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Liberia’s Oil Battle: Whose Interest It Is?

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Listening to a Nigerian colleague recently during lunch at a local restaurant down town Monrovia as he spoke about the crisis engulfing his country’s oil and gas sector and being very cognizant of what’s currently obtaining in that country, one does not have be a “rocket scientist” to know that Liberia is actually on a ‘time bomb’.

According to him, when personal interests supersede national interest in a nation under the influence of international economic powers, especially in the oil industry, the people get aggrieved and respond negatively. That’s the unfortunate situation, he said, confronting his motherland, Nigeria today.

And so the politics and economic gimmicks characterizing the current debate between the House of Representatives and Executive Branch over Liberia’s oil and gas sector, as the silent majority look on cautiously may just be in consonance with the foregoing paragraph. It has now become a serious battle between “national good and evil” with both parties professing to be on the side of the former.

But that’s ‘far fetch because it is now an open fact that the current ‘hulu-balu’ between the House of Representatives and the Executive concerning a review of the 2002 Petroleum Laws of Liberia, as well as concession contracts is a complete proxy battle impregnated with self-aggrandizements.

That National Oil Company of Liberia or NOCAL and Executive Mansion may be fronting for the American oil monster, Chevron, using a number Liberian surrogates or quasi organizations not well knowledgeable about the matter, while the brothers on Capitol Hill (House) may also be fighting the battle for the Russian international oil giant, GAZPROM, also using a few well informed media owners to do the ‘dirty work’ for them.

Realistically, NOCAL may be ‘shooting itself in the leg’ through its current non-impact making Public Relations approach, as compare to its opponents in this matter. NOCAL is now behaving like a drowning person whose survival is dependent on whatever is held in the ocean.

Initially when oil was discovered in Liberia during the last two Liberian administrations, the brothers from the West made it public that our oil was of “no commercial value”-and they were very persistent on this.

And it was all because of the fear that the interest of the people of Liberia was fully included with no escape for any international oil company entering into concession agreements (read the 2002 Petroleum Laws of Liberia).

Except for the Australian-based African Petroleum, no other Western company was willing to say the truth to the people of Liberia concerning the status of the country’s oil following a number of explorations-thanks to African Petroleum that our oil now has commercial value.

With commercial value now attached to Liberia’s oil, our brothers from the west are now back to over-turn what was done in the interest of Liberia (the 2002 Petroleum Laws) to champion their own cause (economic interest) to the detriment of the Liberian people, using Liberians who are either permanent residents or citizens of the United States.

Mind you, after putting Liberians into this mess, they may all be out of here “eating hot dogs and ham, as well as drinking milk and juices” in peace, while we are again left behind to “eat palm cabbage and borbor john”.

Why there may be a genuine security concern for the US-based oil company, Chevron over oil block 13 because it is actually situated between oil blocks 12 and 14, with which many well-meaning Liberians would want to sympathize, the ordinary Liberians would no way want to opt for a review of the 2002 Petroleum laws because their interests are adequately imbedded there.

It would be further foolhardy for NOCAL to even believe that a “Global Witness’ PR gimmick” now in the pages of the newspapers will instigate public sentiments against the resistance of the Liberian people to the review of the Petroleum Laws of Liberia.

Whether or not NOCAL now chooses to be “transparent by opening its books to the Liberian people, making its annual budget to the Legislature and even including civil society in discussions on our oil and gas sector, it is the general agreement of the people of Liberia that all 10 concession contracts must be re-negotiated in confirmative with the 2002 Petroleum Laws of Liberia even though they still have “bones to pick with members of the House of Representatives.”


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