Cheers from a charged crowd echoes over the roofs in mainland Takoradi, amidst drumming and dancing. It’s the final days of the 2016 campaign at the Takoradi Market Circle, and the promises are in the air. Some had already been announced, but this one seems to reignite a forgotten dream. For once, the Western Region is going to get back its fair share of the best that has come from the west for years!
The Takoradi MP, Dr. Kobby Otchere Darko-Mensah, told a large crowd of NPP supporters that late afternoon that, when the NPP is voted into office, the headquarters of the Ghana National Petroleum Commission, GNPC, was going to be relocated to the Western Region.
“…This will ensure that our people get some of the oil jobs to do and to give the region its fair share of the resources it produces…I have always maintained that Ghana is developed like kwashiorkor where everything is centered in Accra…we need to decongest Accra! GNPC will come here for all of us to get some of the jobs to do”.
This promise, as it was reiterated several times on public radio and on different platforms, has been accepted by the people of the region. However, opposing views have been registered by some institutions and Civil Society Organizations.
This piece is to present the issues from both sides of the argument, and to help us understand and to engage further on either side we belong.
The Relocation is a 2012 and 2016 NPP campaign promise
In page 25 of the NPP’s 2012 Manifesto Highlight, it was stated there that “…we will make the western region the hub of the oil and gas industry by relocating the relevant agencies in the industry from Accra to the Western Region”.
In the 2016 manifesto, the 2012 promise was redefined to have a bigger scope. In page 44, under the heading Energy and Petroleum in chapter 3 of the document, the NPP said it is going to “develop in collaboration with the private sector, Western Region into a regional oil services hub with a first class port facility, as well as positioning it as an efficient center for back-office support for the oil industry in the west African sub region, including the relocation of the headquarters of GNPC to the region”.
From the two manifesto promises, it can be seen that, the 2012 promise was a bit lighter in content in terms of the vision compared with 2016.
This promise has got experts in the oil and gas sector as well as concerned members of the public talking. They ask:
[How will the relocation of GNPC give the western region its fair share of development and provide jobs?]
Dr. Emmanuel Steve Asare Manteaw, ISODEC/GHEITI
“The chiefs and people of the region are agitating because of the sharp contrast between what the region gives to the state in terms of revenues and what the state in return gives back to the region to develop its infrastructure. But when GNPC is relocated, no new jobs will be created for the people in the region because, GNPC will leave Accra along with its staff. No new jobs! It will be better to create the petrochemical industry in the region which will have a greater potential of employing more people as a result of the many ancillary works that will come along with it. The industrial parks and the likes should be the focus. That will create jobs and develop the region.”
“Takoradi as I know it is congested. Large chunk of the land is taken over by mining. Others are taken by rubber and palm plantations. So there are land issues there. Finally, if you convert the Western Region into the “Texas” of Ghana, you will end up deepening the troubles of the people as the city will be more expensive to live in. Mind you, the industry is a specialized one so not everyone will get to work there”.
Cadman Dadzie, Director of Projects- Sekondi Takoradi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (STCCI)
“…The blackmailing of the Western Region by our so-called experts and critics must stop! It must stop! When the chiefs in the region asked for 10 percent retention of the oil revenues for infrastructural development, you kicked against it with excuse that the oil is drilled offshore. You blackmailed them with all manner of excuses. Sadly, some sons of the region even joined the wagon. However, these same so-called experts will come back here to say the western region is deprived. You come back to say the region is lagging behind in infrastructural development! You even agree the worst also comes from the West. How do you get the problem fixed when you kick against every proposal? I hear them talk about the fact that Takoradi is already choked and that when GNPC comes here the city will be congested, but let me ask, which part of Ghana is choked and congested than Accra where GNPC is located now?”
“…What the government seeks to do is a basic international best practice. You can cite Aberdeen, you can cite Estravenger, the Johannesburg and all over the world. These are cities which have been built because of the resources which are found there… It is not just the social responsibility bit of developing where these resources are taken, but the business side of it… When GNPC is relocated, the hospitality industry will benefit, the real estate business will thrive, building contractors will benefit, the number of air travel between Accra and Takoradi will increase and a lot more, local contractors will get some of the contracts that GNPC gives to contractors in Accra. So what is it? It will really be of greater business sense to have GNPC in the region and we at the STCCI are all out for it. In fact, we are keenly waiting for it!”
[Will the Petroleum Commission, Tullow, Kosmos and all other agencies in the petroleum mid and upstream sectors be asked to move to the western region?]
It is a fact that since 2012, it has been the Member of Parliament for the Takoradi constituency Dr. Otchere Darko, who has been constantly talking about the relocation of the GNPC publicly before it became a huge topic ahead of the 2016 general elections.
On Saturday 11th July, 2015, Dr. Kobby Darko Mensah stated at a public lecture at Raybow Hotel in Takoradi that “if you take the last election , we were very clear in our vision to make the western region the hub for oil and gas development. What it means is that, we are going to bring GNPC to Takoradi, Petroleum Commission, and also ask all the oil companies to relocate their headquarters to the region because there is a clause like that in the 1992 constitution”.
This statement by the MP who is seen in the inner circles of the NPP as the brainchild of this relocation provides answer to question 2.
Indeed, it will be a mirage and a bunch of disappointments if it is only GNPC is located. This will not in any way make the region the ‘Texas’ of the country as the NPP seem to be portraying.
In fact, the collaborative development of the Western Region into a regional oil services hub with a first class port facility, as well as positioning it as an efficient center for back-office support for the oil industry in the west African sub-region cannot be realized if key players of the industry remain in Accra if the GNPC is indeed relocated.
[Will GNPC be relocated again in the likely event that oil is found in other parts of the country especially Volta region?]
This has been the major concern of some industry players who have already commented on the relocation.
Dr. Kwame Ampofo – Chairman, Energy Commission.
“The relocation of GNPC may not be necessary because positioning of the headquarters of any organization is done by considering many factors. The particular headquarters is going to have linkages with other institutions; even international ones for example, finance issues, easy access to the seat of government, foreign affairs and other agencies in the energy sector. But most of the oil been produced from the western region does not mean that it will continue to be like that forever. In fact, the current data been collected by GNPC indicate that the Keta Basin will become the largest hub in this country and perhaps the West African sub region. Does that mean you will relocate the headquarters from the Western Region to Anlo-Keta or somewhere and then maybe in the Voltain Basin when we discover more fields in that case also? So the decision to relocate I don’t think has been analyzed carefully”.
Ismeal Agyekumhene- Executive Director, KITE
“From where I sit, quite frankly I can’t envision any straight benefit apart from the fact that if you put that promise in perspective, they want to turn the western region into the Oil and Gas Hub. If that is the thinking, then it is almost like having Houston as the headquarters of oil and gas in the USA for example. But in terms of the added benefit, I really can’t envision any serious implication apart from letting the people of the western region feel that they have the oil resources located in the region so getting the national headquarters closer to them is something. If GNPC makes a find in lets say the northern part of Ghana, are we going to move the head office? Another important thing is whether we are going to get all the other international Oil Companies; the Tullow, the Kosmos, the Anadarko to move to the Western Region? I am not too sure whether they have room to accommodate the expansion. So in terms of the local economy, yes, businesses are going to be a bit more vibrant, but it comes at a cost, I mean land is very expensive in Takoradi”.
Dr. Ishmeal Ackah-Head of Policy Unit-ACEP
“…We believe that it is not something that was well-thought through because very soon we are going to produce oil in the Volta Region so are we going to shift GNPC from the Western Region to the Volta Region? We can maintain GNPC here [Accra] and rather open subsidiary office probably for operations in the western region”.
There are two forms of development; one that is deliberately done, and one that happens as a result of another activity. In the absence of a deliberate plan to give back what the Western Region deserves, development in the region has been a spillover from the many activities.
Giving the importance of the Western Region, I will go for any genuine plan to deliberately develop it. The neglect of the region is not deliberate, at least, when you listen to people in government, and so a deliberate plan to give back to the region is long overdue. We could use the gold which gives more money to the country far better than the oil [at least for now] to turn the region around.
However, if the NPP believes that the oil, which is currently giving us only 3 or 4 percent of GDP, can be used to give back to the western region what it deserves, so be it.
However, if in the mind of the NPP, this “Western Turned Texas” promise is not doable in their years in power, it is never late to consult and to listen to suggestions from experts.
Undoubtedly, failure on the part of the party to honor this promise will affect its political fortunes in subsequent elections given that many of the comments from the middle class in the region are for the relocation.
To make this dream a reality, the NPP must produce a clear plan for the reinforcement of the existing structures in the Twin City to be able to accommodate the pressure already tearing apart the Twin City, produce a clear thought-out spatial plan for the oil and gas hub it seeks to create, [bearing in mind how the region is struggling to get land for a new Western regional hospital, and even one for a Sekondi District Hospital].
The aforementioned clearly communicates the negatives of their move to the people in the region, and so they must show a clear “sustainable” job creation plan and a workable capacity building plan for the sons and daughters of the western region, [bearing in mind also how difficult it has been to get people to meet the requirement for the Tullow Scholarship Scheme].
However, even though the NPP may have its own plan, the execution of the plan cannot be done in isolation. The experts who have thrown these challenges should be involved and given audience to make it a reality.
I doubt the NPP can afford to do any political maneuverings with this promise because; the eyes of the youth, the middle class and the chiefs are wide open.