Dr Kwesi Aning, Peace and Security Expert at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC), has urged government to take stringent measures against the possible activities of transnational criminal groups operating within the sub-region.
He said such steps were critical to prevent activities of terrorists who might take advantage of loose gaps within State security apparatus to create threats in cyber crime, narcotics and human trafficking, proliferation of small arms, as well as in white colour crimes.
Dr Aning who is also the Dean and Director of Academic Affairs and Research Department, KAIPTC, was speaking on the topic on “Health, Safety and Environmental Management in the Oil and Gas Industry” at the on-going 63rd Annual New Year School and Conference in Accra on Thursday.
The programme which was organised by the Institute of Continuing and Distance Education of University of Ghana, provides a forum for public debate on pressing national issues, is on the theme “One Year of Oil and Gas Production: Emerging Issues”.
Dr Aning said the oil find exposed the country to possible intrusion of international criminal activities to create national instability.
“This exposes the country’s level of preparedness and places additional responsibilities on its security agencies, particularly the Ghana Navy and Ghana Armed Forces, to secure the marine and other national frontiers from criminals such as pirates, terrorists and other criminal groups,” he said.
Dr Aning called for a holistic collaborative approach between the various security agencies in the country, ensuring that such agencies were well resourced with the requisite knowledge and tools to combat emerging crime in the face of the oil and gas production.
He said more resources must be channelled into equipping the Ghana Police Service to be able to put in place support systems and the Ghana Navy to acquire patrol vessels.
Dr Aning called for the strict enforcement of migration laws, especially around the western corridors and swiftly address issues of rising ethnic tension among communities within the oil discovered Regions as far as ownership to land and royalties were concerned.
He mentioned the phenomena of the rising youth and graduate unemployment and the anxiety within such groups for life transformation experiences as a result of the oil find as a panacea for social agitations which could lead to national instability.
Dr Aning noted that issues concerning the production and transportation of oil and gas were complex and should be understood by society through education and information flow.
“As the country heads for Election 2012, it is important that the huge expectations of the people, particularly the youth as a result of the oil find are well managed and addressed to prevent social explosions,” he said.
“Government must also address issues of land acquisition within oil find communities and issues of environmental pollution,” he added.
Dr Aning suggested the establishment of two separate registers, National Risk Register and National Assessment Register, to access major risks facing particular areas to be able to address the gap.
He said the State must in addition, through the National Peace Council engage chiefs in the Western Region in discussions on land acquisition in communities where violence was likely to erupt.
Mr Daniel Amalo, Acting Executive Director of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), speaking on the topic; “Environmental Disasters and Management in the Era of Oil and Gas Production: The Role of the EPA”, said the Agency had put in place several strategies to ensure environmental security for oil and gas.
He said the EPA had, therefore, conducted environmental assessment and baseline studies in various locations in the oil discovered Regions and put in place appropriate measures to prevent land based and marine pollution.
“The EPA would by the end of the year have an independent vessel for its monitoring activities and collecting samples without relying on any other organisation. It has also developed capacities of its staff in oil spill preparedness and response with assistance from the International Maritime Organisation (IMO),” he added.
Mr Amalo said a proposed laboratory sponsored by the Norwegian Government would be constructed in the Western Region dedicated to oil and gas monitoring and training for its personnel.
He stressed that while oil and gas could positively affect the country, it could also affect its ecology and called for public support in environmental sensitivity.