The Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) says it regrets pulling out of oil explorations in Angola. The corporation explained in an interview with The Chronicle that at the time when Ghanaians lost their patience and forced the corporation to withdraw, there were huge prospects of investing and making real money in the Southern Africa country.
"If we had stayed in Angola, by this time, all of us would be smiling. You see, in Angola at the time that we were there, not many countries had come there. And in this industry, the time when you enter is very important, because when you enter and there are no people there, that is when you will get very good terms," Chief Executive Nana Boakye Asafu Adjaye explained.
The Chief Executive said: "At the time that we were leaving, Angola was producing about 200,000 barrels of oil per day. Today, they are even producing more than Nigeria. They are producing more than 2,000,000 barrels per day. Now, if we were there, I am sure we would have picked one or two blocs," the CEO explained.
In the 1980s, the GNPC received a lot of bashing from the public for doing other businesses rather than its core mandate of exploring for oil in Ghana. Many wondered why the state-owned corporation, operating at the expense of the tax payer, opted to pursue an oil find in Angola, when the prospects in Ghana were so huge.
An oil rig, sponsored by the GNPC, was overran by UNITA forces and immobilised, and then Chief Executive Mr. Tsatsu Tsikata was vilified, especially, in the private media. Reports indicate that his ignominious dismissal by then President Jerry John Rawlings was engineered by public outcry, following the bombing of the oil rig.
However, the GNPC says Ghanaians at that time had little knowledge of the exploration industry, and that was why they kept piling pressure on the corporation to bow out of its operations in Angola.
"The problem was, at that time, the heat against GNPC was too much. People didn’t appreciate the fact we were involved in some of the things that we were doing, in terms of initial work or drilling. We were trying to even attract companies to come here, but people didn’t understand," bemoaned Nana Asafu-Adjaye.
The Director of Explorations at the GNPC, Thomas Manu, was quick to single out The Chronicle for leading the crusade against the corporation’s operations in Angola. "When we drilled the first horizontal well here in 1992, look at the bashings that we had from The Chronicle," he said.
"Many had referred to the GNPC as a wastepipe, with the reason that all the tax payers’ money injected into the operations of the corporation was being wasted," he charged.
He said the problem faced by the GNPC at that time was the same pricing mechanism (fixed ex-pump price) on the international market, which is currently affecting the Tema Oil Refinery.
"At that time, the reason why the GNPC was called a wastepipe, today we all call it TOR debt and we are contributing to the payment of TOR debt. We forget that it is the same pricing mechanism that has created the TOR debt today; it was the same problem at that time.
"When we were drawing your attention to it, Ghanaians refused to hear. You rather forced us to sell our assets to pay that debt, but now it is the whole country’s debt that we are all paying. And those times, you had fixed ex-pump price," he argued.
"The Minister of Finance will come and read the budget at the beginning of the year, and that is the price you will sell oil for the whole year, whether the price went up or down, or whether the exchange rate is up or down.
"At the end of the year, you will accumulate debt, but, meanwhile, every month you will tell me that I should bring the same quantity of crude oil into the country. Who will pay for the shortfall? Somebody has to pay," said Mr. Manu.
Meanwhile, the GNPC is scheduled to make its second lifting of crude oil from the Jubilee Oil from the FPSO Kwame Nkrumah in May. With the price for Brent crude now in the region of $123 a barrel, the GNPC expects to hit the jackpot.