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General News of Thursday, 23 June 2011

Source: Stephen Yeboah

Oil is not new to us - People of Bonyere declare

Bonyere, farming and fishing community living next to Ghana’s main oil field, the Jubilee Field, have known oil earlier before July 2007 when oil was discovered in commercial quantities in Ghana. The people of Bonyere have declared that oil is not a new thing to them. “This oil has been there since time immemorial” said Peter Nweah, a vibrant community leader, adding that oil is not a new thing to us.

While oil fever gripped Ghanaians when oil was discovered in commercial quantities in 2007, the people of Bonyere were unfazed because they had earlier been exploring and transporting oil. Bonyere, during the regime of Prof. K.A Busia and the military junta led by Col. I.K Acheampong, attracted the interest of the government because of the presence of oil. “During the Busia and Acheampong regime, they came here to perform sacrifices by slaughtering 2 cows” explained the community leaders adding that this was to pave way for the exploitation of the oil in the 1960s and 1970s.

Bonyere, with a population of about 12,000 in Jomoro District in the Western Region, is to benefit from the $1.2 billion gas processing facility that is expected to produce 300 million cubic feet of gas per day and create as many as 5,000 jobs for Ghanaians. The gas will be used to feed a nearby Combined Cycle Gas Turbine to generate electricity and piped to Osagyefo Barge and Aboadze thermal plant to generate more electricity.

The community in the 1960s and 1970s started exploring and producing the crude form of the oil for export in Accra. “Some of our men were fetching the oil, in its crude form, to sell it in Accra”. The people made lots of money out of this business.

The oil again attracted even the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to Bonyere where the people experience series of blasts. “NNPC came here to blast and that dilapidated most of our homes”, Peter Nweah decried.

In an interview with the community leaders as part of the training in oil reporting for Ghanaian journalists organized by Revenue Watch Institute, Thomson Reuters Foundation and Penplusbytes, they asserted that fishermen in Bonyere back then had problems with fishing in the Domunli lagoon. Fishermen that entered the lagoon came out stained with oil. “The name of the lagoon even came about because of the oil”, said Frederick Mensah, a teacher, adding that the only antidote to the oil that covered the body of fishermen was lemon. Domunli in the local language means lemon.

In a related development, the people of Bonyere have charged on the government, the Ministry of Energy and GNPC to release portion of the land proposed for the gas project since the land is too large and will limit the local people’s access to land for farming.

The Ministry of Energy, however, claims looking at the nature of gas the facility should be well separated from the community. “When there is a leakage, its destruction takes a long distance. It was therefore necessary a larger buffer zone was acquired for the safety of the community” Kodua Edjekumhene, Public Relations Officer of the Ministry of Energy, said in an interview.

BY: Stephen Yeboah, back from Bonyere []