Beware of Patronage!
…And Challenges lawyers to hold government accountable
With current happenings in oil-rich countries in Sub-Sahara Africa under the spotlight, Ghana has been tipped to become the first African nation to break free of what is now known as the oil curse, provided it guards against patronage and ensures best practices.
According to Mr. Oba Nsugbe, a Senior Advocate of Nigerian (SAN), Ghana is very fortunate to have the experiences of other nations to learn from and avoid the mistakes of those countries.
He said with the advantage of 50 years after Nigeria, Angola and Gabon and “with institutional advantage, Ghana must not fail.”
Delivering the 5th anniversary lecture of the Oxford and Beaumont Solicitors in Accra last week, he noted that oil comes with a price and revenue volatility, and therefore in the absence of prudent budgeting and fiscal discipline, over-reliance on petro dollar can lead to a distorted market, harming local manufacturers and making a mockery of the economy ‘boom or bust’.
Citing the example of Nigeria, he observed that the need to maintain a diverse and balanced economy was forgotten in the euphoria of oil, and with what he described as the “wealth has arrived, now relax” approach, other areas of the economy were completely ignored, ushering in the ‘Dutch disease,’ that affected Nigeria seriously.
Speaking on the topic: Ghana Oil: ‘Purse or Curse,’ Mr. Nsugbe said “Ghana is very fortunate because it is surrounded by some African countries which are already in the oil business and having problems,” citing Nigeria, Gabon and Angola as good examples for Ghana to take caution in dealing with its production.
He however, praised the transparency that has characterized Ghana’s oil sector, saying that public participation in strategizing how to deal with the country’s oil revenue and how to safeguard its legacy was very encouraging, citing the numerous open fora and public debates that were held to sensitize the citizens about the oil sector, to support his assertion.
He offered that the utilization of oil revenues should be based on a credible long term development plan, which can be appropriately monitored to bring about structural transformation in the economy.
“Ghana cannot afford to be relaxed about the management of oil wealth” he said, and called for the implementation of policies for sustainable development.
Mr. Nsugbe, who is a member of the advisory board of Oxford and Beaumont, observed that the country benefits from a vibrant and well informed society, who are alive to the issues, watchful and very vocal, saying this situation would enable the country navigate the tricky course of oil revenue management.
He commended the low key manner in which the Ghana – Ivory Coast border demarcation issue had been handled, saying that was more likely to lead to a peaceful resolution, juxtaposing that against a similar dispute between Nigeria and Cameroon, which led to a war.
He therefore called on lawyers to work hard in tandem with civil society to keep the authorities on their toes to ensure that the right legislative and regulatory frameworks were in place, and build capacity to be active participants in the oil sector.
He said that lawyers have more roles to play to ensure that any injustice and economic exploitation be avoided.
He also called on all stakeholders in the oil and gas industry to consider the development of the nation and not their personal gains.
Mr. Nsugbe cautioned on the environmental effects of oil production saying that in spite of the huge economic benefits from oil, its associate problems, like land degradation, environmental damages and water body pollutions should also be of great concern.
He intimated that Ghana will be the first oil country in Africa to experience no conflict if only there is transparency, proper maintenance and accountability of the oil revenue.