Hunger Pastor Accuses NOCAL of Deception
Mr. Wilmot Ben Yalartai, the pastor who is on a hunger strike in protest of the controversial oil contracts awarded to US oil giant Chevron and nine others has accused the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) of embarking on a deceptive campaign to divert the Liberian people’s attention from these companies.
Pastor Yalatai alleged that the just released draft petroleum policy launched by NOCAL, for which it has begun a nationwide consultation, does not affect the 10 controversial oil blocks, and that the draft petroleum policy is only intended for future oil contracts.
Attempts to verify this new allegation from officials of NOCAL proved unsuccessful Thursday. NOCAL’s Press Manager Mr. Cyrus Badio told this paper that he could have commented on the issue but was not clothed with the authority. NOCAL Vice President for Public Affairs, Mr. Israel Akinsanya could not be reached on Thursday as his mobile phone appeared to be switched off.
But in his open letter addressed to the Government of Liberia, a copy of which was mailed to this paper via e-mail from the United States where he claimed to have gone to lobby for more pressure on the government to renegotiate the deals, the hunger striking pastor alleged that the current strategy being employed by NOCAL falls short of public expectation.
“ We want to extend our thanks and appreciation to the Government of Liberia for inviting the leadership of Churches of Liberia to participate and contribute to the new oil policy that is being developed by the government; unfortunately it is far from our demand and expectation,” pastor Yalartai said.
“Our demand is that the ten (10) oil contracts (Production Sharing Contracts), with Chevron and others are the ones with the most potential and possibility of the discovery of commercial quantity, henceforth, renegotiation or the application of any new oil policy must first apply to them before any future oil contracts, if there will be any,” he continued.
He charged that failure on the part of government to apply the new draft petroleum policy to these contracts force the Liberian people to seek political help from Liberia’s international partners to apply pressure for a renegotiation of these contracts.
“These violations have the potential to create the reoccurrence of another civil war when these companies discover and report a well that has commercial quantity of petroleum or natural gas, especially after the departure of the United Nations Peace Keeping Mission in Liberia. Nigeria and Sudan are perfect examples of our concern,” he said.
There are increased public criticisms against the handling of the oil sector, ranging from the appointment of a son of the President Robert Sirleaf to chair the board of NOCAL to the lack of transparency that has characterized activities in the sector.
Liberia said is a country with population of 3.5 million people, rich in several natural resources: rubber, logs, iron ore, diamond, gold and recently discovered oil, gas etc.
He added that with these several natural resources and fewer people as a nation, over 90% of the population live on less than dollar per day, 92% of its economy is controlled by Lebanese and Indians, its best and lucrative jobs in the private sector are controlled by foreigners while the citizens live in dismal poverty.
This is due to the continuity of unbridled corruption, subjugation, chauvinism, abuse of human rights and lack of rule of law at every level of government. These were the root causes of the fourteen (14) years of civil war which took the lives of more than 250,000 people. There are numerous evidences of the existence of these practices today in the Liberian Society.
The Liberian Form of Government is Republican that says “power is inherent in the people”. Article 7 of the Liberian Constitution provides “The Republic shall consistent with the principles of individual freedom and social justice enshrined in this constitution, manage the national economy and the natural resources of Liberia in such a manner as shall ensure the maximum feasible participation of the Liberia Citizens under the conditions of equality as to advance the general welfare of the Liberian People and their economic development”.
Pastor Yalartai has threatened to file a lawsuit against those companies being excluded from the much-talked about reforms in the oil sector.
“We will file class action lawsuit against these oil companies in international courts because their actions are criminal in nature and have the propensity to destroy our country and kill our people. Be it now or later, we will fervently commit ourselves to this course of action, in fact this is the reason we are presently out of Liberia.
To enable us avoid or dispose of this course of action, Chevron and others must agree to sit down with the NOCAL and the Liberian Government now to renegotiate these ten (10) oil contracts (Production Sharing Contracts), because these are the ones with the most potential and possibility of commercial quantity, therefore, renegotiation or the application of the any new oil policy must first apply to them.”
He said President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and her officials continue to say Chevron and others will sue the government if they renegotiate these contracts, which he noted is not true.
“Nevertheless, we will sue Chevron and others for criminally taking away our natural resources in collaboration with the government of President Sirleaf with the intent to create instability, promote civil war, kill our people and destroy our country”, Pastor Yalartai said and added, “These oil corporations and few handful government officials, including President Sirleaf intend to make billions at the determent of our poor people and it is unacceptable.”
The pastor said he was taking a keen watch of the case: Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Shell before the Supreme Court of the United States. The Ogoni People in Nigeria have filed a lawsuit against Royal Dutch Shell.