more gold dredges in the main channel operating 24/7, but also high inland deforestation to establish inland mining operations. Gold mining activities significantly alter local habitats and downstream waterbodies.“The most noticeable effects in the ecosystem are high turbidity in the water and sediments accumulation. This is particularly concerning, because some species endemic to the Mazaruni Basin appear highly associated with the main channel habitats…post-mining results are having adverse and detrimental effects on natural resources, including biodiversity and the environment. We have observed severely degraded aquatic ecosystems, decline in fish diversity, and mercury accumulation in fishes used as food resources by locals.All of this is of great concern, and requires immediate attention that involves conservation monitoring and restoration initiatives,” she said.Dr Montaña-Schalk will continue her research to serve first-hand information for policy makers to address the threats on fish species in Mazaruni due to mercury contamination.Last week, the Guyana Water Inc announced that the Kaituma River was found to have a high mercury content. GWI Managing Director Dr Richard Van West-Charles had stated that samples had been taken from the river, and the results have shown levels of 0.016mg/L, which are more than the accepted World Health Organisation’s (WHO’s) 0.006mg/L standard.