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Opinions of Friday, 28 December 2012

Columnist: Abugri, George Sydney

Armed brigands, the Supreme Court and some gas.

By George Sydney Abugri

Some people say some of the roads in northern Ghana appear to have a spooky, metaphysical life of their own and will wreak havoc on safe travel anytime but methinks the treacherous network is a result of yet to be resolved complex road engineering problems and the over-all poor riding quality of long stretches across the Savannah.

Now, there is an another mortal danger lurking on the roads, Jomo: While making an enquiry, I spoke to Upper West Regional Minister and MP-elect Alhaji Amidu Sulemana last Thursday while he was away from Wa the regional capital, touring rural communities in the Sissala West Consituency.

The big man was to call me from the regional capital on Friday morning but at around 8.30 am on Friday morning, he was ambushed and shot by AK 47-wielding highway brigands!

Medics at the nation’s premier medical referral center, the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, have dug some bullets out of the Minister’s anatomy but told him he will have to live with a rifle bullet embedded in his anatomy for the rest of his life! That is scarcely the tale, though.

The day when these armed robbers who have laid siege to our republic for many scary years now, will raid the presidency and Army Headquarters, ransack their treasuries and take the president and commander of the Ghana army respectively hostage, is not exactly a millennium away. That is the real tale, Jomo.

The armed terrorists have no fear of any living thing in outer space or on earth and armed with some of the deadliest weapons around these days and steel hard skulls full of booze and other mind-bending substances, they have habitually traded fire with and killed many police officers.

The bloodthirsty bandits challenge the Church’s teaching of the cardinal Christian principle of love because while repentance and conversion of some of these ruthless and bloodthirsty killers is not unheard of, the majority are very sadly beyond redemption without a miracle, totally dead as they now are, to any positive human emotion.

From the needless killings and rape of victims they rob, it is discernible that most of them are now incapable of pity, mercy, compassion, affection or any of the finer emotions that makes two-legged creatures who walk upright, human.

They now appear to be matching the entire police service and the country’s military in sheer numbers too. They have developed underworld networking relationships which enable them to collaborate and deploy across the borders of the country’s ten administrative regions and across suburbs within cities.

They are able to deploy across various categories of violent crime switching back and forth at will or when the heat is on, from the robberies of shops, banks, and residential communities to the highway robberies.

Yet not a single presidential or parliamentary candidate mentioned the problem as one requiring more resolute action to deal with.

There is a galloping list of other critical national concerns campaigning presidential and parliamentary candidates pointedly neglected to talk about, either because they are politically sensitive, controversial or make poor press for past and present administrations.

There is a chronic energy crisis wrecking real havoc on national economic growth but I am yet to hear anyone acknowledge the fact, except perhaps, to talk in casual tones about “load shedding.”

That President Mahama and Vice-President Ammisah-Arthur have sang a chorus together asking the West Africa Gas Pipeline Company to quicken pace on repairs to the damaged West Africa Gas Pipeline so that power generation can resume, can only mean they recognize that energy is serious business when it comes to economic growth and will give the sector another critical look.

Whenever I think about the West Africa Gas Pipeline Project, I feel flaber-whelmed and don’t tell me there is no such word. Let me explain, lest you take me for a grumpy old man on the constant look out for something to gripe about or someone’s head to bite off:

With the governments of four different countries, a host of companies and financial institutions and a large number of contractors implementing the project, maximum accountability and transparency in the project’s implementation have in my view, fallen short of expectation.

Ghana, Nigeria, Benin and Togo have ended up spending 70 percent more than the original projected cost of the gas pipeline project. Then there have been the maddening delays: The construction of the pipeline which began in 2005 should have been completed in December 2006. It was scheduled to start supplying gas to the four countries in December 2007. December 2007 came and there was no gas. We were told that leaks had been detected in supply pipelines in Nigeria The project managers next said the gas would flow to all four countries on 13 February 2008. February 2008 came and the flow of gas was delayed yet again. The project managers said one of the contractors working to meet the February 2008 deadline had been shot and killed by armed robbers in Nigeria. The pipeline was finally commissioned on 13 May 2008. We sighed with relief and began humming “flow, gas, flow, power cuts are ruining our economies.” The gas deliveries to the four countries were scheduled for December 2009. December 2009 came and the West Africa Gas Pipeline Company said the moisture content of the gas was so high that if the gas was pumped, the gas pipe line would be damaged! The delays and excuses went on and on and by the time gas began to flow to Ghana, Benin and Togo from Nigeria, we had spent US $1 billion instead of the original cost of $600 million. While the delays were going on, I had the privilege to join members of parliament, government bureaucrats, international energy experts, environmental scientists and energy sector service and tariff regulators for a brainstorming session on the sub-region’s energy problems in Nigeria. Hell with a capital “H” broke loose at the session when the question of accountability and the delays came up for discussion.

When it came to the issue of security of the pipeline, we were told that a one nautical mile “exclusion zone” had been demarcated along both sides of the 678-kilometer pipeline running parallel to the coast and through the waters of the countries, to minimize the risk of damage to the pipeline.

On our way out of the conference hall, a Beninois remarked to me in halting English, that with our penchant for bungling, he would not be surprised if the pipeline was damaged in no time, especially as there had been no explanation of how the shipping regulation intended to protect the pipeline was going to be enforced.

The project managers had apparently been counting on the help of coastal communities, shippers and the navies of the four countries to protect the line. In August this year a group of pirates tried boarding an oil tanker in Togolese waters but on sighting a Togolese Navy ship bearing down on them at full steam, fled with the navy vessel in pursuit. Then the pirates’ boat rammed and severely damaged the pipeline before he pirates escaped. The resultant halt in gas delivery knocked 200 megawatts off power supply capacity and worsened our ever recurring power crisis. Now we await the next administration to deal with the crisis but wait a minute. There is the dispute over the result of the presidential election to dispose of first. Years ago several editors of some London tabloids conspired to run the same ungrammatical headline, “we was robbed” after England’s defeat at the final of a European Cup tournament.

That was the last time I heard I heard anyone make light matter of defeat in a competition. On second thought, in the case of the New Patriotic Party, the NPP denies that it was defeated at the presidential elections in the first place and was due to file a suit against the Electoral Commission yesterday.

Thereafter, veteran Electoral Commissioner Dr. Afari-Gyan’s will file his statement in turn but then, tide and time wait for no legal suits and President Mahama who was declared winner of the presidential election, will be sworn into office next Friday.

Political historians are no doubt waiting to record the scenario that will play out. Having disputed the election result will the NPP refuse to attend the historic swearing-in ceremony and will turn up and then let the legal case unfold to a conclusion?

I am making a call to find out form the experts, what the implications are for a judicial resolution of the dispute once a President Mahama is sworn in as president on Friday. Website: Email: