26 November 2013, Monrovia – Liberia’s Grand Bassa County District # 3 Representative, Gabriel B. Smith, has underscored the dual role that the oil sector plays in the development or destruction of any nation, including Liberia. According to him, the oil sector serves as an instrument for the development of a nation when it is managed properly for the benefit of the entire citizenry.
On the other hand, he said the availability of oil will also serve as an instrument for chaos and crisis if it is mismanaged by those at the helm of power.
The Grand Bassa lawmaker made these comments recently when he spoke at the ongoing nationwide consultation held in the port city of Buchanan, Grand Bassa County. The ongoing consultation on the New Petroleum Law of Liberia and the act of the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) is intended to have the citizens’ inputs in the final legislation of the two documents.
He said due to the dual role the natural resource plays, members of the House of Representatives decided to embark on consulting their constituents so that some of their inputs and suggestions can be embedded into the document.
The Grand Bassa lawmaker pointed out that the consultation on the oil and gas sector signifies what he called a “true representative democracy.”
Said Rep. Smith: “Against that background, when our colleagues in the Senate had passed the oil law you realized that they were performing their legislative responsibility as well. When they (senators) passed the law, we appreciated their effort. But then, we decided to revert to the law; that we are delegates representing our people and therefore, we cannot pass this law without reaching out to the masses. On the basis of that reasoning, we decided to go to the fifteen political sub-divisions of our country.”
Meanwhile, the citizens of Grand Bassa County have advanced several recommendations to “safeguard and protect the oil and gas sector.”
The citizens said the director for petroleum must not be appointed by the president as being stipulated in the document.
According to them, the director must be democratically elected in order for he/her to be directly accountable to the Liberian people.
The citizens called for the establishment of “Disaster Fund” to help address the issue of pollution. They want the Government of Liberia (GOL) to create a separate college for oil training so that Liberians who have interest in the oil and gas sector can take advantage to go there and learn about the sector.
The Bassonians want Liberians to be given more preference for employment opportunity in the oil and gas sector over foreign nationals.
The citizens also called for safety requirement to be put into place at various companies managing the sector in order to curtail disability in the country.
At the same time, citizens of Grand Bassa County have suggested that the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) have limited authority over the sector.