NOCAL ‘Bribery’ Saga: Cllr. Idella Cooper Refutes Serving As Board Member of National Oil Company
Report by Lennart Dodoo, [email protected]
Monrovia – Cllr. Idella Cooper has refuted claims by the Special Presidential Committee that she was a member of the Board of Directors of the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) and a member of the Hydrocarbon Technical Committee (HTC) that negotiated the sale of Oil Block-13 to ExxonMobil.
The Special Presidential Taskforce was constituted by President George Weah to investigate revelations unveiled by international watchdog Global Witness that several former officials of government and NOCAL allegedly received bribes to sell out the oil block.
According to Cllr. Cooper, during the period under review, she was neither a member of the NOCAL Board of Directors nor a member of the HTC.
“I was employed by NOCAL as the Legal Advisor, and I simply assisted Randolph McClain with the minutes of most Board Meetings. As the note-taker, I did not participate in the Board meetings, nor did I have the authority to make any decisions. Additionally, I was not even present at the meeting in which the decision was taken to pay bonuses/honorarium for the successful conclusion of the Exxon Mobil transaction for Block 13,” she said in a statement.
According to the Special Committee Report, Cllr. Cooper as ‘member of the Board’ was one of those who received the accumulated amount of US$136,560.05.
Being a ‘member of the HTC’, according to the Committee, Cllr. Cooper allegedly received US$15,000.
The Committee recommended to Pres. Weah those named to have received monies in the form of bonuses should be made to restitute the amounts into government coffers.
But Cllr. Cooper argued that the Board Members are clearly listed in the official Board minutes provided by NOCAL. The list, she disclosed, names all members from the beginning of all of the minute and proves that she was not a Board Member, but only assisted with the preparation of the minutes.
Global Witness (GW) on March 29 this year, released a report in which it called on the Government of Liberia to investigate officials involved in the Exxon Mobil’s US$120 million purchase of oil Block 13 in 2013 for corruption and wrongdoing and to ensure the independence of the Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.
Block 13 was originally awarded by NOCAL in 2005 to Liberian-Anglo Company Broadway Consolidated/Peppercoast (BCP). In 2007, the block was ratified by the Liberian legislature through what critics have described as “bribery.”
But Global Witness’ evidence shows that the company was likely part-owned by former Mining Minister Jonathan Mason and his deputy, Mulbah Willie (late). Mason and Willie are suspected of granting the oil block to a company in which they held interests while they were also ministers in 2005, which was illegal under Liberian law.
“Exxon knew that Block 13 was originally awarded through bribery and that its purchase of the oil block could enrich former officials, who might have been behind BCP. Undeterred by the corruption red flags, Exxon went ahead with the deal anyway,” GW said in a report.
The corruption-watch dog further said in its evidence that it structured the transaction in a way to skirt US anti-corruption laws by using a Canadian company – Canadian Overseas Petroleum Limited (COPL) – as a go-between to buy the block.