Mr. Freddie Blay

The Board of Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) has decided to stay away from any discussion regarding the controversial planned sale of half of the seven per cent share Ghana acquired from Anadarko’s share in the Jubilee and Ten oilfields, to PetroSA, the national oil company of South Africa.

Rather, GNPC wants Ghana’s Minister for Energy, Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh, or President Nana Akufo-Addo to handle the controversial deal going forward.

“We have washed our hands off. Let the minister do what he thinks is best,” the under-fire Board Chairman of GNPC, Mr. Freddie Blay said on Accra-based Citi FM’s Eyewitness News on Tuesday after he said the board met and took that decision on Tuesday.

Mr. Freddie Blay and GNPC have come under fire after a letter by the Minister for Energy, Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh, to Jubilee House, the seat of Government, revealed that he was clandestinely dealing with South Africa’s PetroSA to sell Ghana’s oil assets to the company despite objecting to the planned sale.

In a strongly worded letter sent to the Jubilee House, the Energy Minister said Mr Freddie Blay was pretty much aware that he had written to South Africa’s Minister for Energy and Petroleum Resources, Gwede Mantashe, that Ghana would not sell its seven per cent interest to PetroSA.

In the said letter to Gwede Mantashe, Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh wrote: “Honourable Minister, the Government of Ghana would like to reiterate that we cannot support PetroSA in its quest to pursue pre-emption of Jubilee Oil Holdings Limited (JOHL) stakes that have already been acquired by Ghana, as this would be inconsistent with our stated objectives of increasing the State’s stakes in our natural resources development including oil and gas. This policy informed the use of state funds in this acquisition,” parts of the letter dated 24/11/2022 stated.

Despite being copied and aware of the Minister’s letter to South Africa’s Minister for Energy and Mineral Resources, the Board Chairman of GNPC, Mr Freddie Blay, on 23rd May 2023, wrote to PetroSA: “We receive your last letter dated 22nd December 2022 and noted the contents thereof. Under this, and further, our meetings regarding the said pre-emption transaction in line with the rights afforded to PetroSA in the DWT Joint Operating Agreement, and on the discussion of an equal split in the DWT interest held by JOHL with PetroSA and GNPC, we, as mentioned in conversation, sought guidance from our legal advisors on the matter.

“Consistent with the said advice, the GNPC Board has considered and is agreeable to your proposal to share the interest in an equal split in the DWT interest held by JOHL. Our Board, considering your strong views in maintaining PetroSA’s claim to pre-emptive rights afforded under the DWT Joint Operating Agreement, and being desirous to continue to cultivate the cordial relationship between our two entities to agree that this split is prudent to both parties’ interest.”

This revelation prompted a coalition of Civil Society Organisations working in the extractive sector, anti-corruption and good governance to demand the immediate removal of Mr. Freddie Blay and Mr. Opoku Ahweneeh-Danquah, CEO of GNPC, from their post.

The CSOs, numbering about 29 comprising African Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP), Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition (GACC) and Centre for Extractives and Development Africa (CEDA), were of the view that the continuous stay in office of the duo poses threats to the nation’s oil and gas resources.

For 2022 alone, Ghana raked in some US$290 million from the seven per cent share in the Jubilee and TEN, according to a report by Public Interest and Accountability Committee (PIAC).

However, reacting to the demands by the CSOs, Mr Freddie Blay stated that he did no wrong in the planned sale of the oil assets.

Mr Freddie Blay said he had discussed the sale of Ghana’s oil assets to PetroSA with President Nana Akufo-Addo.

As far as he was concerned, the planned sale of the assets was best for Ghana, saying the state risked losing it since PetroSA had been claiming it.

“I have done nothing wrong. I have observed my conscience and I thought I was protecting the interest of the country, and I am convinced about it and if others think otherwise and if those who appointed me are saying otherwise, then so be it.

“I have spoken to the President about it, and we haven’t gotten to where he will ask for his job back. It is not about convincing the President. The law will speak for itself, and the law will talk and there are few documents on the agreement,” Mr. Blay said.