Dr Kwesi Aning, a Security Expert, has expressed dissatisfaction over false optimism some politicians have whipped up in the public over expected revenue in the oil and gas industry, describing the situation as unfortunate.
He said the false expectation which was used as propaganda toolby some politicians during the Election 2008 campaign was creating a potential security threat, especially among youths and people in communities in the Western Region, who felt they had to be given a fair share of the nation’s natural resource.
Dr Aning expressed the sentiments at the Second Graphic Business Roundtable Forum that was on theme: “Ghana’s Emerging Oil Economy: Prospects and Challenges”, in Accra on Tuesday.
Speaking on the topic: “Addressing Environmental and Security Concerns, Legal Frameworks, Civil Society and Community Issues,” the Security Expert said that already there was simmering conflict experienced by the Nzema and Ahanta ethnic groups in the Western Region, critically on land sale, youth and unemployment.
Dr Aning said “Because the chiefs and people of Ahanta and Nzema descent were not ‘officially’ informed about the discovery of oil on their ancestral land and neither consulted on the processes and procedures towards the utilisation of and demarcation of the blocs, initial tensions arose between them as to whose portion of the sea the oil discovery had taken place”.
He underscored the importance of focusing on nationality and security implications of Ghana’s oil discovery and the national security concerns that arose adding “if in making such strategic choices citizens and community concerns do not become the centre-piece of such considerations, then natural resource management as conflict prevention becomes a charade.”
Dr Aning called for the implementation of a national strategy that was integrated and responsive in nature to deal with both community concerns and ethnic tensions that had arisen and were likely to arise due to discovery of oil and gas in commercial quantities.
He expressed the view that government should efficiently engage the youth and people in the Western Region to address their concerns.
Dr Aning stressed that the chiefs served as conduit through which the loyalty of the State must be built for settling conflicts for posterity.
He said civil societies and communities should become partners in ensuring both environmental safety and security of personnel and installations.
Mr Ken Ofori Atta, Executive Chairman and Co-founder of Databank, called for the establishment of a Ghana Opportunity Development Fund to support and build the capacity of over 90 per cent of Ghanaians as local content for the oil and gas industry.
He said there was the need for policy makers and implementers to tackle other sectors of the economy for development, adding that Ghana needed to learn from best examples of oil countries in the world.
Mr Ofori Atta said that though empirical evidence demonstrated that countries endowed with natural resources had their socio-economic development stagnating, Ghana stood the chance of making a positive difference in prudent and transparent management of the oil wealth by learning from successful oil countries like Brazil, Norway and Botswana.