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Opinions of Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Columnist: Kwawukume, Solomon

The petroleum exploration and production bill 2014.


His Excellency President Mahama, as you are aware, the Petroleum Exploration and Production Bill 2014 is currently lodged in Parliament to be passed into Law to regulate the Upstream Oil Industry in the country. About a month ago, the Africa Center for Energy Policy (ACEP) told the whole world about some defects in the Bill and called for the Bill’s amendment. The main concern of ACEP, which we have also noted, are the numerous discretionary powers granted the Minister of Energy and Petroleum. We have agreed in toto with all the objections raised by them against such powers given the Minister which can be used at his will without explanation. These provisions remind us of the phrase, “licence to kill”, so we also object to them.
However, our main concerns and objections are about the fiscal regime or provisions and other unfavourable sections contained in the Bill. It is the fiscal regime or provisions that determine or drive the type of contract the government enters into with the Foreign Oil Companies on our behalf to exploit our oil and gas resources wealth. The fiscal provisions therefore become the heart of any Petroleum Exploration and Production Law because they determine the type of contract signed and how the oil revenue is shared between the resources’ owners, that is, the citizens, and the Foreign Oil Companies. The fiscal provisions in this Draft Bill are nothing to write home or brag about, as they are simply detrimental to the common weal. It would be a disaster for Ghanaians, except a connected few some of whom are already benefiting beyond their wildest dreams, if the Bill is passed in its present form.
Mr President, if this Bill is passed into Law in its current form, we might as well forget about the oil and gas as catalysts for our economic redemption and independence. We would be handing over our oil and gas wealth on gold and silver plates to foreigners in a worse manner than how our gold, diamonds and other minerals were seized from us by the British colonial authority and we ourselves have acquiesced to up to today.
Mr President, there are UN Charters and Resolutions and International Standards and practices governing extractive, natural resources currently in the world. Since these Charters and Resolutions became effective and operational, progressive countries in the developing world with deposits of these non-renewable natural resources, such as gold, diamonds, oil and gas in particular, have taken steps to make sure Laws they promulgate to regulate their extractive industries incorporate the spirit and intents of these UN Charters and Resolutions to enable them derive the most benefits. Countries such as Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Niger and South Sudan, to name just a few in Africa, are examples. Ghana, the supposed Star of Africa, is doing the contrary, going in opposite direction to the above mentioned countries and many others in the developing world by handing over her natural riches and wealth into foreign private hands in the name of investment. We live in the midst of plenty as a Nation, but we are poor and have become beggars. This need not be so.
The Ghana Institute of Governance and Security is therefore opposed to the Draft Bill on two grounds. Firstly, the great discretionary powers given the Minister of Energy and Petroleum and, secondly and most importantly, the fiscal provisions and other unfavourable sections it contained. We should not make a noose to hang ourselves.
We do sincerely believe, Mr President, that if you had been given the chance to listen to us and understood the dire consequences and ramifications of this Draft Bill becoming a Law to regulate our Upstream Oil Industry, you and your Cabinet would not have approved of it. The Government and the whole Ghanaian society have been deceived and misled to believe that what the gate-keepers in the Ministry of Energy, GNPC and allied bodies are foisting on us is the best that can be achieved, and that the Bill is a good one in the interest of the mass of Ghanaians instead of a few who have acquired or hope to acquire vested interests in the sector. We have seriously taken keen view about these developments and we consider the issue should be put to public discussion and debate to determine what would be beneficial to the wider interest and needs of Ghanaians in order not to compromise the security and advancement of the Nation.
Please, Mr. President, we therefore humbly appeal and plead with you to grant us audience so that we can explain issues properly to your understanding to enable you save our dear country from falling into the deep, massive and unprecedented economic robbery in the name of investment, and thus escape blame and condemnation from the present as well as the future generations.
Mr. President, we are compelled to adopt this medium of an open appeal to draw your attention because all efforts to meet with you on this very important national issue have proved futile. We are awaiting and looking forward for your invitation as soon as possible.
In the service of Mother Ghana.

Solomon Kwawukume
Senior Research Officer
Oil and Gas
Ghana Institute of Governance and Security (GIGS)