AFC sets up oil and gas committee to keep Hughes at arms length from sector; Jagdeo points to loopholes

Last Updated on Saturday, 6 July 2024, 11:04 by Writer

The Alliance for Change (AFC) has set up a two-man internal party oil and gas sectoral committee to insulate its leader, Attorney-at-Law Nigel Hughes from dealing with such matters, but People’s Progressive Party (PPP) General Secretary Bharrat Jagdeo discarded that as insufficient.

“Until we attain government I will have no input in or involvement with the AFC Oil and Gas committee,” Mr Hughes said.

Mr Hughes on Saturday said the AFC has appointed Dr. Vincent Adams and Mr. David Patterson to head the AFC’s Oil and Gas Advisory Committee “with full powers to invite highly skilled technical experts both locally and internationally onto the committee.”

The well-known civil and criminal lawyer again said that within the first 100 days of being elected to office, government would establish the Petroleum Commission and he would part ways with the law-firm that he co-founded. “If and when elected to office I will relinquish all ties with the firm of Hughes, Fields & Stoby,” he said. The lawyer had previously told Demerara Waves Online News that he could not allow the quality of his legal representation to his clients to be affected by his political leadership.

Reacting, Mr Jagdeo questioned the type of leadership that Mr Hughes would be giving to his party in the circumstances by shunting the oil and gas sector to other persons and “abdicating” his responsibility. The PPP leader said Mr Hughes would be in a position to influence his party which has parliamentary representatives who could influence government policy in favour of his clients.

With the AFC leader on record as saying that law firm’s partner, Andrew Pollard has been responsible for the oil and gas portfolio for more than 20 years, Mr Jagdeo highlighted that that lawyer is part of HFS which he owns. “Whether it’s handled by Pollard or anyone else – Exxon’s account – he benefits from it financially when the proceeds come into the company because he is part owner of the company,” said Mr Jagdeo who is also Guyana’s 2nd Vice President and is responsible for the Guyana government’s oil and gas policy. Mr Jagdeo also questioned how the party would deal with oil and gas sector in its 2025 general election manifesto.

On the PPP General Secretary’s reference to Mr Hughes’ appearance in a recent case at the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), the AFC leader said “I didn’t represent Exxon in the CCJ, I represented Hess. But the interests of the three parties were aligned.”

Mr Hughes is among the lawyers representing ExxonMobil in a case brought by the Guyana Revenue Authority.

Though Mr Hughes and his party have been taking a hard line stance against the PPP administration on issues such as corruption, racial discrimination and bad governance, he had represented PPP executive member and former government minister Nigel Dharamlall during a police probe of a sexual offence allegation by a young girl. The Director of Public Prosecutions discontinued the case after the complainant said she did not want to proceed further.