The Supreme Court of Liberia over the weekend thrown out the complaint by former LPRC Managing Director Harry Greaves, who is protesting the current sale of four oil- blocks by the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL).
Greaves has, however, vowed not to give up his fight until NOCAL can put in place proper mechanisms in managing the oil sector of Liberia.
He submitted to the court a request to prevent the Liberian government from receiving about S$120 million as “signature bonus” from the sale of the four remaining offshore oil blocks LB-6, LB-7, LB-16 and LB-17, but the Associate Justice presiding in Chambers, Justice Philip A. Z. Banks, denied the complaint against NOCAL.
The former LPRC boss had filed a writ of prohibition against the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) to prevent the sale of the four offshore oil blocks.
The Government of Liberia had anticipated to receive a “signature bonus” from each of the international oil Companies (IOCs), amounting to US$30 million.
But Mr. Greaves, filed a lawsuit against NOCAL before Justice in Chambers Banks. He was seeking the High Court’s intervention to halt the sale of the oil blocks and to stop the company from evaluating and notifying successful bidders in the process.
Mr. Greaves also challenges NOCAL’s handling of the bid round for the sale of the oil blocks, alleging, “the process was done secretly and it was not given sufficient publicity inside the country, to allow local business people the opportunity to participate in the bidding.” However, Associate Justice Banks said, Greaves’ request does not show sufficient basis to stop NOCAL from selling the remaining four offshore oil blocks.
The Justice in Chamber’s decision was contained in a letter sent to Cllr. Frank Musah Dean Thursday, 27 November by Madam Martha Bryant Henries, Clerk of the Supreme Court of Liberia. Cllr. Dean is the lead lawyer for Mr. Greaves.
In her communication, Madam Henries said, “His Honor Philip A.Z. Banks, Associate Justice presiding in Chambers, has directed me to inform you that from the conference held and information available, as a result of queries made by His Honor, the petition does not show a sufficient basis to warrant the issuance of the alternative writ.
However, His Honor, Justice Banks direct further that this refusal is without prejudice to any other person or party believing that a sufficient basis to warrant the issuance of the writ,” she concluded.
Immediately after his request was denied, Mr. Greaves in an exclusive interview with judicial reporters admitted that his lawyer made “a little legal mistake” during the filing of the complaint. “We did not give any legal and constitutional reasons to support our petition before the Justice in Chambers, to have him decide its merit. I must admit we made a little mistake,” he observed.
“What we did was to ask Mr. Justice Banks to give his own interpretation of the matter, which was not based on the Constitution.” Mr. Greaves, however, maintained that NOCAL did not follow the procedure as it had done in the past.
“Most of NOCAL’s bidding processes have been done publicly, both locally and internationally within the period of six-months,” the LPRC former boss noted. He added, “But, this one was very much different. To my knowledge, there was not enough publicity done locally to have more Liberian people participating.
“They did everything, while we were concentrating on the fight against the Ebola Virus.” He asked, “Is it because of the US$30 million signature bonus for each of the four blocks?”
According to him, his legal action against NOCAL’s handling of the remaining four offshore oil blocks is not over. “I’m going to provide legal advice to some Liberian business people so that we can keep our advocacy alive,” he maintained. He did not exactly say how many persons or institutions are preparing to issue similar lawsuits against NOCAL.
“They are considering filing similar lawsuits against the company. It is going to happen very soon before NOCAL announces their successful bidders,” Mr. Greaves said in an angry tone. He maintained that they are going to fight it from all directions, but not with violence.
“We will fight it politically, socially and morally, but we are not going to institute any violent posture,” the LPRC former boss declared. Naming some of the ways, Mr. Greaves said that he would soon write NOCAL to give him the listing of all of those who participated in the bidding process.
“They are going to do that because it is my right under the Freedom of Information Act to ask for any information,” the businessman stated. “We want to know whether Sirleaf, Johnson, James or who actually participated in this round of the remaining four offshore oil blocks,” he said.
Greaves continued that he had credible information that the bid result would be announced in the United Kingdom, specifically in London. “Why would they choose to announce our offshore oil blocks result in another country?” he asked, and wondered, Is it because those bidders came from there?” Initially, in counter argument, NOCAL said that it informed potential bidders to search its website for information regarding participation in the bidding exercise.
“All of the information relating to the bidding process was posted on our website and it was up to them to visit it,” NOCAL’s lawyers contended. The lawyers pleaded with the Justice in Chambers to dismiss the lawsuit and to order them to continue with the sale process.