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Wednesday, August 12, 2020

=ONE ON ONE= ‘Sierra Leone’s Oil & Gas Licensing Round Is Internationally Commended’ – Petroleum Directorate DG Timothy Kabba

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In the final part of this two part interview with the Director General of Sierra Leone Petroleum Directorate, Timothy Musa Kabba, he states that President Julius Maada Bio is responsible for the successes of the directorate so far and that the licensing round conducted under his watch is being highly commended internationally because it was transparent. He adds that the Directorate is staffed with very educated technocrats who have over the years carved a niche for the Directorate, but that they have still not arrived as they are still learning and in the process circumventing all those actions and decisions which caused sluggish nature of the petroleum sector in Sierra Leone and in other countries. Excerpts: 

Prince C. Kamara: Perhaps you would not mind explaining to us about what went wrong if anything with our petroleum industry.

Timothy Kabba: Perhaps you are referring to the petroleum sector. There is conference of reasons that one will associate with the sluggish nature of the petroleum industry. Key among is our inability to retain investment. Oil and gas explorations are quite expensive. When you have people come to your country to invest, one of the first things you should demonstrate is your willingness to encourage them to stay by creating an enabling environment by leveraging opportunities for these investors. Our licensing round was espoused by the international community because it was transparent. We removed all those financial roadblocks that were in previous licensing rounds. We eliminated these because we want the companies to come and do the work. We want money for our Treasury but we don’t want money to merchandize the process and we want these people to use their resources well; to work with us to unearth the potential that we have. So I think creating an enabling environment is very important and so is also the political will. His Excellency the President has made that political will available by virtue of the non-interference nature into this sort of semi-autonomous institution under the Office of the President. The President gives us a free hand and he encourages and teaches us to be transparent and to be very much accountable in our sector. So that example of His Excellency is setting a goal standard for transparency, accountability and simplicity. People can come to the PD (Petroleum Directorate) like AYV notifying me within a short period of time; for you to come and interview me. As part of the New Direction Manifesto, this is what is required; that we communicate with the public through media like yours because we want to show our accountability and so I think accountability and creating the enabling environment and leveraging investment; reducing the roadblocks that hinder investment are some of the reasons I will associate with the sluggish nature of the industry in the past.

Prince C. Kamara: How capacitated is the Petroleum Directorate in terms of human capital and do you have branches in the country?

Director General of Sierra Leone Petroleum Directorate, Timothy Musa Kabba

Timothy Kabba: Well we do not have branches right now. We are regulators and so we sort of just have one office in Freetown. We have a pool of human resources at the Petroleum Directorate that are very knowledgeable in their respective areas. Our staffs are at least holders of a Master’s degree and the technical team pretty much all of them are also holders of Master’s degree including myself. I also have the benefit of having worked in the industry for long and so I am cut out for the position. I am educated in Petroleum Engineering and I have worked extensively in the oil and gas sector; same as some of my senior staff members who drew experiences from different specialties and fields. However, we still have not arrived. We still have the inspiration to continue building on our capacity and as we go along, we pick up lessons and we ignore and circumvent some of the pitfalls that we’ve learnt from other countries which caused sluggish performance in the oil and gas sector.

Prince C. Kamara: If you had an opportunity to speak with President Bio on what should be done for and to the Petroleum Industry in Sierra Leone to make it better, what would you tell him?

Timothy Kabba: (Laughs) I always have meetings with my president. His Excellency the President is very much au fait with what is happening in the Petroleum Directorate because he is the powerful hand behind everything. I don’t tell His Excellency the President; His Excellency the President tells me what to do and he has always been right. He’s always been supportive with regards our successes in the Directorate. What we are doing right now is inspired by the president. It is the president’s vision that has led to our successful outcomes. The president has a clear vision and he wants us to set a goal standard in the sub-region.

Prince C. Kamara: What is your message to the general public?

Timothy Kabba: Well, the general public should know that the ill-perceived thoughts about the PD are untrue. Today we have a Petroleum Directorate which is very transparent and accountable to the people of this country. Our desire is to promote the common interest of Sierra Leone as far as the gas and oil exploration and industry is concerned without compromising the environment and without losing focus on the very important issue of generating income or revenue for the overall development of this country. We must live as one people. This is the only country we have. We should be united and we should support his Excellency’s development agenda for human capital development. There is nothing a man takes alone into his grave but his education. The president is dedicating about 22 percent of the national GDP into the development of our human capital. We should not allow unscrupulous politicians to divide us. If we are together, we can develop our human capacity to run our show and the benefits from our resources would stay in this country.

Prince C. Kamara: We cannot end this interview without asking you about your contribution towards discouraging the spread of COVID-19. What is it?

Timothy Kabba: COVID-19 is a pandemic. It has affected my sector, it has affected so many other sectors here and in the world and has had an impact on our day to day lives. We just have to ensure we do all that is necessary to stop the spread and eventually eradicate it. We must be very alert and observe all the precautionary measures and adhere to all what we are told to do by health care workers. We should wash our hands daily with soap and water; maintain social distancing and do all the necessary precautions to minimize the spread and transmission of COVID-19. We should remain safe; come out only when it is absolutely necessary; otherwise stay at home. We should express love though not physically. What you have you must share with those who do not have especially with your neighbors. Together we can conquer COVID-19.

Prince C. Kamara: Thank you very much Sir.

Timothy Kabba: You’re welcome.    

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