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Let Ghana Handle Its Oil A Little Better…

  • SOURCE: | qwesa2big
  • Chiefs in the Western Region have expressed their concern about the rejection of their nine point petition presented to the government through parliament. As a result they plan to meet at the appropriate time to decide on the issue, Awulae Attibrukusu III, the President of the Western Regional House of Chiefs, said this in a speech delivered at the first general meeting of the House in Sekondi.” *[Culled from Ghanaweb General News of Tuesday, 22 March 2011 captioned ‘We still stand by our petition WR Chiefs declare’; Source: GNA.]

    Ghana is lucky to have discovered its oil some years after some sister African countries, notably Nigeria had discovered theirs and gone through the problems that have given this “gift of nature” the negative connotation which has become known as the “oil curse”. Anyone who has someone before him to serve as his “path finder” is very lucky indeed. We, Ghanaians, must therefore count ourselves lucky to have had Nigeria and its oil problems, in particular, to guide us through the learning stages of the oil industry. Had this populous West African country been as lucky as Ghana, it would not have experienced what it has been going through in its Niger Delta area.

    The question that keeps beating my mind is why Ghanaian leaders cannot learn from the Nigerian experience and take steps to forestall future troubles similar to those that took place in the Niger Delta area….. problems whose root causes lay in a “mere” desire of the people of the Niger Delta area to demand their right to “fairness and justice”, which they felt had been denied them, despite the fact that the bulk of the drilling of Nigeria’s oil was in their area and causing them a lot of environmental and ecological problems. Ghana’s Western Regional chiefs are not demanding the ten percent of the oil revenue to share among themselves and the people of their region. They are demanding it to develop their region as compensation, in anticipation of the numerous human and other non-quantifiable costs associated with oil drilling. In our modern time, many Ghanaian chiefs tend to be among the most knowledgeable in our country and therefore know the ecological, environmental and human costs of the drilling of oil in the deep seas along Ghana’s shoreline. Certainly, these chiefs are not making unreasonable demand….. judging by the said non-quantifiable human and other non-monetary costs of oil drilling which have all been well documented and which, also, thanks to luck, have amply been demonstrated to Ghanaians by nature through the recent BP oil spill in America. Thus, it is clear that the chiefs are demanding the ten percent of the oil money for the development of their region in anticipation of the above costs, whose “bite” tends always to have disproportionate local effect. If the demand is for developmental purposes of the region, for which the Government makes provision every year anyway, then why refuse it?

    Secondly, if our Government can claim that the oil discovered in the part of the Gulf of Guinea that borders Ghana’s western coastline belongs to Ghanaians, and not all West Africans, then by extension of the same “logic”, the chiefs and people of Western Region can say the oil we are talking about belongs to the region by virtue of the fact that the people of the region own all the lands of the region, which include the seas bordering them. If we look at the issue from this angle, why should the Government, and for that matter any Ghanaian, feel that the chiefs of Western Region are making unreasonable demand when they ask for only ten percent of the oil revenue, knowing that drilling of oil is associated with numerous human costs that tend to be localised in their effect?

    *Let us give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar. It is not too late for Ghana Government to do this. It can still agree to give this ten percent or any reasonable percentage of the oil revenue to the Western Region for sharing among its various local assemblies to serve as “Special Oil Revenue for Local Development”. People argue that if the demand of the chiefs of Western Region is granted, it will set a precedent. Yes, that argument is correct. *But, what is wrong with setting a good precedent? Is it not better to have a precedent that leads to peace and progress than a wrangle that leads to crisis and confrontation? Ghanaians must not overlook the fact that thunderstorm is a child of the cloud. *Neither should we fail to take cognisance of, and be advised by two collaborative English proverbs that say one same thing in two alternative ways….. “a stitch in time saves nine” and “better late than never”.

    Source: Otchere Darko; [This writer is a centrist, semi-liberalist, pragmatist, and an advocate for “inter-ethnic cooperation and unity”. He is an anti-corruption campaigner and a community-based development protagonist. He opposes the negative, corrupt, and domineering politics of NDC and NPP and actively campaigns for the development and strengthening of “third parties”. He is against “a two-party only” system of democracy {in Ghana}……. which, in practice, is what we have today.

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