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Feature Article of Thursday, 4 October 2012

Columnist: Kingson, Jeorge

Towards An Effective Local Content Law

: Expectations Of The Local People

A local content law is currently under formulation in Ghana by the relevant authorities. This is in view of the commercial discovery of oil in the country. Expectations are high for the new law which is expected to define how Ghanaians will benefit from the country’s natural resources. JEORGE WILSON KINGSON considers the expectations of the people.
The Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) defines Local Content as the level of use of Ghanaian local expertise, goods and services, people, businesses and financing in oil and gas activities.
A local Content policy which came into being effect in 2011 demands that “all regulatory authorities, operators, contractors, sub-contractors and any other entities involved in any project, operations, activity or transaction in Ghanaian Oil and Gas Industry shall consider local content as an important element in their project development and management philosophy for project execution.”
The Local content law currently under formulation is towards the maximization of the full benefits of the country’s abundant natural resources, among them gold, diamond, petroleum and its associated products. For some time now stakeholders have been meeting and considering what should make a good local content law and it appears progress is in shape for an effective law. It is therefore imperative that such a law takes into consideration the concerns of all stakeholders especially the local people whose life stands to be impacted by the law in no small measure.
Across the country, in particular the host communities’ expectations are extraordinarily high as to how the resources being extracted from beneath them would benefit them. Individual opinion leaders, traditional heads, groups and organizations have all come out in one form or the other to really question authorities on the continues extraction of mineral resources from their land without any direct benefit to them.
"You realize that already as the oil companies have started polluting our sea with toxic substances and the only way to demand justice is to tackle them because through their actions and inactions, they are destroying our beautiful land. What are we getting for all these troubles, nothing. " Kwame Nyokey, a native of one of the oil rich communities in the Western Region told this writer in an interview.
Obuasi is arguably one of the world’s richest gold mines, but for over a hundred years the precious metal mined there has been carted to jewelers in the West and beyond, earning millions of dollars for mining companies and their shareholders. But for the inhabitants of the community and its surrounding areas the activity has brought only hardships to them. Cyanide-polluted streams and farmland contaminated by toxic water are few of the harmful outcomes.
“Obuasi is the ultimate example of how mining is developed in Africa,” says Yao Graham of the Third World Network, a civil society group. “The resources are taken out and very little is left for the community or the country where the mineral is produced.” His concern echoes that of several other resource rich communities in the country.
Already, the effect of the oil discovery has started impacting the people of the Western Region and they are asking for government’s intervention in the areas of legislations that would protect them and still give them the life they have always lived.
Data released by the Ghana Statistical Service show that the Western and Central Regions registered uncharacteristically high inflation rates for the first two months of 2012. Since the discovery of oil off the shores of the Western Region, in July 2007, real estate developers, anticipating rising demand for residential and commercial properties, especially in the Takoradi metropolis, have snapped up prime lands, forcing prices up from below GH¢1,000 to about GH¢2,000 per plot of land.
Investors, considering setting up heavy investments in ancillary industries, such as refineries, bulk oil storage and jetty services, prefer the Axim area of the Western Region. An invasion of apparently unskilled migrants to the region has also triggered concerns about disruptions to the social order and its implications for security and law and order. These are few of the expected difficulties and which is why the people are concerned for legislations.
EXPECTATIONS OF THE PEOPLE
Awulae Amihere Kpanyili is the chief of Atuabo, the community expected to host the gas processing plant. He is also the paramount chief of the Eastern Nzema traditional area and earns great respect from his people. In articulating the concerns of his people towards an effective local content law he enumerated a number of issues that he thinks must make the law. He wished for a law that will guarantee real jobs for the indigenes of the community. It is his wish that the law will specify a quota to be allocated to his people so that they will not have to go struggling with people from around the country who will soon be rushing to the community in search of jobs.
“I want the best for my people. If our local people benefit, that will keep the wealth here, we agree that some contracts are for foreigners because they have the expertise, but there are some for us…Elsewhere, like in Nigeria, in the oil industry, I know a foreigner cannot own anything, it has to be a Nigerian, may be some of those things if we study it well and understand the benefits we should apply it here. We can’t hoard all the wealth but we should have our share, at least a portion of what is going out should be made to stay here, buy so doing we also get our people trained.” Awulae Kpanyili noted.
A recent visit to the Atuabo township revealed a speedy progress of work on the gas processing plant. The land was being cleared and, the pipelines being laid through, huge containers of equipments were being taken delivery off. It was buzzing scenery of activities involving some of the youth of the community doing some menial jobs in support. According to Awulae “So far, we have had our people doing some temporary jobs. We are expecting more than that. We want jobs that will grow with us as a community”.
He was emphatic in his statement to the effect that the local content law should be effective such that the women in the community will have the sole rights to petty trading without having to struggle with ‘outsiders’ for space even in the market place. “Already our women are doing small businesses like food vending and other market related activities. We want it that way, we don’t want anybody coming from outside to come and challenge us for space in those areas, and the law must reflect that” Awulae stated.
Philip Ackah is a 19 year old electrician and a native of Anorchie, a neighboring community to Atuabo. He was staying and working at Takoradi until he head of the relocation of the construction of the gas processing plant from Jomoro to Atuabo, in desperation he packed bag and baggage and relocated to his hometown even before the project takes off. He has been around for about three months and like all others he believes the gas project will change the fortunes of the community. His expectation for the local content law is for a legislation that will ensure that the influence of male expatriates on the women in the community is minimized.
“I know our women are beautiful and I know these expatriates like beautiful black women. If the government can make a law such that they will not touch our women, we’ll be very happy, as for me that is all I am expecting” Ackah passionately stated as he turned back to his work of clearing a heaped rubbish from the land.
Bright Akwesi Eghan is the manager of a popular car washing bay at Takoradi and has been in the business for about nine years. He is worried about the difficulty in the living conditions for the people and wants some form of legislation that can capture that. “Takoradi is now becoming a red light city; living conditions are high and getting higher by the day. I have never seen anything like this before. I think government must make a law to control the situation, else, I don’t know what Takoradi would be like in the next five years” He stated.
Emmanuel Obeng-Gyan is the news editor and the producer of the morning show on Sky Radio in Takoradi; it’s a magazine programme with a segment that discusses concerns of the people on daily basis. The programme has been running for years and according to Obeng-Gyan on regular basis contributors to the programme have expressed concern about the mushrooming of schools that claim to offer courses in oil and gas with promising and ready jobs.
“Almost every corner you turn these days you are likely to find a school that is offering a course in the petroleum sector. More people are rushing there for skills training but our concern is whether these schools have the required accreditation. So you find that after attending these schools you’ll still be hanging around looking for jobs, and the people are getting worried” Obeng-Gyan stated
He was also concerned about the increasing cost of accommodation. “Accommodation in Takoradi has increased dramatically. There are more cases at the regional Rent Control department thn before because landlords are ejecting tenants unlawfully so they can rent the rooms to foreigners and companies for more cash.” He added while urging the law makers to factor into the regulation a clause to protect the tenants from unscrupulous landlords.
ADDRESSING THE CONCERNS
Checks from the various agencies working on the draft local content bill have revealed that actual works are on course to address the various concerns of the people. The chairman of the Civil Society Platform on Oil and Gas, and the Convener of “Publish What You Pay”, Dr. Steve Manteaw said several reviews have been done on the draft bill and that there are indications that within a short time the draft will be sent to Parliament for consideration.

“We have really played our part as civil society, we have made relevant inputs and we believe the final draft will address all concerns of the people.” Dr Manteaw stated.

Victor Kofi Sunu-Attah, the Project Director of the Ghana Gas Company agreed with Dr Manteaw that the bill when finally passed by Parliament will address all concerns. “It is an issue dear to our hearts and we won’t compromise it” he stated.

A policy brief document on local content implementation released by the Integrated Social Development Center (ISODEC) in February 2012 has urged government to expedite actions on the law in the interest of the people.
“The Government needs to expedite action on the Local Content legislation and to ensure that the full complement of institutions and infrastructure necessary to deliver on the objectives of the Local Content Policy are in place without further delay; “
The Parliamentary Select Committee on Mines and Energy is responsible for the recommendation of the passage of the law to Parliament. A leading member of the Committee, Gifty Eugenia Kusi, said Parliament has long been expecting the draft bill and that the committee is anxious to start work on it. She said the issues raised by people are “genuine concerns” and are worth considering “and so will be considered”.

“These are issues that must by all means reflect in the law. When the bill gets to us we shall examine it and when it doesn’t address the issues we’ll cause it to address the issues. That is our responsibility as a committee” She stated.
This Report is under the auspices of The Revenue Watch Institute (RWI), under its programme “Strengthening Media Oversight of the Extractive Sectors Pilot Program"

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