Monrovia, Liberia- The President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL), Madam Saifuah Mai Gray, has been engaged in a war of words with political commentator and radio talk show host, Henry P. Costa for over a week now.
Madam Gray, a staunch member of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change was appointed by President Weah earlier this year to head the nation’s oil company, an appointment many Liberians welcomed because of her competence.
However, few days ago, Henry Costa, Liberian Political Commentator and Host of the famous Costa Show made some surprising allegations against the NOCAL boss, igniting a war of words between the two.
In a Facebook post, Mr. Costa alleged that Ms. Saifuah Mai Gray has been in violation of a Presidential mandate which reduced the salaries of all officials of government. Mr. Costa said, Ms. Gray takes home over US$12,000 monthly in salary and allowances for gas, an amount way above the threshold set by the Presidential mandate for Senior officials of government.
“Today, I will begin to release these documents piece by piece. Please find below, her allowance payment for the month of September in the amount of US$8,897.81”, Mr. Costa concluded in the Post, while posting an International Bank receipt of the transaction on his talk show Facebook Page.
When contacted by The Liberian Billboard, the tough talking Costa doubled down on his earlier claim, and made additional allegations against the NOCAL boss. Mr. Costa said, the US$8,897.81 check he posted, was Madam Gray’s Daily Sustenance Allowance (DSA) for the travel she made with the President to the just ended United Nations General Assembly. He also reemphasized that Madam Gray makes US$12,000 monthly.
In new allegations, Mr. Costa told the The Liberian Billboard that originally, NOCAL was performing both regulatory and commercial functions, but a reform which begun in 2010 saw the passage of two laws amending the NOCAL Act and creating the Liberia Petroleum Regulatory Authority (LPRA). He said, NOCAL is supposed to only concentrate on her commercial functions by acting as an oil company, while the LPRA regulate the oil industry by conducting bid rounds.
According to Mr. Costa, initial funding to the LPRA was to come from NOCAL which is earned from regulatory duties. He said, currently, NOCAL has an amount of US$2 million, an amount which LPRA is entitled to 50% or US$1 million, but asserted, the NOCAL boss is refusing to release the funds to LPRA.
Meanwhile, Ms. Gray who is known in intellectual circles as a fighter, fired back at Mr. Costa in several Facebook posts, referring to Costa as a “blackmailer and a stomach advocate.”
In an interview with The Liberian Billboard, Ms. Gray said she does not make US$12,000 as being purported by Costa, and that she has only been at NOCAL for a month. She termed Costa’s assertion as false and referred to him as a “hustler”.
When asked about the authenticity of the US$8,897.81 check posted on Facebook by Mr. Costa, the NOCAL Chief Executive confirmed its existence, but stopped short of identifying the purpose of payment.
Addressing the Liberia Petroleum Regulatory Authority issue, Ms. Gray referred The Liberian Billboard to the new petroleum act of 2014. “You can make your informed decision from there”, she said.
Ms. Gray further emphasized that she doesn’t have time for all the noise going on, and said, she doesn’t have time for Costa’s empty noise.
In the meantime, an investigation by The Liberian Billboard as it relates to Mr. Costa’s LPRA claim uncovered some new information.
The new petroleum act of 2014 which established the Liberia Petroleum Regulatory Authority states, that transition should have occurred 18-months after the passage of the law. However, past NOCAL administrations under the Sirleaf’s regime did not initiate the transition. Further investigations also revealed, current officials of the LPRA were also officials of NOCAL who didn’t make any effort to see the transition through. Mr. Rufus Tarnue, the current Deputy Executive Director for Technical Affairs of the LPRA was Vice President for Technical Affairs at NOCAL, while Mr. Edward Smith, current Executive Director of the LPRA was Chief of Staff of NOCAL. In addition, Dr. Foday Kromah, former President and Chief Executive Officer of NOCAL is Chairman of the Board of LPRA.
A source familiar with the workings of both entities said, the current administration of NOCAL has initiated an audit of the entity, which is the pre-requisite it has set before the LPRA transition can be completed, and assets and funds made available.
Once more, the NOCAL boss refused to speak on the issue when contacted by The Liberian Billboard, and efforts to reach officials at the LPRA proved futile.
The Liberian Billboard is still conducting investigations, and will update the story as more information come in.