Ghana’s oil exploration: The love and hate relationship
Ghana discovered oil in commercial quantities Offshore West Tano block and West of Cape Three Points in the Western Region, which became known as the Jubilee Oilfield.
Tullow plc, the major operator and its partners started commercial production in 2010 with the Former President John Evans Atta Mills pressing the knob to officially commission it.
Although the country started prospecting for oil and gas in the 1990s, it was in 2007 that a major breakthrough was made in the discovery of oil in commercial quantities.
The people in the six coastal districts in the Region, where the oil was discovered namely Jomoro, Ellembelle, Nzema East, Ahanta West, Sekondi-Takoradi and Shama had high expectations of socio-economic development.
The people expressed high hope of securing jobs with the oil companies, development in the form of construction of school blocks, health facilities, road network and electrification projects, among other social amenities with revenue from the oil.
Unfortunately high expectations had given way to disappointment due to the negative consequences of oil exploration on the livelihood of the people.
Stakeholders from these six oil districts in a workshop on “Oil and Gas dialogue” organised by the Friends of the Nation, a Takoradi-based non-governmental organisation, with focus on the environment, expressed their frustration about the negative impact of oil exploration.
They said there has been drastic reduction in fish catch because fishermen are restricted to certain fishing zones in the sea as a result of the Floating Production Storage Offload facility positioned at the Jubilee Oilfield.
The fishermen complained of spending huge sums of money to buy premix fuel in order to sail deep into the sea sometimes without a catch.
Mr Emmanuel Yankson Kwofie, a member of Community Environmental Monitoring and Advocacy Group, a coalition monitoring the activities of the oil and gas exploration, said residents of coastal communities have witnessed residue of oil on sea waters, which gives an indication of oil spillage.
This, he said, has affected fish catch in the six coastal districts resulting in increased poverty level among the populace.
Some people also experience itching eyes and hot sensation on their body whenever they swim in the sea, as well as sudden headache and severe cold.
Some fishermen also complained that the seismic surveillance vessel use for prospecting oil wells occasionally destroy their nets without being compensated by Tullow and its partners.
Mr Jackson Dad Dadson, a member of the Ahanta University Students Association, commended Tullow for instituting a scholarship scheme, which had sponsored 50 graduates to pursue Masters’ Degree at various universities abroad.
Mrs Emelia Abaka Aidoo, a fishmonger at Axim in the Nzema East District, said as a result of low fish catch, fishmongers had to import the product from Ivory Coast.
Flying Officer Kwamina Adjei Halm, a soldier, said government had acquired a surveillance aerial aircraft, which monitors the activities of fishermen and operators of the Jubilee Oilfield and assured the people that the Military would work in their interest.
He said a surveillance camera had been fixed on the aircraft that captures all the activities on both sea and land and transmit images to the monitoring control room of the Ghana Airforce for quick response.
The Ghana Maritime Authority, established by Act 630 of 2002, regulates, monitor and coordinate activities on the sea.
It also prevents marine source pollution as well as ensuring that both local and foreign vessels abide by the laws regulating activities on the sea for the safety and security of the citizenry.
Madam Stella Cobba, a senior marine officer, indicated that there is marine pollution bill before Cabinet and said when passed into law, there would be severe punishment for people or institutions that pollute the sea and endanger marine life.
She urged fishermen to promptly report vessels that destroy their nets and canoes for timely punishment and compensation.
Although Ghana had experienced economic gains with eight per cent growth rate since the start of oil drill, there is the need for stakeholders in the sector to pay attention to the negative repercussion faced by people whose livelihood depends on the sea.
This is a prudent measure to make sure Ghana avoids the oil curse experienced by other African countries.
It is time Ghana takes swift action to address the concerns of the citizenry and set the pace for oil producing countries to emulate.
By Godwill Arthur-Mensah