The row over Liberia’s newly discovered oil reserve continues to gain momentum with radio talk show callers accusing Montserrado County Rep Edwin Snowe of engaging in conflict of interest in violation of the constitution.
They said by publicly confessing to being a front for a Russian oil company, Montserrado County District #6 Rep Snowe has exposed himself and violated Article 90 of the Liberian Constitution.
Article 90 (a) of the Constitution reads thus, “No person, whether elected or appointed to any public office, shall engage in any other activity, which shall be against public policy, or constitute conflict of interest.”
Amongst other things, Rep Snowe told a press conference Tuesday that he had been approached by Gazprom, the giant Russian oil and Gas Company, to explore the possibility of investing in Liberia’s oil and gas sector.
He said he then went to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and informed her about the company’s interest in Liberia, with a particular reference to Block 13.
But he said, “President Sirleaf amongst things, informed me that because of the location of block 13, being situated between blocks 12 and 14, which are owned by the US Company Chevron, it was impossible to have a Russian company situated between the two clocks.”
Snowe explained that when he escorted the Chief Executive of Gazprom to visit President Sirleaf, NOCAL board chair; Mr. Robert Sirleaf ushered in the Gazprom executive for a closed door meeting, while he (Snowe) was left seated outside in the palava hut of the President.
But he further exposed himself by openly saying that he had personal interested instead of national interest.
“I want oil block but I want it clean and fair. I want to be rich definitely I want to be rich if a Nigerian can own an block and buy a plane which our president most often ride during her foreign travels. I want to buy a plane myself” he told the news conference Tuesday.
Gazprom is one of two bidders that were recommended by Peppercoast, owner of the controversy block 13, but the block is situated between blocks 12 and 14 owned by American oil giant, Chevron.
But callers insisted that the Montserrado County lawmaker engaged in a conflict of interest and violated Article 90 of the constitution.
While Article 90 (b) of the Constitution adds: “No person holding public office shall demand and receive any other perquisites, emoluments or benefits, directly or indirectly, on account of any duty required by Government.”
Rep. Snowe’s confession that he took an investor to see the President on oil deal raises concerns as to whether he received any money from Gazprom to influence a decision of securing block 13.
The callers lambasted Rep. Snowe, arguing that as a Representative it was not his function to front for oil companies, thereby usurping the functions of the Executive Branch of Government.
“What business does Snowe have to carry an investor to the home of the president? Is he now doing the work of the Executive?” one caller retorted.
“He is a lawmaker; let him wait for concession agreements at the Capitol for ratification, but not to front for investors,” Carr Johnson said.
Mr Snowe was once at the center of allegations of sleaze. But prosecutors did not or have not yet pressed charges against him over the scandal at the LPRC where he served as its managing director.
Meanwhile, the National Oil Company (NOCAL) has termed as falsehood a statement Rep. Snowe attributed to Mr. Robert Sirleaf, saying he (Mr. Sirleaf) was angry and disappointed.
In its press statement released Thursday, NOCAL said: “It is important that we set the record straight. Contrary to the claims of Mr. Snowe, NOCAL is accountable; its financial processes are transparent; and rather than seeking information through the backdoor, Mr. Snowe could have walked through the front doors of NOCAL, as we continue to invite all Liberians to do, and request the total records.”
The release added: “Hon. Snowe should be quite angry and disappointed. This new management of NOCAL cannot afford to be less than transparent and accountable to the public. One important aspect of our duties, on behalf of the Liberian people, is to negotiate with publicly traded international companies. For us, representing the people of Liberia, it is important that we remain a credible partner. It is therefore in this light that we have to set the record straight, be open in financial disclosures, and conduct ourselves with respect and credibility.”