Lawmakers Raise Red Flag Over Alterations in New Oil Law
Monrovia – Liberia’s hydrocarbon sector was expected to be a blessing for the country since offshore exploration began by African Petroleum in February 2012, but conspiracies have frequently engulfed the once potential oil sector.
Report by Henry Karmo – [email protected]
After showing massive prospect, the National Oil Company (NOCAL) crumbled in 2015 when the company declared bankruptcy following the plummeted oil prices globally. NOCAL was left in the cold without sources of income.
Critics are arguing that wasteful spending plunged the company into financial troubles.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was judged by the court of public opinion with many economists and politicians slamming the President for publically taking the blame for the mismanagement of millions of dollars.
Some argued that Sirleaf’s move was to shield her son, Robert, who served as the company’s chair on the board of directors.
As NOCAL shrink leaving the once promising oil sector in uncertainty, oppositions continue to point accusing fingers at the Sirleaf leadership for allegedly ‘mortgaging the country’s resources’.
Lawmaker Makes Accusation
Amidst these spiraling allegations, six members of the House of Representatives have accused the executive of making alterations in the new oil law recently printed into hand bill by the executive.
The six lawmakers include Representatives James Biney and Bhofal Chambers (NPP-District#1 and CDC – #2 Maryland County respectively); Representatives Acarous Gray and Abraham Corneh (CDC – District #8, District #14 Montserrado County respectively); Representative Moses Kollie (UP – District #6, Lofa County); and Representative Adam Bill Corneh (District #6, Bong County),
Representative Biney, regarded as one of the experienced lawmakers serving his third term and the crafter of the level plain field bill that received serious criticism from officials of the executive, told Journalists at the capitol building Thursday that lawmakers went around the country to gathered import from ordinary Liberians and experts in the sector.
“We went around the country and hired experts and had public hearing and as a result of that we passed our version which in our opinion based on the consultation from around the country constituted a better version,” Rep Biney said.
Biney continued: “A version more representative of the interest of the people and that was sent o the senate where the bill originated and was passed 2014 but never got printed until Speaker Tyler got removed in the form and manner he was removed.”
“They printed the oil law and claimed that Tyler had it in his possession and did not forward it to the senate for onward transmission to the Executive.”
“We taught accessing the time it took to get the law printed and particularly the circumstance surrounding the removal of the speaker we taught it was important that we review the law and compare the printed version with the one that came from the experts that we passed.”
Among many things Biney said, he noticed some discrepancies under Articles 27, 36 and 43.
He said under Article 27 as passed by the Legislature, clearly provides that the Government of Liberia owns the gas and not the oil companies that will be drilling with contracts in Liberia similar to that of Ghana.
Biney also claimed in the printed version it does not state that the gas belong to government.
Also under Article 27, he said it is stated clearly that there shall be a gas processing plant to supply Liquefied Petroleum Gas or LPG otherwise known in Liberia as cooking gas – for domestic use, gas for electricity generation and other industrial application, but the law printed declared that it is NOCAL that will in the future conduct study to determine.
Like Article 27, Article 36 of the law that talks about citizen participation fund to be manage by a committee made up of the legislature, NOCAL, LEITI and civil society. But Rep. Biney alleges that that partition has been chamged.
“The one they passed provides that the citizens participation fund shall be manage by the international trust company selected by the executive,” he said.
He also said Article 43 which focuses on setting up a separate local content legislation to govern the local content for the participation of Liberian companies which would ensure benefits for local companies was tempered with by the Executive.
But the printed version deleted the entire provision, he said.
He continued: “I observed that they don’t want to debate it because they need time to cover up and this is not about me it is about prosperity judging us for what we do. We have to be careful about how we carry out our legislative responsibilities or else the legislature will soon be seen as a rubber stamp so say madam Sirleaf.”
Early this month, international watch dog, Global Witness welcomed Liberia’s new Petroleum Law, which is expected to mark a significant step towards the transparent management of the country’s oil sector.
But GW warned that new regulations are also necessary to ensure that the law is effective.
The international watch group said the new law requires competitive bidding for all petroleum contracts, and for all oil companies to declare their true owners.
According to Global Witness, both of these changes could help fight the corruption that has long plagued the sector by assuring Liberians that only the most qualified companies get contracts and licenses are not awarded through backroom deals to government officials.
But the latest revelation by Hon. Biney and his five colleagues may cast a dark shadow over the new law and may fuel more public sentiments about the oil law and its potential impact on the country’s resources as President Sirleaf’s tenures elapse.