Liberia’s Attorney General and Justice Minister Cllr. Frank Musa Dean has succumbed to a wave of public pressure being mounted locally and internationally in demand of his recusal from investigation into the acquisition of controversial Oil Block #13 by Broadway Consolidated/Peppercoast (BCP) and its transfer to Exxon.
In a short statement signed by Minister Dean and posted on Justice Ministry’s website on Tuesday, 3 April, he clarifies in his recusal note that “all oil blocks awarded between 2004 and January 2006 were awarded pursuant to the companies’ compliance” with the National Oil Company (NOCAL’s) full disclosure requirements under penalty of law.
But he insists that his recusal is intended to avoid any semblance of conflict of interest and to ensure that the investigation is characterized by transparency and integrity.
Cllr. Dean was instructed over the weekend to lead a probe in the Oil Block #13 deal after Global Witness alleged that in 2013 U.S. multinational oil and gas giant Exxon signed a $120 million deal with the Liberian Government for an oil block it knew was tainted by corruption.
“As Minister of Justice/Attorney General of the Republic of Liberia, I hereby recuse myself from the investigation commissioned by the President into the acquisition of the National Oil Company of Liberia’s (NOCAL) Block 13 by Broadway Consolidated/Peppercoast (BCP) and its subsequent sale to Exxon Mobil,” Cllr. Dean says.
According to the Justice Minister, the decision to recuse himself is based on the fact that he served as President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of NOCAL between 2004 and January 2006.
He says he has obtained the approval of President George Manneh Weah to recuse himself from the investigation. Global Witness claims that Exxon’s purchase in 2013 from BCP, using the Calgary-based Canadian Overseas Petroleum as a go-between to purchase the oil block was also accompanied by over $200,000 in unusual, large payments made by the corruption-tainted Liberian oil agency NOCAL to six Liberian officials who approved the deal. Each of the six officials received US$35 000 as bonuses following the sale of the oil block.
The officials named in the report as receiving US$35000, each were Finance Minister Amara Konneh, Justice Minister Christiana Tah, Lands and Mines Minister Patrick Sendolo, National Investment Chairman Natty Davis, NOCAL CEO Randolph McClain. NOCAL Board Chair Robert Sirleaf who was at the time working pro-bono also received US$35,000.
By Winston W. Parley-Edited by Othello B. Garbah