Despite ‘State of Emergency’: 4 Oil Blocks on Auction

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The Liberian Government has announced the sale of four additional oil blocks amidst the declaration of a State of Emergency in the country and amidst growing public outcry against the sale of any of the remaining oil blocks until a “total reform in the oil and gas sector is carried out.”

According to a notice posted on the website of the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL), (www.nocal.com.lr), the government is ready to auction Blocks LB-6, LB-7, LB-16 and LB-17 after several failed attempts to sell them.

NOCAL on Tuesday, August 5, 2014 published the big decision calling for invitations from interested companies from around the world.

“The Government of Liberia,  in association with the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL), is pleased to announce the opening of a Liberia Basin Bid Round scheduled for 5 August 2014.

“Four undrilled offshore petroleum exploration Blocks (LB-6, LB-7, LB-16 and LB-17), which were the subject of earlier Bid Rounds, have again become available.

“The due date for the bids is 31 October 2014. Information about the data available for viewing may be found by clicking on the “Data Available”. On-line data will be available from 7 August 2014 and may be accessed as provided in clause 5.2 of the Bid Invitation Letter. Virtual and physical data rooms will be available to pre-qualified bidders from 11 August 2014.

“Also during this period, Road shows will be held as provided in clause 4 of the Bid Invitation Letter. Please register your interest by submitting the on-line form for further details,” NOCAL said in its notice.

The bid notice is under the direct supervision of Madam Althea E. Sherman, General Counsel/Chief Operating Officer of the oil company.

Interestingly, NOCAL’s pronouncement followed President Johnson Sirleaf’s declaration of a “State of Emergency” on August 6, 2014 to curb the spread of the deadly Ebola virus in the country. The state of emergency declaration, political commentators believed, was intended to silence protests and anger from the public over the handling of the Ebola crisis so far.

The National Legislature, in association with NOCAL,  agreed and announced that government cease to and decline from negotiating any new oil blocks until the necessary reforms are instituted to protect and guard Liberia’s emerging economic powerhouse.

Recently, a group of citizens under the banner “Concerned Citizens” staged a protest at the Capitol Building, calling on the Legislature to stick to its  previous commitment, announcing that there have recently been a series of discussions toward selling additional oil blocks.

In that protest, the concerned Liberians also stated that over “US$30 million has been allotted to the Legislature as kickback, [so that] they (Legislature) [can] ratify agreements.”

Asked about the legitimacy of the group’s allegation, House Speaker J. Alex Tyler declined to comment after a recent meeting between NOCAL and the Legislature was convened and concluded in the Joint Chamber of the Legislature .

To date, several reforms embarked upon by government, including an up-to-date National Oil and Gas Policy and the inclusion of gas in the new oil law, are yet to be concluded.

In the wake of a “State of Emergency”, political commentators are wondering which legitimate and people-centered negotiations can take place when citizens are banned from expressing their disagreements in so many different ways.

Meanwhile, NOCAL announced that it will be holding three events at three separate locations — Lagos, Nigeria pn August 27; London, UK on August 19; and Houston, U.S. on August 21, in connection with these new oil deals.

NOCAL's public relations officers could not be reached to explain why the new blocks have gone on sale in the absence of the promised reforms.

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