The senators Thursday reviewed the petroleum law reducing the functions of the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) to only commercial activities.
The legislation which was passed after a nationwide consultation by the senate's lands, mines and energy committee, would, according to members of the committee, seek the creation of a petroleum ministry after or within 180 days following its passage, and also establish a regulatory body that would play some of the current roles of NOCAL.
During the debate before the subsequent passage into law yesterday, Senator Cletus S. Wortorson, Chair on Senate Committee on Lands, Mines and Energy, told his colleagues that the law was consistent with the "Peter's Law of Progress."
"The petroleum industry, as all of you know, is a new baby in this country. But in our anxiety to make sure that we get this black gold, I would like to add that the petroleum industry is dynamic, and evolutionary. And we thought that the laws were not adequate to go and intensify our works in the industry.
"A lot of our people complained that NOCAL which we had created to conduct petroleum operations, was serving as the referee, the player and the spectator or the judge and the jury and the offender. That's a direct conflict of interest," Sen. Wortorson pointed out.
Following some local and international consultations, he said, they thought it necessary to reform some of the existing laws in the sector. "Therefore, it became necessary to divide the work of NOCAL into three categories. There would be a minister of petroleum that we are recommending; there would be an independent regulatory body that would take over most of the functions of NOCAL; and then there would be NOCAL that would do the commercial activities of the companies," he explained.
Senator Wotorson also stressed that some of the weaknesses in the laws proposed to them were also reviewed to make it stronger, adding that the new petroleum act is subjected to revision depending on the developing conditions in the sector.
Also speaking at the plenary, Sen. Mambutu Nyepan, a member of the Senate Committee on ECOWAS, also welcomed the law and indicated that it represents an important milestone in the oil and gas sector of the country.
He however questioned the committee members on a clause in the law that provides that the President of NOCAL shall appoint his or her own Vice President. But Senator Fredrich Cherue explained, "NOCAL is a business entity. Allowing the President to appoint his or her own Vice President would depoliticize the agency and make it more professional," Sen. Cherue responded.
Other concerns raised by other senators were addressed by the committee before the law was overwhelmingly adopted by the plenary.
With the law now adopted, it will have to go through the House of Representatives for a possible concurrence before the President can act on it. There are doubts, however, that the House may not give its concurrence because of the limited time left for both chambers to close for their normal 'Agriculture Break.' Nevertheless, with the speedy manner in which the Senate adopted the law yesterday, speculations are high that the House would concur before going for the break.