Claims of contradictions in Liberia’s oil law are serious
Six members of the House of Representatives have filed a seven-count petition to Plenary, the highest decision-making body of the House, objecting to several provisions of the printed Oil and Gas Law or Petroleum Law of Liberia, citing alleged discrepancies or malpractices.
The Executive Mansion thru the Ministry of Foreign Affairs printed the petroleum law into handbill on October 10, 2016, two years after it was debated and enacted into law by the Liberian Legislature in 2014.
But the petitioners, headed by Maryland County Representative James Biney observed, among others in their seven-count filed before Plenary on Thursday, 8 December that Articles 27, 36 and 43, respectively of the printed version of the law are quite contrary to the original content passed by the Legislature.
Rep. Biney explains that Article 27 of the law, as passed by the Legislature, provides that the Government of Liberia owns the gas and oil, not the oil company that will be drilling in Liberia. But he argues that the final version printed by the Executive failed to state clearly that the gas belongs to the government, while the provision that calls for the establishment of a gas processing plant in the country to supply the domestic market for electricity generation and other industrial purposes is deleted from the legislated version, and the one printed in handbill by the Executive provides that the National Oil Company of Liberia or NOCAL will make a determination in the future. The Maryland County lawmaker also pointed out that Article 36 of the Petroleum Law passed by the Legislature calls for the Citizens’ Participation Fund to be managed by a team comprised of legislators, NOCAL, LEITI and Civil Society, but the version printed into handbill by the Executive says the Citizens’ Participation Fund shall be managed by an International Trust Company to be selected by the Executive, and Article 43 of the law enacted by the Legislature mandated there will be a separate local content legislation to prepare Liberian-owned companies for participation, but the printed version from the Executive “deleted” the entire portion on this mandate.
These concerns raised by the six lawmakers warrant urgent investigation in order to correct whatever flaws that may be in the final law that should protect our oil and gas sector, not only for current generation, but generations unborn. The issue of alleged tempering with laws enacted at the legislature and subsequently printed into handbill by the Executive does not portray us Liberians as a serious people, particularly to our foreign partners.
We do not know for certain who in the Legislature or in the Executive may have carried out the alleged tempering for selfish reasons, but one thing is sure: The accompanying consequences of these actions carried out in darkness will affect this country in the long-run, unless an urgent review of both the legislated version and printed version of the law is done.
We understand that Plenary of the House of Representatives has mandated its Committee on Claims and Petition to probe the concerns raised in the lawmakers’ petition to report to that body in February 2017. We hope this matter will not be swept under the carpet as business usual. We must get to the root of this matter as a nation to correct the wrongs wherever they are.
Thank God for the farsightedness of Representative James Biney and his colleagues – Acarous Gray, Abraham V. Corneh, Moses Y. Kollie, Adam Bill Corneh and Bhofal Chambers who observed these changes by unscrupulous person or persons bent on selling our natural resources cheaply with the sole intent of filling their pockets and purses at the detriment of the masses and children.
We all are aware how NOCAL went bankrupt even before it could begin any substantive work in the country mainly due to greed and narrowmindedness. The only thing the oil company was able to show is that it paid its presidents and many vice presidents fabulous salaries plus huge rental to the Episcopal Church of Liberia.
We vehemently reject a repeat of the scenario from past administrations when iron ores and other minerals were hugely extracted from Bong Mines, Yekepa and formerly Bomi Hills, respectively with no tangible benefits to the country and its citizenry because politicians’ primary objectives have been to fill their personal accounts and accounts of their many girlfriends. Therefore, we join these patriotic lawmakers in calling for quick review of both versions of the petroleum law to maintain the best for Liberia.