By Alva Mulbah Wolokolie from Gbarnga
Several residents of Gbarnga, Bong County have raised serious concerns as to what they stand to benefit when oil is being drilled from the costal belt of Liberia.
The residents, most of whom were elderly people dominated by women are anxious to know from officials at the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) and the 53rd National Legislature their direct benefits when the drilling of oil begins.
While the majority of the residents were bombarding the panelists with more comments as to how the oil in Liberia would impact their lives, a minority group called on the government to ensure that revenues from the oil sector should create a means to empower the youths of Liberia.
The residents however advised government to provide more scholarships for Liberians to be trained in various specialized areas in the oil sector.
They appreciate the International Oil Company (IOC) coming to explore the shores of Liberia but the supervision and monitoring of the production and exploration should be taken over by Liberians.
To answer few of the questions being asked, experts from NOCAL disclosed to the residents that Liberia owns 100% of her oil but Liberia and the IOC share what is referred to as “profit oil”.
As for the monitoring process, NOCAL said it has sent Liberian students out of the country to become experts in the oil industry and those students have already been trained to supervise the exploration, the taxations and how to reconcile both government and her partner’s documents.
The citizens were speaking on Monday, November 4, 2013, at the Gbarnga Administrative Building in Gbarnga City during the official launch of the National Legislature nationwide public engagement forum on the petroleum (exploration and production) Act of 2013.
Meanwhile, over 200 young people mainly students from different universities hailing from Bong County appeared on the grounds of the Gbarnga Administrative Building on Monday, November 4, 2013, to protest the ongoing National Legislature nationwide public engagement forum on the draft petroleum exploration and production Act of 2013.
Although the aggrieved youths did not disrupt the normal working of the forum but they were seen reciting political slogans and expressing their own disagreement about the process.
They stood not too far from the main entrance of the building explaining to each lawmaker and other stakeholders the reasons for their protest.
The youth group under the banner Concern Youth of Gbarnga (CYG) claimed they have been left out of the forum by their county lawmakers and as such they believed the public engagement would not be transparent.
According to Mr. Jesse Cole who claimed to be the spokesperson of the group explained to reporters that on many occasions before the forum, they requested a copy of the petroleum exploration and production Act of 2013 for examination before making input at the forum but astonishingly their request was ignored by the County Legislative Caucus.
While the discussion was ongoing in the building with other citizens participating in the process, the youth group could not withdraw from their protest action because they needed attention from either the leadership of the 53rd Legislature or the Bong County Legislative caucus.
Jesse Cole who told reporters that he is the county coordinator of the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (JPC) went further to insist on the presence of House Speaker Alex J. Tyler to answer why the House would decide to discuss a document that has not been distributed to the people of Bong County.
Through the timely intervention of Speaker Tyler with the acknowledgment of Rep. George S. Mulbah, the caucus chair, a copy of the draft law was handed over to the youths so that they can partake in the discussion.
The group accepted the document, lauded the leadership for intervening but could not partake in the forum because they claimed it was belated.