Nobel Peace Laureate, Leymah R. Gbowee, has frowned upon the selecti?called into question the President’s commitment to transparency in such a critical sector:
“This undermines your stated efforts to build a transparent process to developing the oil and gas industry,” Gbowee said.
“Of the seven speakers listed as participants at the discussion, only one biography included direct experience working in the oil and gas industry, and another was an adult Liberian; three participants, one of whom is your grandnephew—the aforementioned current high school student—was affiliated with the Malcolm B. Roberts & Associates firm based in Alaska,” Gbowee pointed out.
Madam Gbowee also noted that her personal research conducted on Roberts & Associates could not point to any website or footprint to “authenticate their credibility”.
“To curb criticisms that these roundtable consultations are not taking a serious approach to the development of the oil and gas industry,” Gbowee advised, “I strongly urge your administration to distribute the names and biographies of all invited participants.”
Madam Jacqueline Khoury, a key Member of the NOCAL Board of Directors, had since defended her entity’s position on the matter, noting that the oil company’s action was based on “citizen participation clause” in the draft Petroleum (Exploratory and Production) law.
She said she first learned of Mr. Bernard, III “on the internet” and that he and his colleagues were “given to us by the state of Alaska to help us with our process.”
Pursuant to this claim, Gbowee has encouraged the oil company to make public the agreement between NOCAL and the State of Alaska signed to bring Mr. Bernard, III and the other experts to speak before the National Legislature to quell questions that funds were misused.
“I also encourage that any materials Madam Khoury viewed on the Internet that demonstrates Mr. Bernard, III’s insights on the oil and gas industry be made publicly available along with any papers Mr. Bernard, III may have written. My search online was only able to find a video of your grandnephew speaking enthusiastically about a pre-college summer preparation course. Greater transparency on who is selected to speak at NOCAL roundtables and the expertise they bring will help buttress Liberians’ faith that NOCAL is fulfilling its mandate,” she added.
“Liberians are rightfully optimistic about the great benefits an accountable, effective management of Liberia’s natural resources, especially the energy sector can bring to their lives—higher paying jobs, greater infrastructure development, and wider access to electricity and clean water among other benefits. The National Petroleum Policy report echoes this optimism. It states that the policy goal is to manage Liberia’s petroleum resources in an environmentally responsible manner to optimize returns for Liberia and ensure equitable benefits to the people of Liberia now and in the future.
“Both the Government of Liberia and Liberians are of one accord that the oil and gas sector must be developed responsibly and for the benefit of all Liberians.”
The Nobel laureate also informed the President that she would be watching keenly:
“As your fellow Nobel Laureate, I supported your first and second term campaign platform to build an open, accountable government committed to rooting out corruption. Therefore, I join Liberians in keeping a keen eye on the NOCAL process.”
Madam Gbowee closed her letter to President Sirleaf by expressing the hope that the President will invest in greater transparency to alleviate concerns of all Liberians that NOCAL and every government entity are acting in their best interests.
The National Legislature, established NOCAL in 2001, intended to hold all of the rights, titles and interests of the Republic of Liberia in the deposits and reserves of liquid and gaseous hydrocarbons within the territorial limits of the country, whether potential, proven, or actual, with the aim of facilitating the development of the oil and gas industry in the Republic of Liberia.
This is Madam Gbowee's second time openly differing with President Sirleaf on policy issues. In 2013, the Nobel Laureate differed with Madam Sirleaf on the appointment of her family members to senior government offices, in flagrant disregard for public outcries against “corruption and nepotism”.