True to their commitment upon their return last Monday to the Capitol following their annual break, members of the House of Representative may appear to be resolute in being robust and focused during their second seating. To make effective its recent vow to the Liberian people, the House, last Thursday, expressed its determination to lead the reform process of the Oil and Gas sector in order to ensure that the functions of the National Oil Company are diversified amid what seems to be a major discrepancy within the oil and gas sector of the country.
House Speaker Alex Tyler, however, admitted, during a regular press briefing hosted by the Ministry of Information on Capitol Hill, to the blunders made in the ratification of some of the concession agreements, most especially oil contracts due to the lack of information. Even though Speaker Tyler categorically rejected claims that they deliberately did not properly do due diligence to ratifying contracts that allotted oil blocks to companies exploring wells on Liberia’s waters, categorically rejected assertions that the legislature deliberately did not properly did not do due diligence in ratifying contracts that allotted oil blocks to companies exploring wells on Liberia’s waters, he also admitted their unawareness of the existence of a previous petroleum law on the oil sector ratified by the 51st Legislature in 2002 during the tenure of former President Charles Taylor.
“Let me state here for the record and it is not intended to indict anyone but when we received the production sharing contracts the PSCs, we at the time did not know that we had new petroleum law and I think the executive share that same concern, so we do not want to put it at their door step,” the Speaker said. According to the Speaker, these oil contracts were ratified by them only to later discover through research during the first seating of the 53rd Legislature earlier the existence of the New Petroleum law of 2002. While the concern raised by the House of Representatives, through its Speaker, may sound to be genuine, it is equally belated and incompatible with the expectations of the interest of the people claim to represent.
What many well-meaning Liberians had anticipated and continue to do with reference to the ratification of contracts by the Liberian Legislature is a thorough research, as well as background investigation of prospective business partners (concession companies) of Liberia. Instead of adhering to the foregoing, probably,, due to other reasons, the Legislature chose they way they did. Perhaps, this is why many Liberians are yet convinced that due diligence was exercised in the process of ratifying oil contracts.
It is further unfortunate and very shameful for the Speaker of the House of Representatives to publicly suggest their unawareness of the existence of previous laws when such should have been their foremost duty before any discussion in committee rooms or plenary. It is no secret that the ‘red flag’ being raised by Speaker Tyler and colleagues of the House may be another ploy geared towards self aggrandizement as many Liberians observed during the immediate past. And until members of the Legislature can prove otherwise, Liberians would continue to be apprehensive about their commitment and dedication to the cause of the people of Liberia.