Minority Leader in Parliament Hon. Momoh Pujeh has disclosed in Freetown that he has received assurance from President Ernest Bai Koroma that the Petroleum (Exploration and Reduction Act) which was recently enacted under a certificate of urgency would be sent back to Parliament for review.
This came in the wake of wide criticisms from various stakeholders, and calls for the Act to be rejected by the President.
Following the walkout from parliament which was staged by SLPP MPs, civil society organizations backed the opposition to kick against the manner in which the Act was passed into law.
Among the civil society organizations that come down heavily on the government for rushing the enactment of the Act was National Advocacy Coalition on Extractives (NACE).
At a press briefing held on Wednesday 13th July in Freetown by the National Advocacy Coalition on Extractives (NACE), grave disappointment was expressed by the organisation over the rushed procedures implemented in approving the Act.
National Coordinator for NACE, Madam Cecilia Mattia, said: "The rapidity with which the Bill was passed in Parliament underscores the numerous concerns by civil society organizations about poor due diligence and secrecy associated with the operations of the Petroleum Resources Sector within the Office of the President".
According to her, the enacted Act defies the minimum procedure meant for any Bill to be tendered for a parliamentary debate.
"NACE questions the procedure the Office of the President used to tender the Petroleum Bill for discussion in Parliament," she noted, adding that NACE also decries the manner in which Parliament conducted the debate and hastily passed the Bill into law under a certificate of urgency.
"The manner in which some segment of our parliament discussed the Bill is a complete disappointment and a slap to the electorate," she said.
NACE, according to the National Coordinator, is convinced that a comprehensive procedure in ensuring that the public is amply informed on the laws governing the petroleum industry should have been followed, in order for the oil and gas in Sierra Leone not to serve as a curse.
"NACE is unaware of the gazetting of the Bill which should last for 21 days and public attention drawn to that gazette in our local media either print or radio," she disclosed, adding that: "Members of NACE only became aware of the Bill when it was at the pre-legislative stage some five days ago".
Madam Cecilia Mattia noted that the Bill should have been critically studied for proper understanding and thorough national debate.
"We therefore call on the Office of the President to recall the Bill," she noted.
At the press briefing, NACE further revealed that it remains in the dark about the status of the petroleum policy.
"We are not sure if it has moved from the draft state to a final version," Mattia noted, adding: "We emphasize that best practice requires that the policy formulated should be well publicized before enactment into law. NACE therefore demands that he Petroleum Policy be made public in the spirit of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI)".
PS: As we went to press, it has been learnt that the SLPP MPs have once again walked out of Parliament for a second day in a row when it was realised that the reason why the President refused to assent to the Bill was not out of consideration for the Opposition and Civil Society but because the President did not like a section of the Bill that had to do with where the funds from petroleum revenue went.
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.