This newspaper, the Daily Observer, has often complained of the seeming lack of coordination within the Liberian government.The erudite counselor and human rights activist, Tiawan Gongloe, acknowledged as much when, in an article that appeared on the back page of yesterday’s Daily Observer, he said that the absence of both President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and her Vice President, Joseph N. Boakai, from the country at the same time “demonstrates a lack of coordination and makes the country vulnerable and insecure.”Those were strong words. But Cllr. Gongloe would have leveled a far stronger criticism at the government had he realized that there were two more alarming absences. Both the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alex Tyler, constitutionally the second in the line of succession after the Vice President, and the President Pro-Tempore of the Senate, Armah Jallah, are also out of the country!And who was left in charge? Well, Defense Minister Brownie Samukai, whom the President left in charge this time—an assignment to which she has appointed him on numerous occasions.But! If anything happened in Liberia, Defense Minister Samukai would not be constitutionally eligible to accede to the Presidency because after the Speaker, the next in line to the succession is the Dean of the Cabinet, who is the Foreign Minister. ButLiberia has no Foreign Minister at this time, since the resignation a few weeks ago of Foreign Minister Augustine Ngafuan in order to seek political office in the 2017 presidential and general elections. Yes, there is an Acting Foreign Minister in the person of Mr. B. Elias Shoniyin, whose Nigerian-born father, according to unconfirmed reports, is a naturalized Liberian.It may be recalled that in December 1930, when in the midst of the Fernando Po Crisis, President Charles D.B. King and his Vice President, Allen Yancy, resigned, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Johnnie N. Lewis, was away in Sinoe County.With no airplane available to transport him immediately to Monrovia, the Joint Session of Legislature decided to install Secretary of State Edwin J. Barclay as President of Liberia.In the absence of the President, Vice President, Speaker and Senate Pro-Tempore, would the Legislature feel comfortable naming the Acting Secretary of State as President of Liberia?We give this analysis to underscore the critical importance of coordination in any government. In the Executive Branch of the Liberian government, there is one particular office that is responsible for coordination, and that is the Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs (MOS). This office should definitely know of the travel schedules of both the President and the Vice President, and all the key players in the Executive Branch—the Cabinet and heads and deputy heads of all state enterprises. Did the MOS know that the Vice President was traveling to the United States and how long he would be away?The MOS surely must maintain the yearly travel schedule of the President of Liberia. This schedule should be regularly updated and coordinated with that of the Vice President so as to ensure that at no time will these two top officials of government be away from the country at the same time. The reason is the matter of constitutional succession. That is what vice presidents are for—to stand by in case something happens to the President. When President E.J. Roye was assassinated in 1871, his Vice President, James Shivring Smith, succeeded him. On July 23, 1971, when President W.V.S. Tubman died in the London Clinic following prostate surgery, Vice President William R. Tolbert was sworn in as President of Liberia. V.P Tolbert had been advised not to leave the capital until it was conclusively confirmed that President Tubman’s surgery was successful. But as soon as the Vice President learned that the surgery was successfully done, he left Monrovia for his Bellefanai farm in Bong County, about 140 miles into the interior. But when later that morning things turned for the worse and President Tubman bled to death, the Vice President was immediately sent for. He arrived in Monrovia later that evening and was escorted to the Cabinet Room of the State Department (now Foreign Ministry). There, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Richard A. Henries, swore Tolbert in as President of Liberia.We think it is a dangerous thing for the President and the Vice President to be away from the country at the same time. Serious constitutional issues are involved here. This should not have happened and should never happen again. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
…foreign law firm to develop, revise legislation for Guyana’s oil sectorThe Department of Energy is one puzzle piece closer to improving Guyana’s ability to regulate the sector, announcing on Monday that it has almost completed a tender to contract an oil and gas law firm to help Guyana develop much-needed legislation for the sector.Energy Department Director, Dr Mark BynoeThis announcement was made by the Department’s Director, Dr Mark Bynoe, during a press conference at the Department’s new office on Brickdam, Georgetown. According to Bynoe, they are hoping to complete the process in the new week.“The tender for an international oil and gas law firm to revise, replace or develop legislation for Guyana’s oil and gas sector is almost complete, as we are in the contract negotiation phase as we speak.”“We’re hoping to complete this process before Christmas, so we could send the consultants off with a wonderful Christmas present. And the mode take for this project is largely a joint venture approach, with most of the technical expertise coming from the international firm and the non-technical experts coming from right here in Guyana.”Clyde and Co has previously provided international legal expertise to the DepartmentBynoe noted that they had previously been receiving legal advice from international law firm Clyde and Co. In addition, the Energy Department has been receiving advice from specialists like Crude Marketing Specialist, Virginia Markouizos, Commercial Expert Juan Lopez-Raggi and oil and gas legal expert Peter Stewart, himself, a former member of Clyde and Co.Originally scheduled for 2020, the projected start of first oil production for Exxon and its partners has been moved up to sometime this month. A Floating Production, Storage and Offloading (FPSO) vessel has already arrived in Guyana’s waters, with Dutch firm SBM Offshore constructing a second one for offshore Guyana.So far, Esso Exploration & Production Guyana Limited (EEPGL, Exxon’s local subsidiary) has made 14 oil finds in the Stabroek block over 100 miles offshore Guyana, including four for this year.Last year, the company made five discoveries. These discoveries have pushed the total estimated recoverable barrels of oil equivalent to over six billion. In addition, Exxon is moving ahead with its Liza Phase two project, which will contain approximately 30 wells.ExxonMobil has estimated the recoverable resource in the block to be 5 billion oil-equivalent barrels. At US$50 a barrel, that equates to well over US$200 billion. In addition, an independent assessment, or competent people’s report, had found that 2.9 billion barrels of oil existed in the Orinduik block.Exxon is expected to use revenue from its production in order to recoup its capital investment. Whatever remains of this is the “profit oil” Guyana will have to split with the oil company and its associates.All this has happened and the only piece of oil-related legislature that has been made official is the Natural Resources Fund Act. Everything else has been in development. Safeguards like a Local Content Policy to give guidance on local content for Guyanese, an oil depletion policy to control the rate of oil extraction and a national oil spill strategy are still not officially in place.When the second draft of the Local Content Policy was released, the policy itself admitted that it does not deal with mid and downstream oil and gas initiatives but rather, the direct, upstream parts of the sector.A National Oil Spill Contingency Plan (NOSCP) was supposed to have been completed by early November, but that did not materialise. According to the Civil Defence Commission (CDC) Director, Major Kester Craig, a number of factors have caused the plan’s completion to be pushed back.Craig had explained that one major factor in the delay was the additional comments they got from various stakeholders. Another factor was the manpower and resources that were diverted by the CDC to combat the recent effects of overtopping and flooding in coastline communities.Nevertheless, Craig had assured that the lack of a completed policy does not stop the relevant authorities from acting in the unfortunate event of a spill. Moreover, he had promised that the plan would be ready and presented to Cabinet by the time first oil arrives.