The decision of the Ghana Gas company engineers to relocate Ghana’s first gas processing plant from Bonyere to Atuabo is brewing tension among the youth in the Bonyere area who are threatening to secede to Ivory Coast.
“If they don’t want the project to come to Bonyere, then we would join Ivory Coast,” the Secretary of Bonyere Citizens Association, Striver Thomas Awuah threatened, to stress how much they want the project sited on their land.
According to Awuah, presently, the Bonyere community has hired the services of a private valuer to evaluate affected farmlands in the community to show their readiness for the project.
Even though Bonyere is in the Jomoro Distict and Atuabo in the Ellembele District, both are coastal Nzema communities in the Western Region.
The Head of Operations at Ghana Gas Company, Mr Jacob McWood has said that, the change of location is due to technical and geodetic reasons.
But in a sharp rebuttal, the citizens accuse the Deputy Minister of Energy, Mr Emmanuel Kofi-Armah Buah of manipulating the relocation of the project, though he has denied any wrongdoing. The Member of Parliament for Ellembele, Hon. Buah who also doubles as the Deputy Energy Minister said it was premature to say that the project has been relocated.
According to McWood, instead of locating the gas plant at Bonyere, an industrial project will be developed and Bonyere and other communities will be included. “Owners of affected lands in Bonyere would however be compensated for any land used,” he added.
A visit to Bonyere, did not indicate much except some short pillars ostensibly to demarcate the land intended for the project covering some 27.2 km2. However citizens of the area are still expectant of the siting of the project on their land and have vowed to do all that they can to ensure that it is sited at Bonyere.
But a group of residents whose coconut trees were felled when the land was being demarcated have gone to court and sought an injunction on the construction of the gas plant until they are duly compensated.
However, the community wants to treat the court case as an isolated incident. They say that even if there is an injunction, “government can apply the forceful acquisition act of the law to acquire the land,” the Secretary of Bonyere Citizens Association, Awuah has said. He even challenged the claim of the plaintiffs who sent the case to court to prove their ownership of the land. He also revealed that efforts were being made to encourage the plaintiffs to withdraw the case from court.
Bonyere has no chief due to a chieftaincy dispute. However the citizens association has stepped up to the challenge in seeking the interest of the community.
Mr Awuah indicated that the Public Relations Officer of the National Youth Employment Programme, on behalf of the Ghana Gas Company has informed them of the relocation but added that when he contacted the company, it denied ever sending anyone to make such announcement.
With expectations of Bonyere still high, how are the people of Atuabo receiving the news of the relocation.
At Atuabo however, citizens remain calm. On a visit to Atuabo, there is evidence that the road from Tikobo No. 1 through Atuabo to Eikwe is under construction. This project forms part of the COCOBOD sponsored projects. In the Atuabo township itself, while some citizens claim they are not aware of the relocation, others say they have heard of it. Ackah Ekpa, a 28 year old citizen of Atuabo could not hide his joy when he said Atuabo was the original place selected in 2007 for the project, supporting his claim with an old newspaper carrying a news item which mentions Atuabo as the site for the project. He believes that, the project would bring jobs to the people in the community.
When the Paramount Chief of Eastern Nzema Traditional Area, Awulae Amihere Kpanyinli III was contacted on the matter, he said he has no idea of an official decision to site the gas plant at Atuabo, though he knows studies are still ongoing in both Bonyere and Atuabo.
“I am not quite sure how far things have gone but the reality is if it is going to be appropriate to have it at Atuabo, we will welcome it”, Awulae Amihere Kpanyinli III assured.
He however confirmed that, Atuabo was once chosen for the gas project studies before the engineers went to survey the Bonyere area as well.
According to him, presently the surveyors are still surveying the land and there is no heavy duty machine on the site yet.
By Pascal Kelvin Kudiabor, back from Western Region