Lower House Accused of Solo Attempt to Organize Nat’l Oil Confab

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As Liberians await comprehensive report on the outcome of the Legislators’ consultative nation-wide tour regarding the Petroleum Sector Reform Act, a Senator of the 53rd Legislature is accusing the House of Representatives of attempting to singlehandedly arrange a national conference on the same sector.

Bomi County Senator Sando Dazoe Johnson, in a May 2014 communication to the Senate plenary at its 29th day sitting Tuesday, noted that such action by the House of Representatives is unconstitutional, “because a national conference can only be called for by both Houses, for a cause, and arranged in collaboration with the Executive Branch of Government.”

According to Sen. Johnson, a conference of this nature being arranged by the Lower House, could also be called by the Executive Branch and approved by the National Legislature.

“The reason is because all national conferences are funded by the Government of Liberia through Legislative appropriation,” Sen. Johnson said.  

Furthermore, the Bomi lawmaker advised his colleagues to communicate with the House of Representatives, the Executive Branch and the international community that the Senate is not in support of such conference because of its unilateral nature.

Within the same communication, Senator Johnson reminded his colleagues that during fiscal year 2013/2014 budget, the amount of US$5 million was allocated for development projects in the various counties, which would be implemented by the Executive Branch with Legislative oversight.

“I request the Liberian Senate to inform the Ministry of Finance and Liberia Agency for Community Empowerment (LACE) that the US$5 million must be apportioned equally to all counties to allow individual Legislators (Senator/Representative) to identify projects in their constituencies to be implemented,” he said.

Though he was absent during the reading and the period of long debate that followed, the Senators urged that the Bomi lawmaker’s letter be turned over to the leadership of the Senate for a proactive role.

Describing the Senate as “the mother” unit of the country, Maryland County Senator H. Dan Morias said any attempt by anyone to call a national conference and reduce the Senate to second fiddle must be rejected.

Outgoing Grand Kru Senior Senator Cletus Segbe Wotorson said out rightly that the mineral Reform Bill did not call for a national conference, noting Senator Johnson’s letter surprises him.

He recalled that both local and international petroleum experts have deliberated on the Petroleum Sector Reform Act, and wondered whether the House of Representatives nation-wide tour was not sufficient or had failed to yield the necessary result, or whether a new emerging development needs to be explained.

“Does that necessitate a national conference to debate? I don’t see the necessity or expediency to have a national conference on this Bill; we are already talking about budget shortfall and from where do we get money for a national conference?” Senator Wortoson questioned.

For his part, Sinoe County Senator Joseph Nagbe said the information of a national conference for him is in the domain of rumor or hearsay, “and I don’t want this Senate to dwell on rumor and hearsay. Even if the House is opting for a national conference, they will have to come to the Senate for our approval or otherwise. I suggest that we take this as information for us, but no further action, because there is nothing concrete before the Senate from the House that speaks for that.”

River Cess County Senator Dallas Advertus V. Gueh for his part recalled that a few months ago the Senate passed the oil deal, and instead of the House rejecting or approving, they decided to take a nation-wide tour to consult our people. He wondered where in the country’s history a Bill has been taken to the citizens by a portion of the Legislature for consultation.

It may be recalled that the House of Representatives and a group of Senators during the Legislative Break, spent the amount of US$900,000 to conduct a nation-wide tour to consult citizens on the Petroleum Reform Act, which had already been passed by the Senate. 

Meanwhile, the Senate Plenary on Tuesday requested the Clerk of that body to write the leadership, informing it of decision empowering them to play proactive role with respect to Sen. Johnson’s letter.

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