…Withdraws support package for oil sector
The US Government has suspended indefinitely a financial support for capacity building of state institutions in Ghana’s energy sector as the country continues to block Kosmos Energy LLC’s decision to sell its 23.5 percent stake in the Jubilee oil field to fellow American company Exxon Mobil.
Sources close to the U.S. State Department say the withdrawal of the support is the reason for the recent refusal of the US Embassy in Accra to give visas to some top Ghanaian Government officials.
The exact value of the support, christened "energy sector support programme", is not immediately known but the programme would have benefited key public sector institutions like the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) and the Ministry of Energy.
In official circles, the Americans have cited their non-interference policy as the basis for the suspension of the support in order to allow Ghana to handle the Kosmos deal without their interference.
But many believe that the US is punishing Ghana for what is seen as"victimization" of American business interests in Ghana. "Today, if you enter any American establishment, you will get very negative perceptions about Ghana," a source intimated.
At the heart of this negative perception is a feeling that Ghana has been unable to effectively communicate its interest in the Kosmos share to the international community.
Kosmos announced in October 2009 that it has agreed to sell its Ghana assets, including a 23.5 percent stake in Jubilee, to Exxon Mobil, the largest U.S. oil company, which was prepared to part with at least $4 billion for the assets. Subsequently, interests in Ghana’s Jubilee Field, said to hold some 1.8 billion barrels of oil, were also expressed by the China National Offshore Oil Corporation Limited, BP, and many other top companies.
But Ghana has maintained that it will exercise its first right to buy out the 23.5 percent share of Kosmos and is looking for partners to team up with the GNPC which has remained unshaken in its resolve to pursue what it describes as the national strategic objective for the country’s hydrocarbon potential. Many had tipped Exxon Mobil to buy into the Jubilee oil fields because of its financial clout and experience in deep water oil exploration but perceived arrogance on the company’s part and other undisclosed considerations ruled it out, with the Ghana Government demonstrating clear preference for the British company, BP, perceived to be much easier to deal with.
GNPC however, maintains that the matter is still unresolved. "A final decision as to who we partner with, will be based on which company supports the country’s strategic objective and development aspirations, and what role we expect oil to play in achieving these objectives", Thomas Manu, Director of Operations at GNPC stressed in a recent interview with Public Agenda.
BP, which was said to have shown interest in Jubilee, now seems to have abandoned its plans to partner the GNPC in acquiring Kosmos’ stake. Despite this turn of events, Thomas Manu says the falling out of BP does not really jeopardize whatever plans the Corporation has. GNPC, he said, is still guided by the strategic objective of Ghana to maximize benefits from the exploration of oil. Ghana can do this by becoming an active participant in the exploitation of the country’s hydrocarbon potential, he stressed.
Ongoing investigations into how Kosmos acquired a stake in the Jubilee Oil Field had been perceived by many Americans as "ineffective communication" of what Ghana intended to do with the Kosmos stake. US residents have further misconstrued this "ineffective communication" as victimization of US investors. The recent refusal of visas to some top Ghanaian officials is seen largely as diplomatic fallout of the KOSMOS-GNPC stalemate, to which Ghana is yet to respond. According to a publication by The Enquirer newspaper, the Minister of Energy, Dr. Joe Oteng Adjei, who was leading a government delegation to the USA to attend a meeting with Blackstone and Warburg Pincus, the financiers of Kosmos Energy was on March 27, this year denied a visa. This was done regardless of the fact that the Energy Minister had applied for the visa with his diplomatic passport.
In another incident, Mr. Ato Ahwoi, Board Chairman of the GNPC, who returned from the USA last March, was refused visa by the Embassy on May 7. Mr. Ahwoi has travelled to the US about 20 times and attended Harvard University in the United States, so many years ago, the publication said.
But in a rebuttal, the Press Attache at the US Embassy in Ghana, Ben East reportedly told Kojo Oppong-Nkrumah of Joy FM that the allegation of diplomatic row have no basis.
He did not however explain the reasons for the refusal of the visa to Mr Ahwoi, except to say that Mr Ahwoi has been "temporarily refused," pending further review. Unfazed by the raging storm, many Ghanaians have maintained that the Kosmos deal was really a bad deal. For instance, the Kosmos agreement signed with Ghana allows for gas flaring despite a national policy of zero gas flaring.