Oil Law Passage on Ice

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Deputy House Speaker Hans M. Barchue has announced that there will be delay in the passage of the draft Oil and Gas Laws expected to govern that sector.

Addressing the close of the National Validation Conference on the draft petroleum (Exploration & Production) Act and the Draft NOCAL Act of 2013, the Grand Bassa County Representative noted that the draft legislation passage requires collective inputs of both chambers of the Legislation, but with 15 seats of the Senate up for election, achieving said purpose in the soonest time was impossible.

“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 percent seeking reelection, there would be a delay in the full passage,” Deputy Speaker Barchue disclosed.

This means that the proposed legislation will remain on the shelf of the Capitol Building until the controversial December 16 Special Senatorial Election is conducted and legitimate winners are announced and commissioned before further action is taken on the laws.

The House of Representatives at the weekend completed the validation process through a two-day roundtable initiative bringing together several stakeholders including the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) executives among others.

Said validation was intended to conclude the aspect of direct public participation in the formulation process of the draft law, a process that will inform lawmakers’ opinion when deliberating in chambers.

At the Monrovia City Hall event, over 30 Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) from across the country participated in a process considered by legislators as “a medium to institute the desires reform to the Oil and Gas Sector.”

The Exploration and Production Act 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.

According to the draft legislation, the NOCAL Act is also to manage citizens’ participation in the rights and interests in all petroleum agreements.

At the opening of the forum, House Speaker J. Alex Tyler reemphasized the need to ensure that the new Oil and Gas Laws reflect the good of society and strengthen the overall growth and development of the country.

Speaker Tyler said the validation phase on the new Oil and Gas Laws is a key component in reforming the sector and he sees the process as a “turning point aimed at fostering participatory governance in Liberia.”

Also speaking, NOCAL’s vice president for Public Affairs, Lamini Waritay, lauded the efforts of the Legislature to scrupulously examine the new Oil and Gas Laws especially engaging the inputs of Liberians across the country.

He noted that NOCAL will work “shoulder to shoulder” with the lawmakers in order to develop and achieve a framework for a progressive governance of the national resource. “Oil has the potential to make or break our country.  That is why we’re paying more emphasis on laws to guard the sector,” the NOCAL executive said.

The event brought together scores of participants including, but not limited to, Thomas Doe Nah of the Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL), Ms. Beneta Ackah of the Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency (LEITI) and Francis Dunbar of Burn International Incorporated.

Others include 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 Isaac T. Charleson of Liberia Petroleum Watch.

It can be recalled, in phase one of the oil and gas reform laws, a 22-member committee of the House of Representatives solicited citizens’ views and participations 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 consultations.

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