Western Region: We will stand by our oil revenue petition

Awulae Annor Adjaye, President of the Western Nzema Traditional Council, told us in a recent interview that the Western Region will continue to press for a share of Ghana's oil revenues.

Ghana may have passed a Revenue Management Bill that has been largely praised (albeit with some caveats) both at home and abroad, but that does not mean that all the contentious issues have been resolved. The Western Regional leaders have no intention of abandoning their claim for a share of the country’s oil wealth and this is likely to be a major sticking point moving forward.

This news today from Ghana Business News:

Chiefs in the Western Region have expressed their concern about the rejection of their nine point petition presented to the government through parliament.

As a result they plan to meet at the appropriate time to decide on the issue, Awulae Attibrukusu III, the President of the Western Regional House of Chiefs, said this in a speech delivered at the first general meeting of the House in Sekondi.

Awulae Attibrukusu III said “I want to assure the people of the Western Region and Ghana as a whole that, Nananom still stand by their petition on its entirety”.

He said the chiefs are not demanding 10 percent from the revenue that would accrue from the Oil to enrich themselves.

“The underlying factor of the petition is the development of the Western Region and not for Nananom’s personal gains or pockets”.

Awulae Attibrukusu said the Chiefs also expressed worry that even though a nine-point petition was submitted, concentration has however been placed on only the 10 percent petroleum revenue which they requested to be paid into the Western Development Fund, thus neglecting the rest.

He said the chiefs are alarmed about the state of development and the high rate of unemployment in the Western Region in spite of the rich resources in the area.

What, if any, special consideration should be given to the Western Region? Regional leaders requested that 10% of oil revenues remain in the region for local development. As I’ve said elsewhere, Ghana’s parliament rejected the request and the recently-passed Revenue Management Bill does not contain any provisions for local development.

MPs argued that setting aside 10% of oil revenues for the region would set a dangerous precedent: soon every region will want its 10% for (fill in the blank). They argued that the oil is offshore and therefore belongs to the Ghanaian people as a whole, not a specific region. They also argued that the 10% request was no more than a ruse for local leaders to enrich themselves.

Although all of these arguments have some validity (and the risk that revenues will line pockets is not confined to any region), the bottom line is that the Western Region is the frontline for Ghana’s oil industry. The oil may not “belong” to the Western Region, but in the event of a spill, who is going to “own” Ghana’s oil?

The Western Region will pay the price and suffer the environmental consequences of any accident. Already the Western Region is feeling the effect of the oil industry on fishing (see my previous posts). The Western Region is seeing an influx of job and fortune seekers who are impacting the cost of living and putting pressure on the already stressed Sekondi-Takoradi infrastructure.

Add to this the sense of many residents in Takoradi that they have long suffered neglect — at the hands of colonial enterprises, foreign owned companies and their own national government — and you’ve a got a recipe for trouble on your hands. The Western Region provides much of the country’s resource wealth, yet people feel they reap precious little benefit: this is “extractive industries” in the worst sense of the term.

 

 

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