18 October 2015, Monrovia – Liberia has already sold off several offshore oil blocs to big international oil companies including ExxonMobil, Chevron, and others generating millions in signature bonuses and other benefits. But with oil prices now at a record low resulting to low interest in expansion by these oil companies, Liberia is looking to contract two more of its offshore oil blocs to an American company-Kosmos Energy.
The National Oil Company of Liberia, which manages the country’s oil sector, is currently facing financial crisis which is forcing the company to redundant bulk of its employees as part of a Sustainable Action Plan (SAP) intended to rescue the company. The SAP was endorsed by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who is facing criticisms for appointing individuals who led the oil company to a downturn.
Just two years ago, Liberia’s oil sector and its state-owned oil company, NOCAL, was flying high. Africa Petroleum, the year before, had announced a discovery; Chevron and Anadarko were actively drilling, and EXXON had joined their ranks by signing an unprecedented contract with the Government of Liberia that provided a hefty $50 Million USD in upfront fees. With the coming of EXXON, almost every oil company in the world was grappling to actively participate in Liberian waters.
But now Liberians are still wondering why the company has fallen from grace to grass, now facing a debt crisis unable to pay rent, employees and at the same time continue to maintain local and international students on its numerous scholarship programs. As part of the efforts to rescue the company, the Liberian Senate recently recommended to the plenary of the body to consider a request from NOCAL to ratify agreement for the sale of additional oil blocs to enable the company raise money to pay off its obligations.
NOCAL recently told employees who have been earmarked to be redundant that the company does not have the money to pay severance at the moment is appealing to the employees to remain calm. In the wake of the meltdown at NOCAL, several Liberians are calling for an audit of the oil company, especially when the company, which managed millions few years ago, is now in financial crisis and at the verge of collapse. But with the same management still in charge, President Sirleaf is working to raise money for the company. The President’s son, Robert Sirleaf served the oil company as Chairman of the Board of Directors and is also blamed for the mismanagement of the company, although he resigned before the company felt into a big financial crisis.