22 November 2013, Monrovia – Representatives from the five electoral districts in L;iberia’s Grand Bassa County have expressed their concerns at the ongoing Nationwide Public Engagement for the draft petroleum (exploration & production) Law which was held at the Unification Pavilion in Buchanan City on Thursday.
After listening to a well-articulated explanation of the draft petroleum law by NOCAL, citizens’ concerns were diversed, but focused on the portions of the draft law that highlights local content, presidential power, and social benefits amongst other issues.
Oliver Opa Yeaney, a delegate from District Three specified that social benefits for counties that may have huge oil discovery be more than other counties because according to him, these counties will be pretty much vulnerable to environmental impact and potential disaster.
A female student of The Grand Bassa Community College recommended that an oil refinery be build in the country, this she said will serve the country’s economy better then what the rubber sector has done. She added that the rubber sector is yet to produce any tire factory even though Liberia produces million of tons of rubber.
Participant, Albert Kangar, Jr. was keen about the power of the president in determining which bidder gets the contract when the process of winning a bid becomes extreme. Kangar’s concern about the ‘exceptional circumstances’ in the draft oil law which might be determined only by the president is ambiguous and must be reviewed by the House of Representatives. Others want the Director-general of the petroleum directorate be elected instead of an appointment by the President, while they also want the Minister of Oil to be appointed and serve for two years only.
Amos Teedo of Electoral District Four and Washington Garmondeh of Buchanan City district (electoral district three) want the government to build a technical institution intended to train Liberians who will take jobs in the potential oil industrials. Their concern comes from the background that Liberia is a novice to petroleum industrial complexity and that if the country must reap the potential benefits, typical Liberians must be knowledgeable or be train about the sector.
On the issue of local content, many of the delegates suggested that the petroleum law creates the condition that more jobs are allocated for Liberians, according to them; this will boast the country’s economy. Some of the delegates also want the Oil law to give opportunity for Liberian college graduates to be given first preference in the Oil job market. Morris Nessain, a former employee of the Liberian Agricultural Company and the Buchanan Renewable Energy, was emphatic about providing opportunity for Liberian business. He said, “We should be concern about how to win more shares for Liberians and built the potential of Liberians who will take over good jobs in the oil sector when it starts to boom.” Habakkuk Morgan of District Three urged the Representatives to make more jobs available for Liberians when reforming the law, according to him this will boost the country’s economy.
Aware of the total number of oil blocks given to international companies, Many of Grand Bassa Citizens want the remaining seven blocks to be reserved until more Liberians are skilled and knowledgeable about petroleum exploration. Out of the total of 30 oil blocks, NOCAL disclosed to the delegates that 10 blocks have been given to international oil companies, two under negotiations and five reserved, while the rest of the blocks are in deep sea.
The concerns and comments by delegates from the five electoral districts of Grand Bassa County is probably a tip of the iceberg. Liberians views about the nationwide consultation on the oil reform law process basically comes from the background that the country’s resources have not been equitably distributed amongst its citizens and with this new phenomenal- Hydrocarbon industrial- citizens are maximizing the chance to express their reservations. But it remains a big question whither their concerns and recommendations will be captured in the final reversed oil law.
“We cannot guarantee that all of your views and concerns will be in the oil law, but we can assure you that when the law is read, you will hear yourself (your recommendations) in the law,” the speaker of the House Alex Tyler noted bluntly. Hon. Tyler comments to the delegates signifies the limitations of their ‘long talks’ and ‘plenty concerns’.
Clearly the time allotted for this Grand Bassa county consultation was insufficient, so Deputy Speaker, Hans Barchue was quick to disclose that those with new ideas and recommendations can give it to their respective lawmakers which will later be brought to the House of Representatives for consideration.