President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf who the world once celebrated as a rock star for being the first female elected President of an African nation, is not having a honeymoon back home in her country and is not finding it rosy early in her second term.
The lower house of the Liberian parliament, the House of Representative is challenging President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and a standoff on the country’s oil wealth with disagreement on the oil contracts awarded to foreign companies ensued. The lower house is protesting the oil contracts to foreign companies which it terms as indifference to the country’s petroleum law that allocates 20% share of every oil block and a royalty fees to the country for every oil contract.
The Liberian lawmakers are demanding the 20% share and royalty fees to the country and has since passed a binding resolution for the re-negotiation of all 12 oil blocks awarded to foreign companies. The current contracts of the 12 oil blocks of the country’s 17 oil blocks awarded by the Liberian government to foreign companies have co-opted the petroleum law leaving the country as a loser with no share and royalty fees.
The lower house vows that the 12 oil blocks already contracted to foreign corporations cannot move forward until the country’s interest is settled in conformity with the country’s petroleum law.
The National Oil Company of Liberia, the government entity in charge of the country’s oil wealth recently toured the country and United States providing information about their vision about the country’s oil wealth but the numerous town hall meetings held in the United States were a theater largely greeted with rejection and disdain. Liberians were furious about the President’s son heading the oil company which they term as a conflict of interest and nepotism.
Liberia new oil wealth just as other African countries experiences, is surrounded with the usual curse which normally comes with this rare natural blessing where the oil wealth found do not secure the interest of the people and country but used to enrich public officials.
The Liberian leader is becoming very unpopular because of how the country’s oil wealth has been pawned to foreign corporations with the country left bare and no share or royalty fees to received in turn. Ironically, a Nigerian businessman who dubbed the country when he issued a faked check that bounced when the government tried encasing it as payment for one of the potentially high yield blocks contracted to him under Transitional Government and still honored and consummated by the Sirleaf administration is a 30% share holder in some of the oil blocks despite his criminal act.
The Nigerian businessman later flipped the oil block to oil giant Chevron and walked away with US$200 million while Liberia did not get a dime for the sale and he still has a 30% share in Chevron production but the country is only entitled to the taxes on the petroleum the corporations will produce.
There is a common view held by Liberians that the country’s new oil wealth is threading the same route other concession agreements and resources discovered went through when their government comprised the country and people interest by awarding contracts to foreign corporation’s like Firestone Rubber Plantation Company and the several mineral contracts awarded to foreign corporations in the 1960s at the height of the country’s iron ore boom. Today, the country and people cannot account for the social and economic development those investments brought the country.