NOCAL Gets New Board Chair

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Several months after the resignation of Mr. Robert Sirleaf as Chairman of the Board of Directors of National Oil Company (NOCAL), President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has finally appointed a successor to fill the void left by her son.

The newly appointed NOCAL board Chair, Cllr. Seward Montgomery Cooper, is Legal Advisor to President Sirleaf. It is unclear whether he will be relieved of this position as he heads to NOCAL; or whether he will occupy both positions as his predecessor, also senior advisor to President Sirleaf, once did.

The Chairman’s post at NOCAL is viewed by many as a sensitive but, lucrative, one, due to its cardinal importance to the country’s economy as a major generator of revenue.

Cllr. Cooper’s ascendency to the head of what is being viewed as the nation’s most financially lucrative asset now depends on his success with the Liberian Senate. He will face thorough questioning at the hands of the Senate in a confirmation hearing, which he is expected to attend shortly.

The appointment of Cllr. Cooper as NOCAL’s board chair was announced by President Sirleaf’s office Tuesday, January 21. His appointment comes exactly four months and four days since Mr. Robert Sirleaf tendered in his letter of resignation.

Mr. Robert Alvin Sirleaf resigned his post as NOCAL boss as well as Senior Advisor to the Liberian Chief Executive on Tuesday, September 17, 2013. His appointment by his mother had earlier received a barrage of criticisms from Liberians both at home and abroad. They termed President Sirleaf’s action as nepotism and cronyism.

In his letter of resignation addressed to President Johnson-Sirleaf, Mr. Sirleaf stated that his resignation “fulfills a promise made to the Liberian people” by the President, that his role at NOCAL would come to an end when “reforms were in place.”

He commended the Liberian Senate for the passage of the New Petroleum Law and NOCAL Act which according to him were “important to safeguarding a potential national resource.” It may be recalled that the Plenary of the Liberian Senate on Tuesday, September 11, 2013 passed the New Petroleum Law and NOCAL Act during its Special Session.

Speaking to the Daily Observer in an exclusive interview Tuesday, Cllr. Seward Montgomery Cooper said it was “an honor to be called upon by President Sirleaf to serve in such an important, yet challenging, capacity.”

An acclaimed international and corporate lawyer, Cllr. Cooper also serves as a member of both the Inter-Ministerial Concessions Committee and the Hydrocarbon Technical Committee that negotiate concession contracts for Liberia. He indicated that though the task at hand is a huge one, collective efforts can make President Sirleaf’s dream regarding NOCAL assisting the country’s development a reality.

He said that if properly managed within the correct framework, NOCAL would continue to be a vibrant revenue-generating corporation.

Cllr. Cooper expressed the belief that Liberia is in a better position to learn from the experiences of other petroleum producing countries, especially those on the African continent, to make this newly discovered national asset a blessing for the Liberian people.

He explained that even though there are still challenges with the New Petroleum Law and NOCAL Act, he prayed that after the public consultation exercises, now underway at the lower House, the matter becomes settled and the legal framework put into place.

Counselor Cooper was 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.

Prior to that appointment, he 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.  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. He also lectured as an adjunct professor of business law at the University of Liberia.

Cllr. Cooper is a former president of the Liberia Chamber of Commerce and former Deputy Agriculture Minister of Liberia. He co-led 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.

He is married to the Reverend Dr. Anne Fredericks Cooper, and is the father of three adult children.

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