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Opinions of Saturday, 23 January 2010

Columnist: Eshun, Emmanuel

Tsatsu Tsikata – A Clear and Present Danger to Ghana

Emmanuel Eshun – Diaspora Business Council (Vancouver, Canada)

The fabric of our nation is in danger. The unity and peace that once made us the envy on a troubled continent is under serious threat. An entire government policy on an asset promising to blacken our otherwise reddened balance sheet is in the hands of an individual driven not by intellect and objectivity, but by jealousy, vindictiveness, and myopic thinking. What is worse, little does he know that the protagonists of his venomous attacks are also so determined to do whatever it takes to defend what is rightfully theirs that his failure to let up and do what is right would invariable lead our dear country into ruins.

It is not the prerogative of any individual is to single-handedly pursue his or her own personal ambition, noble or not, at the expense of peace. Sadly, Tsatsu Tsikata is determined to do just that, and a chronology of events surrounding his mission sheds a clear light on how undignified his ambitions really are.

What Tsikata did Before When Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) was formed and handed over to Tsatsu Tsikata to manage, all that was shown for the millions poured into the organization was seismic data and a comprehensive but business-unfriendly Petroleum Agreement (PA) that almost actively discouraged prospecting companies from looking at Ghana. Consequently this myopic approach kept at bay companies of repute. Those who dared ended up losing their investment because they were not technologically savvy enough to find oil.

Frustrated, Tsikata maintained GNPC’s relevance and therefore continued funding by dabbling in the oil markets in a quest which essentially constituted gambling with Ghana’s money. Thus after 19 years, due to a lack of focus, Ghana as an oil destination was a laughable concept in the oil industry.

The Turnaround Within four years of a change in government and subsequent change in approach, the Petroleum Agreement was adjusted via all the necessary oversight process to make it more friendly to international investors. This process was completed by functionaries still working at GNPC today, and who lauded the new approach as that which gave Ghana the best opportunities to bring in serious investors. And thanks to that new, more focused posture, today, Ghana is a bona fide oil destination with the discovery of a world class field.

What Tsikata is Doing Now As soon as the NDC lied their way into power, Tsikata, seeking to avoid direct responsibility, but seeking unrestricted influence in the energy sector, literally inserted himself in the thick of the action as the Advisor to the President on Energy. He quickly began to do a whole lot more than advising the President; he took over the entire sector.

Just one month after the Mill’s administration was inaugurated, Tsikata travelled to Houston, Texas and stayed in a $500 a night Sheraton North Houston. Accompanied by his wife, he met with Anadarko, the only energy company to have made overtures to the NDC when it was in the opposition. Anadarko also supplied what turned out to be false information, but which prompted the NDC government to embark on the current fishing expedition. At this Houston meeting in February, Anadarko essentially sealed the deal to become co-operators of the Jubilee Filed with Tullow in the near future. Meanwhile, medical expenses accumulated by Tsatsu on this trip, along with a shopping spree by his wife at the famous Galleria was paid for by an “oil and gas company”

Tsikata followed this trip to Houston with one to New York City where he met with Morgan Stanley in his Presidential Suite in the famous Waldoff Astoria Hotel. Some signatures a $50 million later, Morgan Stanley is now the retained representative financial company on the international markets.

Other instances of clear and shady conflict of interests include a Tsikata-owned Stratoil, registered in the Virgin islands locally representing MODEC, the company contracted to build and maintain the Floating Production Storage Offloading (FPSO), super oil tanker to lift oil from the Jubilee fields. Stratoil also represents Nigerian company Oando, which just signed a $1 billion gas processing contract with the Ghana government details of which is a mystery to elected officials. Another of Stratoil’s clients is the Chinese company CNOOC, which is composing a bid for Kosmos’ stake in the Jubilee Fields. Any wonder that Tsikata is dead set against the sale to ExxonMobil? As if that was not enough, Statcom, owned by Tsikata’s wife is the exclusive public relations company for the GNPC at $20,000 a month.

It gets worse. Stratoil has led a strictly private negotiation on behalf of the Ghana government for a $10 billion loan with the Chinese to completely take over the oil industry even though China’s upstream technology is questionable at best. To date, no one knows what was national assets were used as collateral for that loan. What is amazing is that in a democratic government with statutory checks and balances, one non-official can do all this on behalf of the government. Just as he gambled with the nation’s money the last time around, Tsikata is again betting that GNPC, which could not supervise a 500 barrels per day (bpd) production would somehow magically be able to manage a production of the Jubilee Fields at more that ten times the volume.

In all, since last January, Tsikata has travelled to China on six occasions. Negotiating deals with the Chinese. The obvious question is where is the Energy Minister in all this? Why are deals arranged and consummated at Tsikata’s Cantonements house with absolutely no knowledge of Hon Asaga, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Energy, a development that led him to characterize one explanation by GNPC as a “cock and bull story.”

Surprisingly, as busy as Tsikata is, he still find the time to influence the president, the Attorney General, Ministers of Finance and Energy, and the entire GNPC staff by remote control. He pushes the knob, and they act. Why else would the Attorney General pursue a “wild goose chase?” why else would the Minister of Energy have to take his leave to consult Tsikata before answering simple energy-related questions in Parliament?

Today the new money wasting endeavor of Tsikata’s is throwing $25,000 a month at a two-bit San Francisco lawyer Duke Amaniampong, a bankrupt attorney now operating from his apartment at 411 Francisco Street to “dig what he can find.” This after all investigations into the signing of the Petroleum Agreement between the Ghana government, Kosmos, and the EO Group uncovered “no smoking gun,” and the US Justice Department, at the request of Anadarko, found nothing worthy of conviction.

All in all, this irony is what should form the catalyst for a strong national demand for accountability. First, Tsikata had 15 years to find oil; he could not. Second, he is a convicted criminal. Third, he has never run any successful business before nor has he used his own private funds for any business endeavore. Fourth, he has never been vetted – not by voters or representatives of voters in order to hold any responsible position. Why then would the Mills administration so willingly cede a sector as vital as oil and gas to this individual. More so, why would he target the very people who succeeded in discovering oil for Ghana, an endeavor in which he miserably failed? Does he care that Ghana’s enviable peace and unity could quickly go up in flames if he continues his dictatorial domination of Ghana’s oil and gas?

The individuals who risked it all to help usher Ghana into the oil producing business are being harassed while Tsikata has, to date, blown $68 million in innuendos and vindictiveness. If this clueless dictator is not impeded, the hopes of Ghanaians for a better oil-rich Ghana would soon turn into a nightmare of civil conflict because one person wants to nurture and protect anything Ewe while attacking anything non-Ewe. This Clear and Present Danger must be stopped by all well meaning Ghanaians.