LIBERIA: Ellen Requests House To Ratify Oil Block 16, But Former Oil Company CEO Rejects, Threatens Lawsuit Against The President

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has requested the House of Representatives (HOR) to speedily ratify a Production Sharing Contract (PSCs) between the government and contractors for oil block LB16.

According to the Liberian leader, the PSC will generate the needed revenue for the country and the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL), and set precedents for Liberians to participate actively in the sector.

In a communication to the body dated December 15, President Sirleaf named the contractors as the 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.

She added that the PSC bid seeks to maximize signature bonuses that would help address the financial constraints Liberia is faced with and increase the prospects for commercial oil discovery and development.

The Liberian Leader further indicated that the bid was the highest with a signature bonus of US$10, 500, 000.00 and an additional US$11,500.000.00 for the acquisition of seismic data for LB16.

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.

Following the reading of the communication, the HOR forwarded it to its committees on Concessions and Investments; Lands, Mines and Energy; Contracts and Monopoly; and Judiciary for  a quick review and report on Thursday, December 18.

But a contestant in the upcoming Special Senatorial Elections and a Former National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) boss Christopher Neyor has termed the sale of four oil blocks by the government of Liberia as illegal under the prevailing New Petroleum Law adopted June 2012 and has threatened a lawsuit against the entity.

D. Neyor at a news conference on Tuesday said the process leading to the sale of the oil blocks violated Chapter IV, Section 4.4 of the New Petroleum Law.Neyorthus threatened to file a lawsuit against NOCAL for the sale of four oil blocks under dubious circumstances. “I am preparing an affidavit with additional factual information as part of the filing to our high court,” he said.

“As a stakeholder and one whose leadership our people look up to especially in the oil sector, I [Neyor] have consulted lawyers to file an injunction to the honorable Supreme Court against ratification of these illegally obtained oil blocks.” Dr. Neyor said that he would be forwarding information in his possession to the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission [LACC] for investigation.

“I have strong reasons to believe that some stealing is being perpetrated against our country and following the advice of counsel will be forwarding the information,” he said.“I have written to the LACC for opening of a full investigation into the hurried and unwise sale of these oil blocks.”

“It is a pity that not only were these oil blocks sold in the midst of the Ebola epidemic and against the opposition of a cross section of the citizenry, but the entire sale process was illegal under the prevailing New Petroleum Law of Liberia adopted June of 2012.” – Dr. Christopher Z. Neyor

He told journalists that the bidding process, evaluation of bids and award of contracts were outsourced to a private accounting firm adding that it contradicts the law. “All of the evaluation work was done in secret in London, the United Kingdom,” the former CEO of NOCAL said. He noted that a fragment of the Hydrocarbon Technical Committee was used in a controlled and unprofessional manner as a rubber stamp.

He disclosed that those were used in an attempt to legitimize a predetermined objective not in the interest of Liberia. “Moreover trained Liberian legal and technical experts within NOCAL were sidelined in the entire process for sales of these oil blocks,” he said.

"Four oil blocks have been sold under dubious circumstances and now President [Ellen Johnson Sirleaf] has asked the lawmakers to defer their break again for the sole purpose of ratifying contracts for this illegally sold national asset that belong to all of us.” Dr. Neyor explained that the speed of the process could lead one to conclude that the Liberian people have been taken for a ride again.

“It is a pity that not only were these oil blocks sold in the midst of the Ebola epidemic and against the opposition of a cross section of the citizenry, but the entire sale process was illegal under the prevailing New Petroleum Law of Liberia adopted June of 2012,” he claimed.

He furthered that the government is insensitive to the plight of Liberians by selling the oil blocks while people are dying from Ebola, noting that unemployment remains high and the education system a mess, while a small group of people are living at the expense of the vast majority of the citizenry.

“Our people cannot be dying from Ebola, our young people across the country remain unemployed, the education system is in a mess, roads to densely populated communities in our country are deplorable and a small group in the government forms a criminal syndicate at the expense of all of us,” he added.

The lawsuit is the second by a former official in the oil and gas sector in recent times suing the Oil company. Harry Greaves, former LPRC Managing Director is also suing NOCAL.

In a related development arguments in the petition for the writ of prohibition filed by independent senatorial candidate Robert Sirleaf versus the Republic of Liberia failed to get underway Tuesday at the Supreme Court in Monrovia.

The lawyer representing petitioner Sirleaf Tuesday filed a motion for continuance because he says the Supreme Court has denied the writ of prohibition earlier filed by leaders of political parties and civil society groups which led the National Elections Commission (NEC) to declare campaign open for the holding of the Midterm Senatorial Election.

Cllr. Matthias Omejia Jr of the Omejia & Associates Law Firm informed the court that his client was considering consulting his supporters whether to pursue the case or abandon it in the wake of the resumption of campaign activities.

Cllr. Omejia also said another reason for which his client has requested the court for continuance is due to the resolution that came out of the recent meeting with NEC and stakeholders in the political process.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has fined  Government lawyers headed by Solicitor-general Cllr. Betty Lamin Blamo US$200.00 for filing their briefs late.

The court said the lawyers should have filed their briefs not later than last Monday.

Mr. Robert A. Sirleaf, an independent candidate in the ensuing Special Senatorial Election recently filed a writ of prohibition and the subsequent issuance of the peremptory writ of prohibition against the Government of Liberia for the promulgation of Executive Order No.65.

According to him, Executive Order #65 is unconstitutional in that it violates the fundamental rights of the citizens of Liberia as enshrined in Articles 11, 13, and 18 of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia.

In a related development, arguments in the constitutionality of Executive Order #65 filed to the Supreme Court by 14 lawmakers of Montserrado County versus the Government of Liberia by and through the Ministry of Justice were not also heard on Tuesday.

The lawyer representing the 14 lawmakers, Cllr. Kannie Wesso, told the Supreme Court Tuesday that his clients have informed him about their intention to withdraw the case because campaign activities for the holding of the senatorial election were already ongoing, and as such there was no need to continue to pursue the case.

In response, the court said it has taken note of the positions of the petitioners and urged them to return and make legal their respective positions and not verbally.

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