Liberian nobel laureate slams Sirleaf for using family at oil discussion

Nobel laureate Leymah Gbowee

Nobel laureate Leymah Gbowee

19 March 2014, Monrovia – Nobel Laureate Leymah Gbowee, Founder and President, Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa is questioning the credentials and credibility of “oil experts’ brought in by the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) to make presentations on phase two of the nation-wide public engagement on the post-war Liberia’s Petroleum Sector Law Reform.

Estrada J. Bernard III is currently in his last year at South Anchorage High School, where he is an honors student, varsity athlete.

Gbowee, who shared the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize with Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, expressed her disagreements in an open letter to the President Tuesday.

The Nobel Laureate said it raises serious questions to learn that NOCAL entrusted your grandnephew Mr. Estrada Bernard III, husband of the President’s sister, Mrs. Jennie Bernard, a South Anchorage High School student in the State of Alaska, USA, to make a presentation on the development of the National Oil and Gas Industry of Liberia, a country of three and a half million citizens.

Gbowee reminded the president that the National Legislature, in 2000, established the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) to hold “all of the rights, titles and interests of the Republic of Liberia in the deposits and reserves of liquid and gaseous hydrocarbons within the territorial limits of the Republic of Liberia, whether potential, proven, or actual, with the aim of facilitating the development of the oil and gas industry in the Republic of Liberia.

Gbowee explained that it is her understanding that the young Mr. Bernard did an internship with Malcolm B. Roberts & Associates, a firm in Alaska, through his participation in an extracurricular program, the Anchorage School District Gifted Mentorships. Said Gbowee: “I am curious how the 90-day after-school program (SEE LINK) in Alaska prepared 17 years old Mr. Estrada Bernard III with the requisite expertise to speak at NOCAL’s behest before the National Legislature of Liberia and key stakeholders at the National Oil Roundtable. My concern is that the inclusion of Mr. Bernard without further clarity on his expertise undermines your stated efforts to build a transparent process to developing the oil and gas industry.”

According to the Alaska school’s web the Gifted Mentorship program is for the exceptional 11th and 12th grade high school student who has the self-discipline and interest to pursue independent study under the direction of a professional/ expert in a field of great interest to the student. The mentor program is a part of the district’s Gifted Program. “Mentorship study programs are for high-ability, high-achieving students who often have completed all advanced coursework available at the high school level or who are currently enrolled in coursework that applies to their area of interest. The program gives motivated, mature high school students an idea of what it is like to work in a field of their interest by being teamed with a professional who acts as their mentor during a 45- to 60-hour program. The mentor, the student, and the coordinator design a curriculum of activities and projects that expose the student to real-life work situations as well as the latest information and technology in the field. The mentorship is usually completed in ninety days. Meeting times are arranged when it works best for the mentor and the student: usually after school and on in-service days. Students receive an elective credit for the mentorship when they successfully complete a range of requirements.”

Jacqueline Khoury, Director to the Board of NOCAL, explained to reporters last week that NOCAL was making use of the clause of the draft NOCAL law that talks about citizens’ participation. Khoury said Liberia has a Citizens participation clause in that law and that NOCAL is now drying to develop how this clause gives direct benefits to each and every citizen prompting a request to the government of Alaska to provide the experts. “In the course of that, I saw young Bernard on the internet. Liberia pays nothing for their expertise; they were all, including the young man, given to us by the state of Alaska to help us with our process.”

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