by : Mark boye
Some farmers in the Atuabo community in the Western Region whose lands were acquired and crops destroyed for the building of the Ghana Gas Project by the government are now counting their losses three years down the line.
They say the compensation paid them for the destruction of the crops was inadequate and does not reflect the true value of the crops.Even though government compulsorily acquired the stretch of land from the three Nzema communities namely; Atuabo, Anoche and Asemnda for the Western Corridor Gas Project, issues of compensation on the lands are ongoing.
However, the crops on the lands have been duly compensated for, according to the Ghana Gas Company.
The about $800 million gas plant, started in July 2012 to process and transport natural gas to complement the Aboadze Thermal Plant is said to be 99.87% complete.
Ghana currently is in serious energy crisis and the much anticipated gas plant, is expected to reduce the deficit.
A safety audit is about to start to be followed by other tests and a tie-in of the plant to the Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO).
Cry of Atuabo Farmers
Nevertheless, Nana Bentum Napolean, an elder of the Atuobo community, claims that compensations for their crops which served them as sources of livelihoods were woefully inadequate.
He opined that apart from the land which the state acquired compulsorily and has yet to pay compensation for, promises the company made to them three years ago are not forthcoming.
Bentum Napolean told The Enquirer on a trip to the Atuobo Community, that the company promised the community hospitals, schools, jobs and scholarship packages, but all have not been fulfilled.
Another farmer, Hannah Essien, claimed that she had been rendered jobless and that the supposed compensation of GHc600 she received for two and half acre farm made up of cassava, maize, tomatoes and pineapples was a shortchange.
She said even though the monies were paid on time, suggestions made by some farmers to the company that they should be paid monthly allowances were not heeded to and yet the monies paid them as compensation could not cater for anything.
“The company didn’t calculate the value on the crops well, they just called us and gave us some monies as compensation for our foodstuffs,” she said.
Her assertions were corroborated by another aged farmer, Madam Mary Toffey, who said compensations done on the crops by Ghana Gas, compared to the one done by Lonrho, are an indication that Ghana Gas did not do proper valuation on the crops before paying them the compensations.
But the company has debunked the allegations made by the farmers, saying compensations on the crops were duly paid for and sustainable livelihood programs were run for the farmers in 2011.
Ghana Gas Response
Mr. Alfred Ogbamey, Public Affairs Manager of the Ghana Gas Company, in a phone interview with the paper, explained that discussions for the compensation for the lands would be done in due course.
He said the Lands Valuation Board has valued all the acquired lands and that he understands that some of the monies from the last tranche of the CDB loan would be used to pay for the lands.
Touching on the crops, Mr. Ogbamey stated that, so far GH¢8.63 million has been paid as compensation on the crops for the farmers in the various communities.
He said the company in its attempt to build such a national asset would not in any way take the livelihoods of the farmers away, but is continuously engaging them.
Mr. Ogbamey wondered why the community members are raising concerns since the compensation payments were done sometime in 2011.
“Some were comfortable at the time; they were taken through livelihood activities, but now that some have virtually used their monies they are agitating,” Mr. Ogbamey said.
He said it is also not true that the company did not take the farmers through any livelihood training programmes after the compensation, adding that they were taught other avenues of income generation.
Mr. Ogbamey admitted that even though there are some outstanding compensations yet to be made since the full values on the crops are not due, the company is committed to the concerns of the community members.
According to him, the company has a grand plan for the communities on that stretch of land and would continuously engage them and listen to their concerns, reiterating that it would continue to fulfill all their corporate social responsibilities.