27 March 2013

Liberia: House Concurs With Senate to Ratify Renegotiated Oil Contract

The House of Representatives has concurred with the Liberian Senate to ratify the restated and amended oil agreement signed between the Government of Liberia (GoL), Exxon Mobil and the Canadian Overseas Petroleum Limited (COPL). It can be recalled that recently, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf signed the agreement and submitted it to the Legislature for ratification.

Members of the House on Tuesday, March 26, 2013 unanimously took the decision to concur with their colleagues (Senators) for the Production Sharing Contract (PSC) of block 13 to be ratified. About 58 lawmakers voted in favor of the agreement, four (4) abstained and one (1) voted against.

The oil agreement was ratified by the House of Representatives with several amendments made, including environmental issues and benefits to the Liberian people amongst others. A motion for the ratification of the agreement was filed by Montserrado County District # 6 Representative Edwin M. Snowe.

The lawmakers debated the issue for close to an hour. In his argument, Maryland County lawmaker James Binney said Liberians must adequately be notified about the reform process of the oil sector. The legislators are currently carrying on a reform of the country's oil sector. According to him, oil blocks should remain what he called "tabled" until the reform process is completed. Rep. Biney contended that the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) cannot be serving as a regulator and monitor of the country's oil sector. He said Liberia is just "emerging in the oil business" and therefore the review of oil contracts signed by the government is necessary. He maintained that oil contracts must be reviewed in order for what he called "wrong information" to be exposed.

The Maryland County lawmaker stated that lawmakers must be able to "clearly distinguish and understand the lines of demarcation" within the oil sector. He added that the Block 13 Oil Agreement has some level of benefits to the Liberian people as compared to other agreements signed by the 52nd Legislature without any benefit.

Earlier, Grand Kru County Representative, Numene Bartekwa, said the restated and amended oil agreement between the Government, Exxon and COPL is in the interest of the country. He encouraged his colleagues (lawmakers) to see reason for the timely concurrence with the Senate so that "citizens can benefit" from the agreement.

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