House Speaker J. Alex Tyler has described Liberia’s under-development and poor governance system as “appalling and shameful.”
At the close of the nationwide consultation on the draft oil/petroleum law in Bensonville City, Montserrado County, Speaker Tyler highlighted the suffering of Liberians, particularly in the rural areas.
He told the gathering of both young and elderly, that the nation does not deserve what it is undergoing at present. The Bomi County lawmaker stressed the need for legislation that would include input from the people, in order to reflect their hopes and aspirations.
“We are ashamed of the slow pace of development we saw in the counties during this nationwide tour. Because of this situation, we want the citizens to come out and participate in this process so that whatever is written and done will include the people. No amount of criticism will distract us from engaging the people for their participation in these national issues,” he said.
The House of Representatives had earlier confirmed weaknesses on their part as it relates to exercising their oversight responsibilities in monitoring budgetary allocation to government functionaries responsible for infrastructure development. Speaker Tyler blamed public officials for such failure.
Meanwhile, at the consultation, several Liberians including Ralph Nimene of District 16 called for a review of Section 75 of the draft law that speaks of “conflict of interest.”
According to him, if a public official robbed government of millions of dollars and only be made to pay US$50,000 of spend five years in jail, a conflict of interest would be the order of the day as far as public officials was concerned.
“Let a longer jail sentence be prescribed to prevent these malpractices. Remember the oil sector is a lucrative one and a fine of US$50,000 is completely unacceptable for serious crimes against the state,” he said.
The citizens lauded the efforts of the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) for providing international training to Liberians in the oil and gas sector; they, however, called on NOCAL and the government to institute advanced petroleum-related courses at various universities in order to train more Liberians in the field, in view of a shortage of capacity in the field.
“In the area of exclusive jobs for Liberians, the Montserrado citizens indicated that the draft law must define what the jobs are to better inform the public.
On the issue of having a petroleum ministry when oil is discovered in commercial quantity, a delegate of District 17 suggested that the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy remains and be made to perform holistic and multiple roles in that connection.
“Let the proposed Petroleum Ministry be placed under Lands, Mines & Energy Ministry as a bureau for the purpose of small and efficient government,” the delegate pointed.
The Montserrado consultation ends the nationwide tour while a big national conference is expected in Monrovia soon, according to Deputy Speaker Hans Barchue.