By Bradley B Roberts
Former Cabinet Minister and Member of Parliament
March 4th 2018
The Oban Energies saga continued to play out both in Parliament and under the watchful and critical glare in the court of public opinion for all to see and judge. The highly anticipated Heads of Agreement (HOA) was laid on the table in the House of Assembly, but instead of providing the answers promised by Prime Minister the Hon. Dr. Hubert Minnis, its tabling created more questions and charges of malfeasance, corruption and recklessness by a government sworn to be the people’s government.
Of particular interest was the signature page of the HOA where the signature of Peter Krieger, the honourary chairman of Oban Energies seen in the newspapers and on the television news signing the HOA was nowhere to be found. Charges of fraud and corruption filled the posts on social media and in general conversation around the water cooler, in homes, at the bar, on the jitneys and at the lunch counter.
The general consensus was that Prime Minister Minnis whose party the Free National Movement pledged transparency, accountability, honesty and openness in government had failed the Bahamian people miserably. His leadership integrity was weighed in the balance and he and his FNM government were found woefully wanting. In handling his first major and high-profile deal, Dr. Minnis betrayed Bahamians by and the public trust by shamelessly doing the exact opposite to what he solemnly pledged less than ten months ago.
The speculation about the true beneficial owners of Oban Energies continue as the government remains in its echo chamber and cocoon, capable of hearing only their own voices. In the eyes of the Minnis government, the Bahamian people do not have a right to know, due diligence is passé and optional and the rights of friends, family, lovers, donors and the monied interests are more important than the future sustainability and viability of an entire island and future generation. But then again, it’s THE PEOPLE’S TIME
On the issue of the relevant expertise of the principals and executive management team of the company, Prime Minister Minnis had this to say: “Oban Energies’ management team has been involved in large energy infrastructure projects around the world and brings over 30 years of large complex construction experience.” Research has proven this declaration to be an absolute falsehood. The local media reported that based on the information provided by the company’s website on the management team, the leadership of the company had no experience in the petroleum field and all indications are that this entity was assembled for the sole purpose of shopping this project around. Clearly the Prime Minister intentionally misled the Bahamian people on this project.
Something is therefore radically wrong when the government allows persons without any expertise in oil and with checkered back ground supposedly acting as front men for moneyed persons for Oban Energies is an alarming insult to thinking Bahamians be they FNM, PLP or any other Party. It also further begs the questions if the financial backers are legit why have they embrace persons with questionable reputation and no background in oil to act as a front for Oban?
Regarding the number of permanent jobs the project will create, the Prime Minister initially reported the number at 600 after the first phase, the storage and bunkering facility. When he was challenged by me on the validity of these numbers, he back-peddled, changed his story and said 600 permanent jobs will be created after the second phase, the refinery. I again point out that realistically, if this project succeeds, both phases will take more than ten years to come to fruition and while tens of thousands of Grand Bahamians desperately need jobs now, promising them 600 jobs ten years into the future instills no public confidence as at best, it is seen as a pie in the sky.
It was shocking to learn that if the environmental impact assessment gives a red light to this project the Government can’t terminate the agreement. It is absolutely unbelievable that a government would agree to such terms; this is a conflict of interest in that the FNM government is confused about whose interests they were elected to advance, protect and serve. The government has a constitutional and moral responsibility to preserve and protect this country for future generations and not to give it away for a song, a meal of porridge or sacrifice the future of The Bahamas at the altar of political convenience. The FNM government must state unequivocally whose interest they serve. The FNM knows well the environmental challenge which remain unaddressed at the existing storage plant in East Grand Bahama and in Lewis Yard and Pinder’s Point from the former BORCO, now Buckeye. Further, concerns have been expressed that this project could permanently destroy the fresh water lens for a significant portion of Grand Bahama but the government has determined ahead of time that such an adverse EIA conclusion is not a compelling enough reason to terminate this project in the public interest. It is clear that the government is desperate, reckless, and morally corrupt and has failed to protect the interest of the people of Grand Bahamas which they pledged to protect under oath.
I strongly recommend that steps are taken to cause for an application to be filed in the Supreme Court for leave for a Judicial Review of this Heads of Agreement regarding its wanton deficiencies, the failure for full disclosure on Know Your Customer with a view to obtaining an injunction against the project’s continuation until the above concerns are satisfied or rendering the Heads of Agreement null and void because of its vexations to the public interest.