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The board chairman of the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) has sharply reacted to the barrage of attacks Rep. Edwin Snowe unleashed on him last week, and warned him (Snowe) to resign as a lawmaker if he wants to front for investors.
During his recent press conference, Mr Snowe, amongst other things, told a press conference that Russian oil and gas giant Gazprom approached him to explore the possibility of investing in the oil and gas sector in Liberia.
The lawmaker added that he went to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and informed her about the company’s interest in Liberia, with a particular reference to Block 13.
But Mr. Snowe 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 oil company Chevron, it was impossible to have a Russian company situated between the two clocks.”
Rep. Snowe explained that when he escorted the Chief Executive of Gazprom to President Sirleaf, NOCAL board chair, Mr. Robert Sirleaf ushered in the Gazprom executive for a close door meeting.
Speaking at a news conference yesterday, Mr. Roberts Sirleaf said: “It was then and still is now ethically wrong for the Representative to have participated in the meeting with the President and the representatives of a private company seeking an investment opportunity.”
Mr. Sirleaf said the Representative as a legislator is a ranking member of the House’s Committee on Concessions and Investments and as such if the country had concluded a concession agreement with GPB Neftegaz, that agreement would be forwarded to the Legislature for ratification, instead of fronting for them.
“Again, the President respectfully pointed this out to the representative Snowe), and judging from his prolonged silence, it appeared to all that he understood and accepted the President’s position prior to the meeting.”
Mr. Sirleaf said when the President asked where would he would prefer to sit at her home, Mr. Snowe told her he “chose the Palava Hut.”
The truth is, any Liberian can invite private companies to Liberia to invest, and it is incumbent upon lawmakers to promote Liberia as a destination for investment.
He warned that there should be a line between a lawmaker inviting a company to invest in Liberia and actively representing said company, to the extent of manufacturing a national controversy when it appears that the client company may not win its desired concession.
Mr. Sirleaf suggested “those in positions of public trust who want to operate in such fashion, resign their post and open a private consulting firm that represents foreign companies in Liberia.”
“One cannot be both the seeker of private opportunities while the keeper of public interests and certainly not while serving as the Chairman of the House Committee on Rules and Order and a member of several other committees, including Concessions and Investments,” he added.
He said he has no animosity, only sympathy for his attacker or anyone who, after all that our country has endured, still thinks that he ought to settle for business as usual.
“I will not participate in deals that will increase the number of Liberians who must abandon their pride only to beg for bread and for school fees, at the gates of a few who have gotten richer by depriving the people of what is rightfully theirs,” he said.