2 October 2013

Liberia: House Convenes Emergency Oil Session

Photo: Africa Undisguised
An offshore oil rig.

The House of Representatives on Monday held an emergency session to discuss the possible passage of the National Petroleum bill, previously passed by the Liberian Senate and forwarded for concurrence prior to the Constituents' break.

The session held in closed door lasted over four hours and ended without any comments by members of the House that were present, including Speaker Alex Tyler and Deputy Speaker Hans Bachue. The lawmakers refused to speak to journalists about what was discussed behind closed door.

Despite their silence, some inside sources told this paper that the emergency meeting was intended to discuss how to extend discussion on the bill to their respective districts, while on the agriculture break.

Others also said that the emergency meeting was a result of a request by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to that August body through Speaker Tyler to speedily pass the bill.

The draft national reform petroleum law of Liberia was passed by the Senate and subsequently sent to the House of Representatives for concurrence. The Senate passed the bill despite warnings by some foreign and local experts for thorough scrutiny to avoid future conflicts.

The House of Representatives refused to concur with the Senate on the passage of the oil bill before the end of their second seating on grounds that the bill, as it stands, is voluminous and need ample time to be carefully read before passing into law.

According to the House of Representatives Committee Chair on Lands, Mines and Energy, Representative Adolphus Lawrence of Montserrado County, after a brief review of the bill by his committee, there was need for lawmakers to take the document to their various constituencies to solicit inputs of their people, who will directly be affected after its enactment.

Prior to the passage of the bill by the Senate, a Ghanaian oil expert Kwame Jantuah, was brought to Liberia to advice the committee on comparative best practices with specific reference to neighboring Ghana which is far ahead of Liberia in the oil business.

Mr. Jantuah amongst several other things advised the senate committee to properly look at the local content component of the draft oil law, including the component that deals with the expenditure of monies that will be collected from the oil revenue.

The passage of the reform petroleum law of Liberia is a criterion set by the Legislature for the sale of future offshore and onshore oil blocks here. It is also believed that the House is to convene another emergency session this Friday to continue discussion on the draft oil law.

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