Our Oil Discovery, Our Hope

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Three decades and three years ago, Liberians demonstrated an intolerable behavior against the tampering with our stable food rice. It was an act which served as a caveat that Liberians, at any moment, are willing and ready to stand on their feet against whatever forces that tend to reduce the size of their stomach.

Today, there is a mental shift from what pleases and satisfies our bellies to what benefits our economy and improves our lives. Interestingly, that is non-edible oil, crude oil. Our crude oil discovery has sparked hot debates among Liberians both in and out of Liberia. Liberians from all walks of life have been seen on street corners, in attayah shops, on university campuses  and even in churches expressing their views on how the oil revenues should be managed and/or allocated to benefit the general populace. The question that has been frequently asked is, "Is our oil discovery a blessing or a curse?" This question arises from ugly situations that have been witnessed in other African countries including Nigeria, North and South Sudan, D.R. Congo, among others, in which there were bloodshed, and destruction of infrastructures and institutions after oil was
discovered in those countries.

In an attempt to take a  cue from those countries' experiences, Liberians tend to be vigilant and proactive so that our fragile and enjoyable peace will not degenerate into decadence simply because of misappropriation and mismanagement of oil revenues. Sometime in October and November 2013, the Liberian Legislature led a nationwide consultative and awareness campaign in all counties to solicit the candid views of ordinary Liberians with regards to the new petroleum laws; a process which was greeted with mixed  reactions.

While some Liberians welcomed  and commended the process; others rejected and scorned the process as ridiculous, based on the contention that they weren't given copies of the new petroleum law to read and digest. Many  opined that the process was a waste of tax payers' money. It was unofficially reported on local media that US$1.2 million was given to the Legislature for the process. This amount most Liberians considered as too much for a consultation process when in fact many Liberians are wallowing far below the economic ladder in destitution.
However, our law makers returned from their trip around the country announcing success in their excursion. While it is necessary to consider seriously the proper management of our oil revenues, it is also very germane to invest more in the success of the discovery process. I mean investment in the human resource capacity; the training and placement of brilliant, talented and young Liberians.

The recent discovery of crude oil by African Petroleum in our off-shore basin is a laudable achevement. As reported to the general public, the discovery was within the Albian and Turonian strata. Our basin, which is located within the Gulf of Guinea,  provides a reasonable consideration for possible commercial volume of oil reserves. After a thorough research study in the area, it is now believed that the Gulf of Guinea contains about three to four billion barrels of crude oil.

However, the onus is upon our stake holders to put into place a proper modus operandi or mechanism that will ensure that our oil discovery is a success.
According to resource classification, our resources are at present considered prospective resources. Prospective resources are those quantities of petroleum which are estimated as of a given date to be potentially recoverable from undiscovered accumulations. The progression is from prospective resources to contingent resources to Reserves. Each stage requires the expertise of qualified petroleum engineers (reservoir and drilling engineers), petro-physicists, geologists and  petroleum geochemists, among others. Additionally, the utilization of modern sophisticated technologies and software are required. The process might take five to ten years to develop a production well if our oil is of commercial quantity, and there is political stability.
Even though the resources within the earth subsurface are yet to be quantified, Liberians have started to raise eyebrows with  regards to the exorbitant expenditure of our oil revenue on nationwide consultation. The Liberians' hope is that the revenues generated from our crude oil will be used to better the lives of ordinary Liberians and improve the economy.

This shared hope has been reflected in our struggle for balanced participation, justice, and equal opportunities, among others. This struggle,  which has been described in our history as the ugly past, saw hideous crimes being perpetrated by Liberians on their fellow countrymen. This led to the massive destruction of lives, properties and institutions. A bitter resentment and lack of trust have developed in the hearts of many Liberians simply because of the cruel and uncivilized behavior demonstrated toward one another.

However, after ten years of relative peace, Liberians have seen a prospect for better living and the hope to enjoy their family union and community   cooperation. National leaders are now obliged to provide the enabling environment where all Liberians can realize their potential and contribute to rebuilding of Mama Liberia.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

M. Dokie Mulbah is a summa cum laude Natural Science and Mathematics
graduate of Cuttington University, who recently returned from the People's Republic of China with the Master's degree in Petroleum Engineering.  He is currently in conversation with the National Oil Company, including its President, Dr. Randolph McClain, toward engagement to contribute Dokie's quota to the just and efficient development and exploitation of Liberia's petroleum resource.

Authors

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