LIBERIA: Despite Public Outcry On The Sale Of Oil Block LB 16, Legislature Ratifies, As Senate Concurs With House

Despite of public outcry on the sale of Oil Block 16, the National Legislature has finally passed a Production Sharing Contract between the Government of Liberia and contractors for oil Block LB16. The bill, unanimously passed by the House of Representatives and later concurred by the Liberian Senate in Executive Session Thursday, seeks to increase national economic growth by generating needed revenue for Liberians and the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL).

Speaking to reporters after the passage of the bill, the Secretary of Senate, Nanborlor Singhbe, described the bill as one that is in the interest of Liberians as it showcases a Liberian owned company, the Millennium Corporation.

According to him, the contract is being signed between the government of Liberian and a United States based Oil Company, Liberty Petroleum Corporation; an oil exploration company from Nigeria, Pillar Oil Limited and a private Liberian-owned entity, Millennium Corporation.

He indicated that a total of US$10,500.00 as well as US$11,500.00 will be generated by the government as signature bonuses and for the acquisition of seismic data for LB16.

In another development, the National Legislature has approved a bill entitled; “The Exploration and Petroleum Law and the NOCAL Act of 2013.”

The Act will transform NOCAL into a commercial entity instead of being a regulator for the sale of oil and gas in the country, as well as increase the prospects for commercial oil discovery and development.

It can be recalled that in June 2014, NOCAL commenced bidding processes which included the hiring of an international auditing and consulting firm, Ernst and Young to provide independent oversight to ensure the process conformed to international standards.

In a related development, the Liberian Senate yesterday concurred with the House of Representatives on the Bill to ratify the production sharing contract between the Republic of Liberia, the Liberty Petroleum Corporation of Liberia, the Pillar Oil Limited of Nigeria, and the New Millennium Oil & Gas, for Liberia’s offshore Oil Block LB16.

According to the Secretary of the Senate, J. Nanborlor F. Singbeh, who briefed the Legislative press yesterday, the awarding of the contract was recommended by Ernst & Young, an American company involved in the vetting of companies that participated in the bid round earlier this year.

It may be recalled that President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf last week wrote the Senate, requesting the Senators to delay the closure of their session for this year’s constituency break so that she could submit detailed negotiation report on the exploration of oil blocks.

In her communication, President Sirleaf noted that, “for the past two months, the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) has been concluding negotiations with certain international oil companies for the exploration of the final oil blocks that were initiated under the 2002 Petroleum Law.”

She continued: “We are nearing completion of the process, but need more time in order to make full submission to you. I, therefore, request your consideration of a delay in the closure of your Honorable body…”

The Senate together with the House of Representatives accepted the President’s request, and since this week, the joint energy Committees  of the Senate and House of Representatives, together with NOCAL and other stakeholders of the oil sector have been holding closed door conferences at the Capitol Building.

In a press conference early this week, a former head of NOCAL, who is currently running for the Senatorial seat of Montserrado County, Mr. Christopher Neyor, threatened to ask the Supreme Court of Liberia to place an injunction on sale and ratification of any oil blocks in the midst of the fight against the Ebola outbreak.

In another development, the Senate also late yesterday afternoon, at its executive session, concurred with the House of Representatives to ratify the New Petroleum Law (exploration and production Act of 2014), and the NOCAL Act of 2014.

Meanwhile, news filtering in to the Daily Observer last evening disclosed that embattled Sinoe County Superintendent-designate Thomas Romeo Quioh has been confirmed (legally), but that the Senate will hold on to relaying that communication to the Executive (President), until a hearing by the Internal Affairs Committee into allegations of financial malpractice are probed.

The Pro Tempore of the Senate Gbehzohngar Findley later accepted a request by Sinoe County Senator Joseph Nagbe that the Committee should allow his citizens of Sinoe have a say in issues raised against Mr. Quioh.

The latest twist in Quioh’s nomination saga is a result of the defeat of a motion of reconsideration filed by Bong County Senator Henry Willie Yallah, who argued that the Committee that should have cancelled the nominee’s confirmation hearing until the issue of the GAC audit report indicting him, was investigated.

Senator Yallah expressed dismay that despite that decision, it is surprising that a verbal communication was recently announced placing the confirmation request of Mr. Quioh on the Senate plenary floor.

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