Monrovia — In wake of growing public expectation as to what Liberia worth in terms of crude oil, which reports say is off the country's coast, structural changes have been taking place within the agency entrusted with the responsibility to ensure equitable and productive dispensation of the oil proceeds once found and tapped. Principal focus has been placed on rationalizing the legal framework of the Liberian oil agency called NOCAL (National Oil Company of Liberia) and the budding oil and gas sector. Under the leadership of ex-NOCAL Board Chairman Robert Sirleaf, the Company has been repositioning itself to coup with the daunting challenges, as well as the exhilarating prospects, that the sector has brought upon national governance. With the exit of Mr. Sirleaf recently, Government was confronted with the challenge of finding a capable replacee until the name, Seward Montgomery Cooper, surfaced in the corridors of power. The Analyst's Managing Editor Stanley Seakor has pieced together rather scanty highlights on the new NOCAL chief.
When President Sirleaf announced the appointment of NOCAL new Board Chair last Tuesday, many pundits wondered who he really was in terms of credential and familiarity with the sector. As inks got dry on the appointment, it became clear that the man appointed is a well-known Liberian corporate czar, Cllr. Seward Montgomery Cooper.
Reportedly, he is a product of the University of Wisconsin Law School. He also served as Legal Advisor of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
The Daily Observer Newspaper, which Mr. Cooper granted his NOCAL maiden interview, reported that the NOCAL Chairman Designate is an acclaimed international and corporate lawyer, who also was a member of the Inter-Ministerial Concessions Committee and the Hydrocarbon Technical Committee that negotiate concession contracts for Liberia.
Cooper is reported to have served as the first head of the African Development Bank (AfDB) Integrity and Anti-Corruption office. The AfDB is Africa's premier development financial organization and globally is one of the seven leading international development financial institutions.
According to the Daily Observer, Cllr. Cooper, prior to that appointment, served as the first Chief Counsel and Unit Head for Good Governance at the African Development Bank, where he also served as founding editor-in-chief of the Bank's Law for Development Review and as the first editor of the Bank's Law for Development Bulletin.
As a principal counsel of the AfDB he negotiated complex legal transactions for the Bank's private sector department. The Daily Observer also reported that before joining the African Development Bank, Cooper led the international practice group of one of America's largest multi-cultural law firms based in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area, and that he also lectured as an adjunct professor of business law at the University of Liberia.
Daily Observer quotes him as saying that he acknowledges his appointment as “an honor to be called upon by President Sirleaf to serve in such an important, yet challenging capacity.” According to the paper, Cooper said if the Liberian oil and gas sector is properly managed within the correct framework, NOCAL would continue to be a vibrant revenue-generating corporation.
Cllr. Cooper is reported to have also been a former president of the Liberia Chamber of Commerce and former Deputy Agriculture Minister of Liberia, co-leading the conception of, and drafted the basic document for, the establishment of the African Legal Support Facility, a new multi-million dollar international organization of Member States, headquartered in Tunisia, that provides technical legal assistance to African countries, according to the Daily Observer Newspaper.
The appointment of Cllr. Cooper follows the resignation of former NOCAL Board Chairman Robert Sirleaf several months ago.
Public reactions to the appointment have been generally favorable for Cllr. Cooper, who according to one pundit has a rich profile and remarkable track record.
“My only hope is that Cllr Cooper will practically apply that track record in the new oil industry of our country. We have seen and read profiles like these in the past,” said one pundit, who however that from what I have read about the new NOCAL boss, including his contribution to Africa and the world over, “I pray that he find Liberia in his heart to make this new oil industry a lucrative and peaceful industry that Liberians can be proud of; a violent and crisis free work environment, and when the oil starts leaking the people will see and feel the blessing of their resources. Welcome on board Honorable Chairman after four and half months of void in NOCAL.”
Another Observer noted: “I met Seward when he partnered at the Tubman Law Firm and has always respected him and knew him to be a man of integrity, hope he doesn't change!”