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Opinions of Monday, 14 September 2020

Columnist: Elizabeth Alluah Vaah

Resource royalties and devt of local communities; a game of ‘Fa bra na mema wo bi’ & ‘Fa si h) na k)’

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Recent news on #Agyapa and the unequal development of our rural communities, especially areas that serve as the bread basket of Ghana has me digging into Mineral and Petroleum Royalties regimes in the country. What I have found so far reminds me of two games we used to play in primary school called "Fa bra na mema wo bi", to wit, bring me what you have and let me give some to you” and the second “Fa si h? na k?”, to wit “Leave it there and go”

The game is played by one or more people. Here is how it goes. Once I as a player is tagged by another player, I have to give that player what I have, usually my lunch. The player then takes it and decides whether to give me some, and how much to give me.

In the end, although this might have been my best meal, I now have to rely on the benevolence of the other player who will decide whether I eat or starve. Similarly in the game of “Fa si ho na k?” the person leaves his lunch and goes away for the other party to enjoy. He does not look back to see what happened to his lunch. If he or she has no extra food stacked somewhere, then he or she is toast.

How can anyone agree to such, or even see this as fair? Do the representatives of these communities in Parliament (and yes, THEY ARE REPRESENTATIVES of the people, FIRST and FOREMOST) before their party affiliations, take time to read these bills?

Do they seek input from their people and do they approve these bills and agreements with the interest of their communities at heart, or is it just for their own interest? I thought I had seen enough when I first read what was in the Mining & Minerals Act until I saw what was in the Petroleum Revenue Management Act 2011 (Act 815).

Why do various governments who collect the majority of the revenues accruing from the resources, blatantly disregard the development of these areas? What will it take for successive Ghanaian governments to share the resource revenues equitably? To ensure that these communities get their fair share of development?

Let’s take the Petroleum Revenue Management Act 2011 (Act 815)

“A Petroleum Holding Fund is hereby established as a designated public fund at the Bank of Ghana to receive and disburse petroleum revenue due the Republic.

(2) The petroleum revenue shall be deposited in the Petroleum Holding Fund for subsequent transfers in accordance with the provisions of this Act. This includes

(a) royalties from and additional oil entitlements, surface rentals, other receipts from any petroleum operations and the sale or export of petroleum;

(b) any amount from direct or indirect participation of government in petroleum operations;

(b) corporate income taxes in cash from upstream and midstream petroleum companies;

(c) any amount payable by the national oil company as corporate income tax, royalty, dividends, or any other amount due in accordance with the laws of Ghana; and

(d) any amount received by the government directly or indirectly from petroleum resources not covered by paragraphs (a) to (d), including, where applicable, capital gains tax derived from the sale of ownership of exploration, development and production rights.
How is this money disbursed?

- Establishment of a Ghana Stabilisation Fund to cushion the impact on or sustain public expenditure capacity during periods of unanticipated petroleum revenue shortfalls.

- Establishment of Ghana Heritage Fund to provide an endowment to support development for future generations when petroleum reserves have been depleted; and receive excess petroleum revenue.

The two funds make up the Ghana Petroleum Funds.

I am unable to see any specific statement in the Act in relation to the very communities where these finite resources are currently being pulled to the benefit of the country, and who stand to bear the brunt of any oil spill and or disaster. Today TEN, Jubilee and Offshore Cape Three Points (refer to figure 1 below), three of the most productive fields in Ghana, are off the coast of Nzema communities.

WHERE WERE THE PEOPLE’S REPRESENTATIVES, THE CHIEFS of NZEMA when this bill was being enacted in 2011? What advocacy did they make for and on behalf of the people of Nzema? Would it be too much to ask that as little as 15% of the royalties be earmarked specifically for the development of Nzema?

The same can be said for communities with Mineral Royalties. Even here, where some effort is made to earmark something for the community, only 4.05% actually go to the Chiefs and stools and hence outside of political interference. As for the 4.95% that go to the district assembly, your guess is as good as mine as to what happens to that money, especially in an unhealthy political atmosphere such as ours where everything is seen through political lenses.

During my last visit to Half Assini, I found myself questioning why Jomoro, the very community that gave Ghana the oil that cemented the country as an oil producing country, has the worst road network anywhere in the country. The road from Samenye to Half Assini is a testament to the neglect of successive governments and the selfishness, and uncaring representatives and DCEs we have had all these years. The level of poverty and desolation can only be imagined.

This cannot continue. THIS MUST NOT CONTINUE. The people did not sign up to play "Fa bra na mema wo bi or fa si h? na k?." The people of Jomoro, Ellembenle and Evalue Dwira deserve better than this. The people deserve first class roads, at least one major university, a first class teaching hospital and several top district hospitals, scholarships for tertiary education and other skills development opportunities for its teeming youth and welfare packages for the elderly and the vulnerable.

We call on our representatives in Parliament, our Chiefs and DCEs to come together, overcome their political delineations and come together for the people of Nzema. The time to start is now. It is time to weigh every representative, not with the lens of party politics, but whether or not they have the genuine interest of the people of Nzema at heart. IT STARTS NOW!

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