The forum, organised by Friends of the Nation (FON), an environmental NGO, brought participants from various youth groups, assembly members and traditional rulers, as well as persons with disability, gender advocates and members of the public.
The event marked the inception of a four-year project dubbed: “Ensuring Stability and Inclusive Development Prospect in Shama and Sekondi-Takoradi Metropolis.”
The project aimed at increasing citizens’ voices in decision making and development processes in oil and gas industry in the Western Region through participatory community conversation platforms to ensure concrete and measurable actions.
The participants indicated that most Ghanaians had high expectations before the commencement of the petroleum exploration.
Expectations of employment opportunity in the petroleum sector, reduction in fuel prices, rapid infrastructure and industrial growth, as well as the general socio-economic wellbeing of the citizenry.
However, after five years of petroleum exploration in commercial quantities, the hope have been dashed, considering the current hash economic conditions, unending energy crisis and the high rate of youth unemployment.
They therefore asked the managers of the Petroleum Withholding Fund, to explain the various projects and social interventions the petroleum funds have been used for over the past five years, in order to calm the anxiety of the citizens.
Mr Solomon Kusi Ampofo, the Communication, Advocacy and Campaigns Coordinator of FON, said the country had netted GH? 3.208 billion from the petroleum resources through corporate taxes, surface renting, sale of the country’s share of oil produced on the Jubilee and Saltpond Oilfields, as well as other benefits due Ghana.
He observed that the utilisation of the country’s petroleum revenues could be found in the annual and semi-annual reports of the Public Interest and Accountability Committee and, therefore, urged citizens to keep track of the various projects mentioned in the report in order to ascertain their execution.
He added that the project would enhance citizens’ participation in petroleum governance and provide platforms for duty bearers to respond to issues and concerns raised by the people.
Mr. Ampofo noted that regular interactions between the duty bearers and the citizens would promote understanding and ensure social cohesion and stability.
He said the NGO would organise multi-stakeholder dialogues in 60 communities within Shama and Sekondi-Takoradi metropolis targeting more than 21,000 residents.