By Ohenenana Teleku
For the rich jet set in Liberia it is business as usual, Ebola emergency or not.
Over the untimely makeshift graves of about 1000 compatriots who have fallen to the Ebola scourge and still counting, the Liberian Government has put on sale four additional oil blocks, amid allegations of “bought legislative approval.”
This is despite a State of Emergency in the country in an attempt to control the outbreak of the deadliest Ebola ever and growing public outcry against the sale of any of the remaining oil blocks until “total reform in the oil and gas sector” had been carried out.
A notice posted on the website of the National Oil Company of Liberia, (www.nocal.com.lr), said the government was ready to auction Blocks LB-6, LB-7, LB-16 and LB-17 after several failed attempts to sell them.
NOCAL early August published the big decision calling for invitations from interested companies from around the world.
“The Government of Liberia, in association with the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL), is pleased to announce the opening of a Liberia Basin Bid Round scheduled for August 2014.
“Four undrilled offshore petroleum exploration Blocks (LB-6, LB-7, LB-16 and LB-17), which were the subject of earlier Bid Rounds, have again become available.
“The due date for the bids is 31 October 2014. Information about the data available for viewing may be found by clicking on the “Data Available”. On-line data will be available from 7 August 2014 and may be accessed as provided in clause 5.2 of the Bid Invitation Letter. Virtual and physical data rooms will be available to pre-qualified bidders from 11 August 2014.
“Also during this period, Road shows will be held as provided in clause 4 of the Bid Invitation Letter. Please register your interest by submitting the on-line form for further details,” NOCAL said in its notice.
The bid notice is under the direct supervision of Madam Althea E. Sherman, General Counsel/Chief Operating Officer of the oil company.
Interestingly, NOCAL’s pronouncement followed President Johnson Sirleaf’s declaration of a “State of Emergency” on August 6, 2014 to curb the spread of the deadly Ebola virus in the country. The state of emergency declaration, political commentators believe, was intended to silence protests and anger from the public over the handling of the Ebola crisis so far.
The National Legislature and the NOCAL had previously agreed and announced government’s decision to put an end to “negotiating any new oil blocks until the necessary reforms are instituted to protect and guard Liberia’s emerging economic powerhouse”.
Recently, a group of “Concerned Citizens” staged a protest at the Capitol Building, calling on the Legislature to stick to its previous commitment, because there have recently been a series of discussions toward selling additional oil blocks.
The concerned Liberians also stated that over “US$30 million has been allotted to the Legislature as kickback, [so that]they (Legislature) [can]ratify agreements.”
Confronted with the bribery allegation, House Speaker J. Alex Tyler declined to comment after a recent meeting between NOCAL and the Legislature was convened and concluded in the Joint Chamber of the Legislature.
Several reforms by government, including an up-to-date National Oil and Gas Policy and the inclusion of gas in the new oil law, have stalled.
Political commentators wonder what meaningful negotiations could take place when citizens are banned from expressing their disagreements in a state of emergency.