11 March 2013

Liberia: Oil Sector Reforms Must Remain On Front Burner


As bickering at the legislature apparently subsided over strict review and reforms in the oil sector while Global Witness and the Liberia Oil and Gas Initiative (LOGI) continued to urge the government to ensure far-reaching and urgent reforms of the sector for the population to benefit from anticipated oil discoveries, there is absolute need for the National Legislature to remain firm as they receive another contract signed by the Executive for ratification.

The renewed urge comes after the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) last week signed a sharing contract with ExxonMobil and the Canadian Overseas Petroleum Ltd. (COPL) intended to make Liberia one of the best oil and gas producing companies worldwide.

A war of words erupted last year between the Legislature and the Executive over the utilization of expected income from oil reserves that were declared not being enough to reach a commercial quantity.

That development came amidst reports that a cartel of legislative lobbyists

secretly met in Ghana to demand oil blocks. But it is believed all that is over now with the 53rd legislature seated.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has already signed the contract targeting lucrative Block -13 situated in the southeastern Liberia which NOCAL authorities affirm could "lead to a successful discovery and production of oil."

NOCAL expressed plans that U$45m from the oil contract, which the President signed Friday, will target many development projects in the following pattern.

About U$150,000 in the contract, which crosses the isle this week from the Executive to the Legislature on Capitol Hill, goes toward the University of Liberia annually; US$750,000 earmarked annually for the training of Liberians; and US$500,000 is annual contribution to

social development.

Other benefits include an annual allocation of US$100,000 for rural electricity while U$300,000 will be for customs users fees.

The Chief Executive Officer and President of NOCAL, Dr. Randolph McClain said: "Beginning with the various financial provisions of the contract, the U$50 million will be received immediately upon rectification and printing into handbills."

That amount, he said, will include US$21.25 million for "one of the largest ever upfront payouts to a non-producing country in the world.

Though the NOCAL president highlighted the care taken to ensure that Liberians and the nation as a whole receive maximum benefits from this contract, we urge the legislature to rise above whatever qualms they may have with the Executive, and appropriately act on oil contracts before them in the interest of the people they represent.

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