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Liberia Petroleum Regulatory Agency Boss Resigns after Pestering from Weah’s Officials

LIBERIA: President George Weah’s top petroleum official has tendered his resignation. Mr. Edward R.A. Smith, who served as head of the Liberia Petroleum Regulatory Agency (LPRA) for ten months, resigned mid last week allegedly in wake of scheme by the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs Mr. Nathaniel McGill and the President of the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) Ms. Sefuah Mai Gray to have him dismissed.

Credible sources have informed ConcordTimes.net that the President of NOCAL allegedly with support of the powerful Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, who is also Chief of Staff in the office of President Weah, tried to smear the reputation of Mr. Smith, one of the few Liberians who are trained in the United Kingdom in the field of oil and gas.

The head of the LPRA has 3-year tenure protection, meaning that he/she can only be removed by the President of Liberia for a cause.

And as a means of finding cause for the dismissal of Mr. Smith, sources revealed that officials at NOCAL tried to use the local Jurnaist to tarnish the image of Mr. Smith with an ostensible report from the National Security Agency (NSA) attempting to link the young Liberian to fraud.

The Journalist who contacted Mr. Smith on the NSA report, told ConcordTimes.net that he was paid by some officials at NOCAL to have the purported NSA report published so as to give President Weah the cause to fire Mr. Smith.

Mr. Smith had rejected claims made in the purported report and told the Journalist, named withheld, to publish what he has in his possession if he believe it is correct, but warned he would sue him for publishing malicious story.

The Journalist later confessed that the ‘fraudulent’ report was authored by a senior official at the National Security Agency and allegedly given him by some people at NOCAL to stain the image of the now former LPRA boss.

Other sources have revealed that NOCAL officials invaded the offices of the LPRA recently and attempted forcefully taking it over with the aim of banishing Mr. Smith and his staff away from the building. Our sources stated that the action was aborted based on presidential intervention.

The law that created the Liberia Petroleum Regulatory Authority (LPRA) abridged the power of NOCAL-making it a mere local oil company, no longer a regulator, and instead gave the power to regulate to the LPRA.

The Liberian Government and International Partners spent about US$5 million to create the LPRA because NOCAL was seen as being chronically corrupt at the time. The new law prohibits NOCAL from serving as a referee and a player.

Sefuah Mai Gray, the President of NOCAL has since refused to surrender the regulatory power of oil and gas to LPRA as enshrined in the new law and allegedly embarked on personal attacks on Mr. Smith to have him removed.

Reliable sources say threat on Mr. Smith’s life and efforts to undermine his performance at the LPRA prompted his resignation.

Executive Mansion sources said Mr. Smith’s letter of resignation was handed to President George Weah by a senior government official.

Mr. Smith is the first senior government official to resign from the CDC Government.  Neither McGill non Mai Gray could be reached for comment on the issue after several attempts by ConcordTimes.net. Meanwhile, President George Weah has since named the replacement of Smith.

Political commentators see the acceptance of the resignation of Mr. Smith who was trained in the field of oil and gas on Liberian tax payers’ monies as a misstep by President George Weah. They say the pro-poor agenda of the Weah’s Government cannot be actualized if young professional Liberians are targeted by overzealous confidants of the President.

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