11 September 2013

Liberia: Senate Passes Oil Reform Bill

The Liberian Senate has overwhelmingly passed the Oil Reform Bill, otherwise known as the National Oil Company of Liberia Act of 2013.

The Senate plenary on Tuesday during its Special Sitting took the decision following submission of a report by the Joint Committee on Oil and Energy headed by Grand Kru County Senior Senator Cletus Wotorson, the judiciary headed by Cllr. Joseph Nagbe and Claims and Petition.

The joint committee, which conducted public hearing on Monday, submitted findings to plenary on Tuesday and the bill was passed the same day.

The action of the senators violated the Senate's rule, which calls for the bill to be read three sessions' sitting before talking action.

Many of the senators, including Sinoe County Senior Senator Mobutu Vlah Nyepan, Montserrado County Senator Geraldine Doe Sherif, Grand Kru County Senator Peter Coleman, and Margibi County Senator Oscar Cooper objected that the report from the joint committee be properly perused before passage, but Senators Cletus Wotorson, Armah Jallah, Fredrick Cheru, Isaac Nyenabo, Sumo Kupee and Sando Johnson led the campaign for the fast tracking of the bill that has drawn public interest for the past seven months.

The amendment on the bill proposed that the functions of the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) will be categorized into three agencies: the regulatory arm, which is to guide and provide supervisory role shall be created and headed by a board of directors to be appointed by the President subject to confirmation of the Liberian Senate and all members of the board shall have hydro carbon education or knowledgeable of petroleum products.

The report also added that among the members of the board, the President shall nominate one of them to serve as President and Chief Executive Officer of the agency that is expected to be created within 180 days following the signing of the bill by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

According to the report, the monitoring arm, which is to be called the Ministry of Petroleum, will be headed by a minister with technical education in petroleum marketing and management, especially education in hydro carbon, while NOCAL will be charged with the sole responsibility of collecting revenues and playing the commercial role.

It further states that NOCAL will have the statutory authority to buy oil blocks, if funds are available. Explaining to his colleagues about the status of oil on the Liberian Soil, Sen. Wotorson, who is an expert in the petroleum field, said Liberia is currently in the evaluation stage, using the production sharing contract method.

The senator said, under the Production Sharing Contract, Liberia encourages companies to invest by searching for petroleum products at their own financial expense, and when oil is discovered at the commercial level, said company will be allowed to deduct said initial investments so that the balance is shared between the country and the company on a 40/60 basis.

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