"In virtually every community, there have been occasions in which regular police, or the army, have beaten, detained, or even killed those in protests, peaceful or otherwise, or individuals who have called for compensation for oil damage, whether youths, women, children or traditional leaders” (Human Rights Watch, 1999 Report on Oil Exploitation in Nigeria)
It is striking to know that Ghana’s potential oil wealth is not all about who benefits and what infrastructure should be developed and harnessed. It completely goes beyond that. The concerns about security impacts with regard to managing the oil and gas industry have increasingly gained prominence at the top of international development agenda. Nonetheless, the relationships that exist between security and oil management in ensuring that the benefits of development trickle down to the ordinary local people have been extremely weak.
The propensity of oil to fuel discord in countries remains an undisputed fact. In the midst of these wild expectations for Ghana’s oil wealth, it is prudent to incorporate in development discourse the importance of security in managing the oil find. The case of security in oil-producing countries is the single most delicate issue that is ostensibly impossible to deal with considering the grim experiences in countries including Angola, Chad, Sudan, Iraq and our next-door neighbours, Nigeria. Oil and War operate in tandem.
The relationship between security and oil exploitation which seems lethal makes a clear case for ensuring optimum and solid security in the oil and gas industry in the country. Without shred of any doubt, the most dangerous aspect of the resource curse is the state of insecurity that causes conflicts and civil wars. It is, therefore, imperative that Ghana adopts all-encompassing strategies to cater for security aspects in the production, transportation and consumption of oil.
This article seeks to reveal to the benefits of the country the need to urgently and expediently devise strategies towards ensuring “FULL-SCALE SECURITY”. We need to immediately change our conscience if the country wants to meet the oil and gas sector with the supposedly existing state of peace and stability. Oil exploitation is a different case altogether and Ghana not so exceptional to elude the nagging challenges inherent in the sector. What should be the parameters for the country’s security system in managing the oil and gas sector especially when commercial production is anticipated to commence in the last quarter of this year?
Pro-active Provisions for Oil Security: The case of the local people It is a known fact that the production of oil and natural gas resources are liable to spark various forms of political frustrations and oppositions within a country. This is even so with production regions. The local people whose area the production is taking place are made to feel that they have a claim on resource wealth and may well be aggrieved if
they see the wealth leaving their region and benefiting others. Also based on this situation, including environmental pollutions, the people are compelled to resent in having their lots improved. It is significant to stress that such complaints or grievances of the local people have been experienced in Cabinda in Angola, Doba in Chad, and the Niger Delta in Nigeria. With insensitivity of companies and even governments to their plights, the people formed movements to fight for their intrinsic right. An example is the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) in Nigeria and Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC) in Angola.
It is therefore vital that Ghana in using security to manage her oil resources should consider and address the needs and grievances of the local people who would bear the brunt of oil production in the Jubilee Oil Fields off the coast of Western Region. This should cater especially for the interest of local fishermen and farmers who would be the most affected groups. A report from Steve Manteaw of Integrated Social Development Center (ISODEC) indicated that "fishermen returning from the sea had been accosted by the Navy, beaten up, and their catch taken away from them (Credit: Ghana’s big test: Oil’s challenge to democratic development- An Oxfam America/ISODEC Report, 2009). In such instance, the ordinary fisherman would be forced to join groups and movements that he thinks would enable him acquire what is rightly his. If this is allowed to gain unenviable foothold, certainly Ghana would be no different from Nigerian. This is an indirect but crucial contribution to security failure that would simply not allow the country to reap the full benefits of oil resources.
The case of the ruling government
Another indirect contribution to enhance the use of security in managing the oil and gas wealth is inclined to efficient distribution of the wealth by the government, vertically or horizontally. Vertical distribution of wealth is concerned with bridging the gap between rich and poor populations using petrodollars. What is available to government officials (politicians) should equally be made available to the rural people.
With the horizontal distribution, the focus is to bridge the wide gap between mineral-rich and mineral-poor regions to curtail all forms of inequalities. This pattern in the use of wealth generated from oil would serve to quell all oppositions that serve to taint the capabilities of the security system in managing the oil and gas industry. Again, if oil and gas wealth accrues to political leaders simply by virtue of the fact that they maintain nominal control of the affairs of the state, this increases the incentives of non-state actors to attempt to capture the affairs of the state in order to benefit from the resource wealth, often through the use of violence. On the part of Ghana, increasing our commitment to the principles of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) to quell corruption should remain supreme. The proposed formation of the “Oil and Gas Business Development and Local Content Fund” is a step in the right direction. The fund should be geared towards meeting the needs of the local people and making competitive local industries and businesses. It is important to note that the whole issue of security depends on the strategies of the government. Not enough training for our security agencies can make oil exploitation useful. It is inclined to the pro-active provisions outlined in the article. We need to nip the predicaments of unnecessary tensions, war and conflicts in the bud.
The case of multinational oil companies
Security anomalies in the prudent management of Ghana’s oil find would be best measured by the blatant abuse of fundamental human rights, militarization and civil wars. The militarization acts are often driven by the attempts of oil companies and governments to quell or altogether put an end to local resistance to large-scale impacts of extractive operations and pipeline construction. The concern for security in managing oil resources, therefore, depends on how Ghana would be able to deal with oil companies. Effective and clear legal and regulatory frameworks that would spell out the limits within which oil companies should operate would be appropriate to the progress of the economy and poverty reduction. Ghana cannot afford to repeat the mistakes and extend the anomalies that exist in the mining sector in the emerging oil and gas sector. In infrastructure development which has been the prominent source of conflicts, oil companies in the construction of pipelines should be made to strictly adhere to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to cater for the environmental and health implications on the local people in producing regions and beyond. This means that the tentacles of the regulatory framework should be extended and be made to cover local conditions while moving along with international conventions.
The concerns of concrete security in managing Ghana’s oil wealth should never be underestimated. We are not hoping for a war or conflict to occur in our dear country, but revealing the causative hard facts remain very pertinent. Anything unthinkable can happen to disturb the peaceful atmosphere being enjoyed in the country. Would the state of insecurity and turmoil becloud the in-depth purpose of the emerging oil and gas sector? We need to be pro-active than to waste money on equipping security agencies in fighting rebel movements and groups. Security should not be mistaken only to be the provision of training for the security agencies to contain attacks in offshore and onshore regions. Neither is it the acquisition of speed boats for the Navy to operate on the Continental Shelf and sophisticated weapons for the police and military for enforcement. Ideally, it is what calls for these actions that need urgent attention. There is the need to consider first the factors that fuel discords in oil-producing regions and countries before engaging the services of the security agencies. If these indirect security provisions are not met, not even the establishment of military base or full-scale security enforcement can bring situations back to right order. The country should not be deceived by only the benefits of oil that lie in wait for the country. Security should remain very crucial for the making of a peaceful and vibrant oil-producing country. It behoves us all to keep and maintain the peace we have experienced for so long. Government should be more concerned of Security than even seeking for the setting up of a sovereign oil wealth fund to ensure prudent oil revenue management. This is a “Red Alert” to the country as I did with my earlier article titled “Why militarization in the mining sector must stop!” The country needs unwavering security set-up for managing the oil and gas sector. These are the facts that cannot be ignored.