The NEWS (Monrovia)

8 November 2012

Liberia: Natural Resources Must Benefit Liberians

Photo: James M. Garresen, II/Executive Mansion
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on an oil rig.

The Chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) says the Country's natural resources belong to all Liberians and therefore they must benefit all Liberians and not selected individuals.

Mr. Robert Sirleaf, son of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, said the nation is blessed with natural resources, but indicated that several mistakes were made in the past.

The NOCAL Chairman said the country needs to learn from those past mistakes and move towards the path of reconstruction and renewed national identity.

Addressing a press conference Tuesday, in Monrovia, Mr. Sirleaf said he believes that all Liberians are beneficiaries of the country's resources; particularly the potential oil revenues.

"We encourage all Liberians to participate in this conversation because it benefits our people and is good for our country...the simple truth is that, what is owned together ought to benefit all and not a selected few," Mr. Sirleaf indicated.

On the issue of his controversial Chairmanship of the Board of the NOCAL, Mr. Sirleaf said he knew that he could have settled for lesser public exposure and Mis-characterizations, and even lesser political attacks on President Sirleaf (his mother).

However, he said "I am capable of doing something to help my country (Liberia) through my talent, experience and competence."

He continued: "If by the privilege and responsibility of being the son of the President and the trust that it brings, I can help our President succeed in her ambitious agenda of transformation.

Mr. Sirleaf said his expertise can help his mother (President Sirleaf) build a durable and sustainable institutional framework to ensure that revenues from the exploitation of natural resources are used to benefit all Liberians.

"If I turned away because it will cause me personal pain or draw political criticism, what would be the value of my birth right?" Mr. Sirleaf inquired.

He said he made the right choice to remain steadfast in working in the interest of the Liberian people; adding, "I owe Liberia me!"

The NOCAL Board Chairman told reporters that he does not have interest in owning any oil block in the country, because the oil and other resources are owned by the Liberian people.

"I do not need, nor do I want to cut a deal in the middle of the night, then hide the transaction from the light of day...I am not a product of that mind-set, and my long professional history has been a testament to that. I have served many years and many times in positions of trust and never once was I inclined to betray the trust of others" he stressed.

Mr. Sirleaf said like any child, he is proud of his mother (Pres. Sirleaf) and a proud son of a resilient and determined Nation, noting that he wants to see all Liberian children succeed and prosper.

The NOCAL Chairman said he also wants to see the country build upon its peace, through economic empowerment and opportunity for everyone.

According to Mr. Sirleaf, he envisages the potential petroleum resources managed in a way that will benefit every Liberian... "But we know that there is always a difference between what anyone may want to see and what they can do to make it happen".

Mr. Sirleaf said he is thankful that God has blessed him at this time to be able to do something about things that he hopes to see happen at NOCAL, stating, "It's about less talk more action! It's about less attacking more developing".

He said throughout public discussions surrounding situations at NOCAL, he has been silent, listening and opting to work harder, not only to prove his critics wrong, but to contribute to the development of the country and allow his performance to speak for him.

He noted that as the third Chairperson of NOCAL's Board, his preference to head the company was necessitated by the growing demand for increase transparency, reform and accountability.

"NOCAL could no longer continue to operate in secrecy, conduct its activities imprudently, negotiate feebly, and conflictingly present itself as a shareholder and a regulator," Mr. Sirleaf stated.

The NOCAL Board Chairman said the time has come for openness and reforms at the oil company; a challenge that he accepted being cognizant that every detail of his contribution would be scrutinized, not only by the Liberian people, but the international community.

He said it will allow everyone to evaluate his competence as Chairman of NOCAL and asked the public to judge him based on what he has been able to accomplish at NOCAL and not based on hearsay.

The NOCAL Chairman said he has nothing to hide and in the spirit of his commitment to transparency, he would welcome the commissioning of an independent audit of all expenditures of the National Oil Company.

He said the audit will mainly focus on his activities as Chairman of the company and would also insist that the report of the audit be published in keeping with the Freedom of Information (FOI) Law of Liberia.

Mr. Sirleaf's appointment as Chairman of the Board of Directors of NOCAL has sparked controversies with accusation that President Sirleaf has reintroduced nepotism by appointing her family members in key positions.

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