Liberia: U.S. Government to Look Into Complaint Over the Transfer of Liberians 'Vrights to Few Businesses

Monrovia — The US Government- through its Embassy near Monrovia- will engage the Government of Liberia about a 2019 amendment that was made to Liberia's 2014 Petroleum. The plan to engage the Government of Liberia follows a complaint from the Coalition for the Restoration of Liberians Equity (CORLE) and is contained in a communication signed by the the US Ambassador to Liberia, Michael A. McCarthy. "We regularly engage with the government of Liberia on issues involving petroleum exploration and development and I assure you that the concern you have raised will inform this engagement moving forward", a part of Ambassador McCarthy communication to CORLE reads.

Since 2019, CORLE waged a campaign for the Liberian government to undo the 2019 amendments made to the oil law. The group has been particular about the changes made to section 36 that addresses citizens participation. According to CORLE, the amendment to section 36 transferred potential billions of future oil profit from a Citizens Fund Mechanism- which would have benefited every Liberian- to a Business Ownership Mechanism that will benefit only a few politically connected Liberians with Oil & Gas businesses. The specific amendment to section 36 that CORLE is contesting reads: "each petroleum agreement shall contain a provision of least 5% total equity stake FOR COMPANIES owned by persons of natural born Liberian Citizenship". Before the amendment, section 36 required a 5% share FOR THE BENEFIT OF A CITIZENS FUND and layout clear procedures how the equity must be acquired and managed for every Liberians to benefit.

As part of efforts to explain how the 2019 amendment will deny all Liberians and benefit only those with oil and gas companies if the 2019 amendment is not reversed, CORLE released the below table which compares the original version of the law on citizens participation with the 2019 amendment.

President George Weah's longtime friend and political partner- McDonald Wento, prominent Liberian businessmen including Floyd Tomah, Siaka Toure, and Sidikie Musa Bility- the son of businessman Musa Bility- are among the nine elite Liberians selected by the government to receive free 5% equity each in oil concessions that the government is expected to sign.

Many Liberians, including Montserrado Senator Darius Dillon, River Gee Senator Jonathan Sogbie and the Head Pastor of the Restoration Baptist Church, Rev. Gardea Johnson, have called on the 54th Legislature to undo the 2019 amendment and restore Liberians birth rights to the 5% oil profit as was mandated in the original law but the government has taken no action. On August 10, 2020 the full plenary of the Liberian Senate mandated a review of the 2019 amendment, but no action has been taken to date. The Pro-Tempore of the Liberian- Sen. Albert Chie- who CORLE has consistently accused of being the mastermind behind the 2019 amendment- is allegedly using his authority to prevent the review and possible reversal of the 2019 amendment.

CORLE Chairman, Ambassador McCarthy's communication and has described it as a motivation to keep fighting and breakthrough in CORLE's fight to restore the 5% rights in oil profits for all Liberians. "The communication from the Americans - who helped with the reform of the oil sector in 2014- has renewed our hope and reignited our courage to fight until the 2019 amendment is reversed so ALL Liberians -not only a few with oil & gas companies- can benefit from Liberia's oil wealth.

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