Heritage (Monrovia)

24 December 2012

Liberia: Petroleum Law Under Review

A delegation of Liberian Senators has met with Engineer Andrew L. Yakubu, the Group Managing Director, and Group Executive Directors of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in Abuja as part of ongoing consultations to reform Liberia's Petroleum Law.

According to a dispatch, the delegation headed by Senator Cletus Segbe Wotorson, Chair of the Senate Committee on Lands, Mines, Energy, Mineral Resources and Environment included Senator Armah Z. Jallah, Co-Chair, Senator Jewel Howard Taylor, Chair of the Committee on Autonomous Commission and Agencies, and J. Nanborlor Singbeh, Sr., Secretary to the Senate.

Senator Wotorson informed the NNPC leaders that his delegation was in Nigeria to learn from the Country's many years of experience in the oil sector to help guide the reform process in Liberia.

Senator Wotorson, who is also a Geologist and Geophysicist, informed his hosts that Liberia started experimenting with the oil industry as far back as the 1970s, with "half-baked" knowledge of production sharing contracts that were not serving the purpose, thus making reform necessary.

He thanked the NNPC officials for responding positively to the team's visit and praised Nigeria for always coming to the rescue of Liberia. "When we needed help during the war, you came and rescued us." He said now that Liberia's oil sector needed to be fixed, "we have come again...thank you for accepting us."

As part of the consultation, one of the NNPC Directors delivered a PowerPoint presentation titled "NNPC-the Journey So Far," on topical issues in the Nigerian Oil Sector, including its history, activities, structure, policies, laws, and current operations. He also described the in-country capacity development (or Local Content), the dynamics of reform, the transformation agenda of the Agency, and its job creation strategies.

During the ensuing interactive session, the Senators sought further clarification about Nigeria's Local Content Law, NNPC's autonomy, royalties, capacity building, the requirements for becoming petroleum board members, the impact of the oil revenue on the economy and people, and equity reservation.

In response, Engineer Yakubu described the oil sector as a work in progress, noting that the need for reform would constantly emerge overtime and with changes in the market. He urged the Liberian officials to be flexible in their negotiations as the country was a new frontier of the oil industry.

On the impact of the oil revenue on the people, the NNPC boss stressed the need to avoid capital flight. "When there is huge capital flight, that is most of the services you must procure from abroad, the impact of the economy will be minimum."

He urged the lawmakers to institutionalize capacity building by developing partnership with the NNPC, reputable International Oil Companies (OICs), providing scholarships for Liberians to study as engineers at home and abroad, and ensuring that oil and gas companies were integrated to impact citizens.

Liberia's Ambassador to Nigeria, Dr. Al-Hassan Conteh, who facilitated the consultative meeting, thanked the Group Managing Director and Executives of NNPC for the knowledge sharing session, and recommended that Chairman Wotorson should invite an expert team of the NNPC to visit Liberia and provide technical assistance to the petroleum reform agenda of the Government.

The ongoing reform of Liberia's Petroleum Law is a collaborative effort of the Executive and Legislative branches of the Liberian Government. The need for reform followed the recent discovery of oil in Liberia and the controversies surrounding the management of the sector by the National Oil Company of Liberia.

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