21 August 2012

Liberia: Oil Consultation Hit Southeast -Nimbaians Want More Oil Benefits For Oil Rich Regions

Photo: Liberia Government
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf with Chevron CEO John Watson

True to its words that it is committed to mainstream popular participation as a linchpin of Liberia's budding oil economy, the National Oil Company is leaving no stone unturned in reaching out to every hamlet of the country to solicit citizens' input on the draft policy meant to regulate the country's oil and gas sector. Having launched the consultation in Monrovia, NOCAL has taken the policy to the countryside. The North, it Company and its partners are now hitting towns and villages in the Southeast where locals have been sharing their thoughts on how to make the country's newfound resource conflict-free and development-oriented. The Analyst reports.

Residents of Gbapa in the administrative district of Yarmein, in Nimba County, are recommending the allocation of a percentage of future oil revenue to areas where oil has been discovered.

The residents said although the commercial viability of the oil discovered is yet to be determined, the new Petroleum Policy must spell out a percentage of the oil revenue to be allocated for areas where oil has been discovered. The recommendation, however, fell short of how much percentage the residents are proposing to be set aside for regions where oil has been discovered.

"We don't want to experience what is happening in other countries where people are fighting because they are not benefiting from the oil coming from their areas," an elderly woman, Madam Oretha Layweh cautioned.

Similar recommendations have also been advanced by residents of other districts in Nimba County, including Zoe Geh, Gbehlaygey, Sanniquellie-mahn, and Tappita Districts.

They are also recommending training opportunities for Liberians throughout the country to run the oil sector before oil production begins. If Liberians are not trained in the sector, they cautioned, Liberia will not reap maximum benefits from the oil sector. They called for equitable distribution of scholarships across the country to ensure that Liberians from all sectors of the country benefit from training opportunities to man the oil industry.

Too often, they argued, foreigners occupied top level managerial positions in the public sector on grounds that Liberians lack the capacity to occupy those positions.

"We want our children to be trained so that they will fill those positions that will be available when we start producing oil," Madam Emily T. Toe of Yekepa suggested.

The residents thanked government for seeking their inputs on the draft petroleum policy and hoped recommendations being advanced, will form part of the new petroleum law of the country. They also hoped that the recommendations being advanced will be implemented for the benefit of the Liberian people.

The Team now visiting Nimba County, has already taken the consultations to Lofa County. It comprises representatives of the Ministry of Lands, Mines & Energy, the Federation of Liberian Youth, and the Mano River Youth Parliament, a rapporteur from the Liberia Reconstruction and Development Committee (LRDC) and the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL).

During the consultations, inputs and feedbacks from Liberians across the country and in the Diaspora are being generated on the following thematic issues contained in the current base draft policy paper:

· Resource ownership and maritime boundary

· Legal framework and institutional oversight

· State participation and fiscal regime

· Revenue management and state-NOC financial and tax arrangements

· Transparency and accountability

· Licensing and contracting

· Work programs and operations and

· Local content.

Several groups comprising members of the Hydro-carbon Technical committee and Civil Society Organizations have been divided into seven teams for the consultations which will include Town hall meetings and round table discussions. The teams will visit all political sub-divisions of the country to seek the inputs of citizens on the reform process of the sector.

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