At least 150 stakeholders from over 30 Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have successfully validated two ‘Oil and Gas Laws’, but recommended limitations on the power of the Head of State, in order to promote sustained transparency, accountability and good governance.
The representatives of the CSOs over the weekend in the two-day National Validation Stakeholders Conference, argued that according to Article 22 (b) of the 1986 Liberian Constitution, “All mineral resources in and under the seas and other waterways shall belong to the Republic and shall be used by and for the entire Republic.” Therefore, they said, in order to not provoke a curse upon the oil and gas sector, as has been the case in other countries, there should be a competitive recruitment process, instead of heads of the sector being presidential appointees.
Some of the participants were Thomas Doe Nah of the Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL), Ms. Beneta Ackah of the Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency (LEITI) and Mr. Francis Dunbar of Burn International Incorporated.
Others included Mr. Pindarius Allison, National Consultant of Trust Africa; I. Adams Manobah and Johansen T. Veker of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Paul Hinneh of the Liberia Oil and Gas Initiative and Liberia Petroleum Watch of Isaac T. Charleson.
The ‘Oil & Gas Laws’ refer to the Petroleum (Exploration and Production) and the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) Acts of 2013.
The stakeholders said the Petroleum Directorate, which is headed by a Director General, shall be recruited competitively.
The Petroleum Directorate is responsible to conduct technical areas to be opened for petroleum operations and perform other relative petroleum activities and the President of the National Oil Company should be competitively recruited.
The Petroleum Directorate shall be part of the Ministry of Lands, Mine and Energy until a commercial quantity of oil or gas shall be found for the establishment of the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy.
The stakeholders also said the Board of Directors, which should not be an employee of any of the branches of government, must also be recruited.
The stakeholders further said the National Legislature should attest every sale and allocation of oil blocks; borrowing of money, amongst other crucial petroleum activities.
They argued that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA), the Public Procurement Concession (PPCC) and other governmental agencies should be given the statutory obligation to curb corruption in the gas and oil sector.
The validation was the final revision of the House of Representatives to confirm their commitment in bringing reform to the Oil and Gas Sector, including transparency and accountability, to ensure that all Liberians duly benefit from the potential hydrocarbon deposits.
The conference took place last Friday and Saturday at the Monrovia City Hall.
The Petroleum (Exploration and Production) Act, dubbed the E & P, centered on the establishment of a fiscal and legal regulatory framework for the management and regulation of petroleum activities in the country while the NOCAL Bill is to be established as a commercial entity for the purposes of managing, on behalf of the state, to undertake the exploration, development and production and disposal of petroleum.
The NOCAL Act is also to manage the citizens’ participation in the rights and interests in all petroleum agreements.
It may be recalled that in phase one of the oil and gas reform laws, a 22-member Committee of the House of Representatives solicited citizens’ views and participation throughout the 15 counties.
The second phase was a round table stakeholders meeting which sought the compilation and harmonization of views and interventions emanating from the 15-county’s consultations.
Meanwhile, after the validation, which is the final phase, the bills are expected to be presented on the floor of the House of Representatives for discussion, debate and consideration for passage.
“Let me say after the passage of the Oil Laws by the House of Representatives, there will be a conference committee from both Houses, but with about 50% seeking reelection, there would be a delay in the full passage,” Deputy Speaker Hans M. Barchue said.