Politics and Oil

Liberia’s third post conflict democratic elections are expected to be held in 2017 to   usher   in another government when the mandate of the   current government’s second and final term expires.

This will mark the country’s first democratic transition in more than forty years.

Already, the United Nations Mission in Liberia or UNMIL has turned over the security responsibility of the country to the Liberian government following thirteen years of peace keeping operations.

Some fear the withdrawal of the United Nations Mission may create a security vacuum and a potential threat to the country’s fragile peace and stability especially with the upcoming elections.

Despite the elections being fifteen months away, various political parties are already canvassing for supporters.

One key area voters might want to know about is how these candidates contesting the nation’s highest seat will handle is the resuscitation of the country’s young oil industry.

It was under the regime of current president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf that Liberia’s oil industry drew the attention of the world’s biggest oil players. With global oil prices at record highs so-called super majors like Chevron and Exxon Mobil were willing to spend the big money it cost to explore potential oil reserves offshore in frontier countries including our own.

At its peak Liberia’s oil industry brought in more than 100 million dollars or 20 per cent of the government’s budget, giving hope that the industry might boost development. With the crash in oil prices in 2014 and mismanagement by the National Oil Company, LIberia’s oil industry is now in chaos.  Chevron has relinquished its blocks having found nothing. The bid round to take over Chevron’s blocks ended with no deal. Only Exxon remains in the country with plans to explore later this year.

In truth Liberia’s leaders have a small amount of control over the oil industry, as global prices are a much bigger factor in helping oil companies decide to explore. But if prices do go back up, as they appear to be doing in recent weeks, LIberians want to make sure the industry is handled better if Libe

While none of the declared presidential candidates was willing to go on tape talking about their plans for the industry, Liberian voters are expressing their views on the steps the next government should take.

Tawo Wolorfai is a student at the college of Agriculture and Sustainable Development, Cuttington University.

He wants all oil contracts signed previously to be revisited by the government to come.