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Editorial:Dreaming of the Liberian Oil

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Liberia is poised to commence deepwater exploration drill for oil by October or there about this year, which is expected to be one of the country’s first offshore exploration wells in 25 years. Chevron Liberia Chief Executive Officer, John Watson, made the disclosure in Monrovia recently at a meeting with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

The euphoria surrounding the hope for oil discovery here seems to be keeping Liberians in a state of anxiety with no lesser a personality than President Sirleaf herself recently urging the American-owned company Chevron, to begin actual drilling in the country. The company also disclosed that it has secured the drill ship, Discoverer Spirit for the exploration.

To perhaps keep up the momentum, the National Oil Company of Liberia last week hosted the Liberian Business Linkages and Equity Participation in the Hydrocarbon subsector of the Liberian Economy Validation and Sensitization Forum at the Monrovia City Hall.

The Forum was part of a series of engagements aimed at ensuring that Liberia’s emerging oil and gas industry provides local value and maximizes benefits for the citizenry, according to a release. It brought together two foreign experts in Local Content Development in the oil and gas sector- Dr. Michael Warner, Director of the UK-based Local Content Solutions, and Mr. Anthony E. Paul, Managing Director of the Association of Caribbean Energy Specialist or ACES Limited, a leading Caribbean oil and gas power advisory firm based in Trinidad and Tobago respectively, who both were expected to make presentations.

The dream for oil has led policymakers, educators and parents to encourage more young people to pursue studies in geology and mining in order to become marketable for employment in the sector. All these seems to sound good for a post-war impoverished country like Liberia, but the truth is we are still far from reaching the commodity which is buried somewhere in deep-sea or beneath the ground onshore. We hope to make a discovery someday in the not distant future.

However, Liberians need to cool of the euphoria and take a deep reflection on the resource-curse dilemma which has kept many African countries in perpetual conflict and misery. In the sub-region, Nigeria is a glaring example of the resource-curse syndrome where a resistant armed group has stood up against the federal government in the last 20 years or more in the oil-rich Niger Delta, taking executives of foreign companies’ hostage in demand of ransom.

In the horn of Africa, Chad has been engulfed in civil conflict over oil. President Idriss Derby has managed to hang on to power by diverting resources needed for health, education and other socio-economic activities to security. DR Congo is still bleeding because its diamond, uranium and other natural resources are being scrambled over by various armed factions backed by western groups with vested interest.

Here in Liberia, for nearly 10 years the country’s diamond and gold were embargoed by the United Nations after the world body observed that the former Taylor regime used resources earned from these minerals to foment conflict in West Africa. From all indications, the resources-curse has taken a serious toil on Africa, leaving its people perpetually impoverished, while western and European countries go in cohort with puppet regimes to take away the continent’s wealth.

We sincerely hope and pray that Liberia will not go down this route. The soon to be found oil should be used to enhance the living standard of the people and the physical outlook of the entire country. This is the challenge before those currently in leadership or those to come to power.

The dream for the Liberian oil could become an illusion if we allowed the resource-curse dilemma to blur our vision for socio-economic and infrastructural development and thereby compromise accountability and transparency which could no doubt ignite another round of violence at the detriment of the population.

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