1 July 2014

Liberia: NOCAL Counts Successes

The National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) is has gone on the defense once again, reminding Liberians of its many contributions to nation and people in the area of human and infrastructural development.

NOCAL's public rating is very poor for several reasons, but the management headed by Dr. Randolp A.W.K. McClain has also endeavored to separate the wheat from the chaff, presenting a picture that is far from what the public perceives.

In a statement released yesterday, Dr. McClain outlined the successes of the company which is charged with the responsibility of managing Liberia's virgin oil industry in a bit to enlighten pessimists and set the record straight.

"Let us at the outset declare categorically that NOCAL and the oil sector are marching on impressively, and that the present NOCAL management has achieved more in terms of accomplishments in the sector than at any other time in the recent past," the NOCAL boss noted, dispelling held convictions.

The statement, according to him, seeks not only to count past achievements, but to also mirror the significant inroads made to improve upon those past accomplishments. Based on available evidence supported by facts, he said NOCAL has in recent times accelerated its programmatic and developmental strides across many levels of the sector and society as a whole.

Most of these efforts are projects and activities that touch in very meaningful ways the lives of the ordinary people, he noted in the statement.

Other salient issues touched by Dr. McClain include oil sector reform, contribution to the national budget, the safety, health and the environment (SHE) program, scholarship program and many more.

On the oil sector, he mentioned the draft national petroleum policy put together by the Hydrocarbon Technical Committee (HTC) which comprised the Minister of Finance, Minister of Justice, Minister of Lands, Mines and Energy, Minister of Labor, Chairman of the National Investment Commission, Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Legal Advisor to the President, and subsequently presented to the people in a nation-wide consultation process. "The process was concluded and the National Petroleum Policy was completed. This has since been followed by action on the part of the Lower House to hold similar nation-wide discussions on the draft Petroleum Law and Amendments to the NOCAL Act. NOCAL actively cooperated and supported the national consultation efforts of the Legislature," he said. Concerning NOCAL's contribution to the budget, he spoke of an agreement reached with Exxon Mobil on Block 13, which netted for the government more than US$45M in 2012/2013 fiscal period.

"This deal has also been described by industry experts as "one of the best ever in the history of frontier countries." he said.

Besides that, Dr. McClain divulged that NOCAL contributed nearly US$13 million to the National Budget in 2012/2013, as well as US$14 million in 2013/2014.

NOCAL has also being involved with efforts aimed at securing the safety of Liberians through the establishment of the Safety, Health and the Environment (SHE) program. "NOCAL has also been forward looking in respect of the safety of the Liberian people. Thus, unlike in the past, where no standards existed in the sector relative to Safety, Health and the Environment (SHE), thereby placing the Liberian people at risk, NOCAL has for the first time established concrete and progressive standards in this regard for protecting our people against potentially catastrophic hazards like oil spills and other environmentally damaging effects during exploration and drilling," he said. "By these proactive standards, International Oil Companies (IOCs) are obliged to strictly adhere to these safety measures if they are to do oil business in the country."

"For us at NOCAL, the safety, health and environment of Liberia and its people are more of concern than the anticipated millions of US dollars from oil companies."

On the scholarship front, the NOCAL boss, which is one of the its flagship projects, he said the scholarship program has been expanded exponentially, under the current leadership and has become much better structured than before.

"For example, while in the past the program was somewhat restrictive in terms of its beneficiary spread and limited number involved, NOCAL has not only significantly increased the number of scholarship beneficiaries, but has now established clear cut and appropriate criteria for granting scholarships," Dr. McClain said. "Also, beneficiaries or deserving students now come from all over the country and not just from a limited geographical area or a specific community."

"Indeed, from a small number of four (4) students granted NOCAL scholarship to study abroad between 2010/2011, and with 15 beneficiaries in 2011/2012, the present NOCAL leadership is proud to state that in 2012/2013, a total of 20 students benefitted from the scholarship scheme."

"And for the current 2013/2014 period, the entity is processing 33 beneficiaries who are slated to attend various Graduate schools overseas for academic year 2013/2014."

"Thus from an expenditure of three Hundred Thousand United States Dollars in 2010/2011, NOCAL is poised to spend over Three Million United States Dollars on the scholarship program in 2013/2014 -- constituting a hundred percent increment over the amount spent on such overseas scholarship grantees in 2010/2011 academic year."

He said unlike in the past when the scholarship program was randomly implemented, it is now focused and tailored to the needs of the Petroleum industry, especially in regard to specialization, adding that students are studying for post graduate degrees in oil and gas related disciplines, including Petroleum Geosciences, Petroleum Law and Petroleum Accounting/Finance.

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