As oil exploration heats up in Liberia, properly managing the sector remains a major concern to many Liberians.
Some have expressed fears that as the sector may generate enough funds for the nation, if those managing the energy industry do not put in place the right mechanisms, those counties where exploration are taking place might not benefit from the revenue.
As part of this, a group of civil society organizations under the banner, the Liberia Oil and Gas Initiative (LOGI)including the Liberia Democratic Institute (LDI), Sustainable Development Institute (SDI), Liberia Media Imitative(LMI) and the Liberia Media Democratic Initiative (LMDI) on Thursday began a two-day Multi Stakeholders Forum on the oil concession social development fund. The forum has brought together citizens from counties where exploration is currently taking place including Grand Cape Mount, Margibi, Grand Bassa and Rivercess Counties.
The event which is being sponsored by the World Bank Initiative and World Bank African Region is aimed at broadening local understanding of corporate social responsibility to enhance participation, transparency, accountability and service delivery of the process.
Giving the overview of the two-day event, the Executive Director of LDI, Dan Saryee LOGI said it is important to create the platform for community groups especially those presiding over areas where exploration activities are taking place, generating their views on how revenue generated from the sector can be managed by government to ensure that everyone benefits from the revenue.
He said what remains a key question in the midst of many agreements is if the country is prepared for exploration, something which he said has a far- reaching implication leading to how the sector could be governed, taking into account transparency and accountability.
Mr. Saryee stressed the need for deeper consultations and engagement among different actors in order to make sure that the oil and gas sector is organized.
The LID head further disclosed that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), one of the agencies responsible for environmental management of the sector lacks the capacity to monitor the sector, while the governance of the overall sector remains in limbo, as the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL), which is responsible to manage the process being the major policy maker.
“If you look into some of the concessions, you get to worry about how those concessions were crafted, whether people who were involved into crafting, actually looked into them. Look at the tax regime within the concession, why will certain concessioners pay more and other concessioners pay less; that is something to be concerned about,” he noted.
Mr. Saryee said currently LOGI is working with NOCAL, following up on their operations, noting that though they have not taken upright decisions, they remain concerned about whether their continued management of the reform process will allow the kind of transparency and accountability needed in the sector, with the fact that they also have commercial interest.
Meanwhile, the two- day forum is among other things, discussing the legal framework for awarding contracts on extractive industries in Liberia, as well as the role of NOCAL in the oil industry.