After years of war reportedly borne of massive corruption, nepotism, deceit, self-interest and lack of respect for the laws of the land which virtually left the country in appalling state of backwardness, every one thought enough lessons had been learned and that Liberia was on its way to glory.
Rep. James Biney
This signaled that post-war governments would avoid planting round pecks in square holes, stick to the principles of adhering to the laws of the land, abiding by the set rules and seeking the welfare of the nation and people first.
No! That’s mere imagination from the look of things, especially considering the rigmarole surrounding the management of Liberia’s newly found oil sector with stakeholders seem to be taking sides on interest and party lines. All of this speaks to the fact that “everything is scattering” and oil is now becoming the new “nightmare” that is putting the nation and people once more asunder. The New Republic reports, observers see this as “patriots Vs pretenders” situation with the Liberian people poised to be the judge.
The discovery of oil, its management and operations is putting friends against friends, causing enmity in public and private cycles, sending others to face the law, and above all, evoking different trends of social disorder with some going left and others right.
In the view of analysts, what this does most is that is has presented a clear picture of Chennie Achebie’s “when everything scatters, the center does no longer hold” witticism and presents a situation where the real patriots will have to be differentiated from pretenders.
The scattering of things or who the real patriots and pretenders are is now very visible in the manner members of the Executive Branch and Legislative Branches of government are hacking off one another’s skin over what to do to give the oil sector the blessing of all Liberians, or the blessing it deserves.
As it stands now, the oil contention has grown teeth and developed thick skin and posed a very serious potential for the play of unnecessary political arm-swinging as seen in the upheaval hovering in the corridors of the National Legislature with the two Houses trying to find their feet on the grounds, heavily engaging one another in unsavory tone.
There are claims and counter-claims of each other trying to push the interest of a particular company.
With these developments, observers are not saying that the oil debacle has become Liberia’s new mustard and nightmare potentially standing in the way of political harmony, peaceful co-existence and social justice as there are semblances of the people attempting to employ tactics of cheat while others are digging in the heeds to resist the devil.
Crux of Debate
The crux of the debate centers on the awarding of operational contracts to investors as well as the terms of the agreement reached with the current investors.
The Liberian Government through the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) has thus far awarded some of the apportioned blocks to companies such as Chevron, Oriento Anadarko, (American owned and based companies) and Gasprom (Russian owned and based company). Oriento is no longer in the picture as there are reports that it sold its share of the blocks to Chevron for millions of dollars.
Rep. Emmanuel Nuquay
But the awarding of contracts to these companies is without contentions as there are claims and counter-claims of “foul-play and bribery,” thereby creating the need for others to call for review of the agreements signed between the government and the investors as well as thorough review of the law regarding the management of the oil sector.
Officials of government, especially some members of the national legislature, have made wide allegations of receiving huge sum of money from some of the companies to operate some of the oil blocks against one another. All of this also has its background in the involvement of the son of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Mr. Robert Sirleaf, who is accused of trying to hijack the process for personal reasons.
Eventhough, Mr. Sirleaf has denied that his involvement with the operations is shrouded in personal reasons, that seems not be watering down the tension as heat from the national resistance to any attempt to dampen the interest of the nation is fogging by the day.
His mother, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf some times told the nation that her son was qualified to occupy the position and that he was rendering what she called “Pro Bono” Services, meaning that he was not being paid at all for the work he is doing at NOCAL. He chairs the NOCAL board, a position which gives him strong teeth to bite and decides what happens with Liberia’s oil management and operation.
NOCAL is accused of playing a “questionable role” in the overall arrangement that led the granting of operational permits to Chevron and the rest of the companies. When it came to power, the present administration of NOCAL acknowledged that its predecessor flopped in the apportioning of blocks to some of the companies.
In the wake of these happenings, most Liberians including members of the Lower House of the Legislature are pushing for the review of all the contracts and agreements the government through the Executive Branch has entered into with different companies. But again attempts to review the agreement are like pushing a camel through the nozzle of a needle, but some members remained resistant.
Last week, the Liberian though its President Pro Tempore, Gbezohngar Findley of Grand Bassa County announced the withdrawal of its committee to the Legislative committee constituted to review the contract.
But a member of the House of Representatives, Representative James Barney of Maryland County let the cat of the bag and indicated the position of the House on the review of the oil contracts and agreement.
Most Liberians are calling for the consideration of national content in the overall management of Liberia’s oil. National Content means that Liberian entrepreneurs will have highest percentages as compared to foreigners.
As the tension arising from the oil debacle is growing and glowing, the House of Representatives is contemplating extending President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf an invitation to appear before the Plenary; but whether this is possible is another born of contention that breeds anxiety.
The idea to invite the president who has a very chief role to play in the entire oil arrangement was put forth by Margibi County Representative Emmanuel Nuquay.
Madam Sirleaf has since denied ever manipulating the oil sector as claimed in many quarters. In a letter to his colleagues, he said the president needed to be invited as he puts it “to ensure that ten existing production contracts are renegotiated to address the need of ordinary Liberians.”
In a letter to Plenary on Tuesday May 8, 2012, Nuquay said in NOCAL`s report all existing production sharing contracts violates sections 2.3, 3.4 and 3.7 of the petroleum law of 2002.
He said section 3.3 defines a 20% free tax, while section 3.4 covers 10% shares are made available to ordinary Liberian who may want to participate in the oil sector.
“There is no disagreement on the petroleum law but what is key is that these divisions be fully complied with in accordance with best practice”, Rep. Nuquay said.
The Margibi lawmaker pointed out that the House maintained that besides the production sharing contracts, block 13 which was agreed to be given to any company to compete with NOCAL even if negotiated and rectified by Senate will not be rectified by the House.
He said this must be upheld in keeping with best international practice as these actions by the Senate tend to undermine the integrity of the lower House.
He added that when President Sirleaf took over in less than two years after the then Charles Gyudu Bryant government she negotiated the Firestone and Mittal Steel Agreements “in the best interest of the Liberian people”.
The lawmaker accused powerful hands that are using money to confuse the people of Liberia, something according to him, tends to brand the lower House as conveyor belts.
He added that the 20% free tax, 10 for Liberians and the 12-18% royalty are issues that are needed to be negotiated and reviewed.
“Reviewing is not negotiation, we are running for the loss”, he pointed out.
The lawmaker furthered that since the production sharing contracts do not protect the interest of ordinary Liberians, the President is invited to ensure that ten existing production contracts are renegotiated to address the need of ordinary Liberians.
Patriots vs Pretenders
Liberia has come a mighty long way in its struggle to glory but has nothing to measure simply because, according to studies, past leaders did not have the nationalistic and patriotic razzmazztazz to do what was right and in trhe interest of growth and development. In essence, it is said that everyone fought hard to get for themselves, thus leaving the country to develop by itself.
Others blamed those they classified as Americo-Liberians (Congo people), those who were born on the soil here, or brought in from America and other parts of the world for the nightmare Liberia is resting in today.
But that is just a thing of the past as present day Liberians do not any longer play to the drum beat of that song, but again others say it is difficult to believe that this is an issue of the past considering ongoing developments.
When companies that Bong Mines, LAMCO and many others took over vital resources, they were not pressed. The laws favored them, and governments then pocketed monies from those agreements.
Now the true sons and daughters of the land are in control of the political theater, many were of the impression that Liberia was now positioned to march the steps of Ghana, Nigeria, Ivory Coast and others.
But, according to many, the issue of patriotism continues to stand tall above all others, given that there are more individual developments as opposed to national development, meaning that those in power in giving ample attention to developing themselves than doing for the entire nation and people.
Indeed, the oil has become a precursor of what ordinary Liberians are prepared to do to make their country, to end to overriding selfishness that has overtaken nationalism.
Most Liberians are now saying, the time has come for them to distinguish and know the true patriots from those who only put on the blanket of pretense.