Editor's note: The National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) has clarified that it has not cancelled its oil exploration program, but rather, the company has suspended all bid rounds to award contracts for oil blocks in Liberia. Read More
Authorities of the National Oil Company of Liberia or NOCAL say all activities surrounding exploration since the pronouncement of oil discovery here in February this year by the African Petroleum have been halted, pending a full reformation process as requested by Liberians and the 53rd Liberian Legislature.
Speaking recently at NOCAL headquarters on Randall Street in Monrovia during a consultative forum held with media executives, Vice President for Public Relations Israel Akinsanya said, since the discovery, the government through President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf halted all activities leading to oil exploration process in order to give the reformation exercise sufficient time so that citizens from every sector can make vital input in the country's natural resources exploration.
According to him, there are series of consultations ongoing with all sectors in the country, including the media, communities, stakeholders, Liberians in the Diasporas and the general public on the way forward in the utilization of resources that will be generated from oil exploration.
It is not clear how long the reformation exercise may last, but Akinsaya, former Chairperson of the opposition Liberty Party and one time unbending critic of the Sirleaf-led administration, indicated that the reformation process may be completed early December.
It can be recalled this same year, Liberians woke up one morning to an announcement by Africa Petroleum of oil discovery in commercial quantity in its exploration blocks offshore Liberia.
But authorities at the National Oil Company of Liberia subsequently clarified the discovery is not detailed enough to establish whether or not the oil is above or below commercial quantity.
However, the international watchdog Global Witness, later warned that if the discovery reaches production, the national oil company NOCAL, should be kept in check to protect this major source of revenue.
NOCAL was recently brought to the limelight by Global Witness, warning that if the Government of Liberia insisted on maintaining its national oil company, it should determine how much control the company should exercise over revenues generated by the sector.
This was received by many in the public as vital to ensuring that Liberia's oil revenues would rather help to further cure the wounds of conflict and improve the standard of life of the citizenry rather than serves as a curse to the country's recovery from decades of civil strife and economic decline.
The apprehension is that any attempt on the part of the state-owned National Oil Company - which Global Witness observed that in many countries, is an institution with a history of corruption and fiscal mismanagement - to autonomously handle Liberia's oil money will no doubt lead to chaos in the society.
It would be a travesty to have such lucrative natural resource discovered along the country's coast to benefit only those who are already wealthy, while the poor continue in poverty.
Oil wealth, on all fronts, must translate into increased economic growth and development boom for all citizens. However, if the pockets of only a few political and social heavyweights continue to get deeper and deeper, then there is a problem.