By Dr A Ofori Quaah
“Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.” (Eleanor Roosevelt, 1884 – 1962)
In plain language, Aker Energy of Norway has perpetrated a number of scams on the thirty million people of Ghana with the connivance of state officials and institutions, and as it now seems, journalists and media organisations whose duties include bringing into the public domain the ills of society, especially those who take advantage of their vantage positions to enrich themselves and impoverish the nation.
For starters, Aker Energy should never have been re-admitted to Ghana because of the fraudulent manner in which it managed to enter Ghana the first time. It seems clear that the company succeeded the second time because it was fronted by powerful individuals and or groups that were very close to the corridors of power at the time.
The Law establishing GNPC and the Petroleum Law are very clear about who qualifies and who doesn’t, to apply for blocks in Ghana. In the old days when GNPC exercised oversight duties for exploration and production in Ghana’s basins, the corporation did background checks on every company that applied for blocks in Ghana. Clearly, with its previous record and the fact that the exploration and production subsidiary was only about three years old, Aker Energy would never have been invited to sit with the GNPC/Government negotiations team for any discussion whatsoever! The company obviously used its connections in high places in Ghana to come back to the country.
For its “impersonation,” using an unregistered local company, GNPC should never have paid for the so-called $29million seismic survey. In the old days, GNPC would never have agreed to that. By law, GNPC on behalf of the Ghana government, is entitled to EVERY dataset that is acquired in Ghana. That means the corporation would have had in its possession a copy of the dataset anyway. And under Ghana’s law, if Aker Energy had to give up its acreage because it had committed fraud, it could not take the data away anyway. The dataset belonged to the Government of Ghana. Clearly, the people in charge of GNPC at the time either did know what they were doing or something more sinister might have happened.
There are many people still in Ghana and around the world who know about these things. It is just a matter of contacting them.
By taking over Petrica’s assets in Ghana, Aker Energy assumed the rights, contractual obligations and responsibilities of Petrica. Undoubtedly, it was obvious that Petrica had an uncompleted Work Programme, which could be either appraisal or development. This would have been approved by the Government of Ghana through Parliament. If Aker did not complete that work programme, there were consequences. The company would have had to forfeit posted bonds or else would pay penalties. Why was it left off? Instead, they rather insultingly asked for payment from the government of Ghana!
Secondly, somewhere along the line, Aker Energy discovered that being in ultradeep waters (no company, not even Petrobras, was producing in such water depths anywhere in the world), the block was not as lucrative as it believed earlier, and so needed to offload it onto somebody. And who else will be so gullible as GNPC, which tried to convince the poor overtaxed Ghanian taxpayer to fork out a whopping $1.3billion as upfront profit for an incompetent and dubious operator. It was clear that someone was not giving the true picture to the people of Ghana.
Technically, Aker Energy had contractual obligations to appraise or develop the field. If for technical or financial reasons it could do so, it had to hand the field/block back to the government of Ghana and pay penalties for breach of contract. In which case, GNPC would assume ownership of the block on behalf of the Government and people of Ghana FREE OF CHARGE! This is Level 1 Exploration and Production, no rocket science.
There is history on that score. Phillips Petroleum Company discovered the Tano fields in 1976/77. When the company realised that it could not profitably produce them, it sat out its contracts and handed the fields over to the Government of Ghana in 1981, without the state paying a penny. If Akers Energy could not develop its “discovery” for financial or technical reasons, why should the poor Ghanaian taxpayer reward their incapability? Why wouldn’t we allow it to stew in its own filth until it walks away and we can take the field(s) back for free, which happens in industry all the time?
As the article says GNPC has been given $1.6Billion as ‘enablement fund’ to “practise” field development and production. With such colossal figures, the corporation should be able to go out into the world to operate oil and gas fields. Petroci of Cote d’Ivoire did not have a millionth of that before it successfully went into field production in Texas of all places! What has the corporation done with all that money? And nobody has so much as answered a query so far. Rather, they were asking the poor taxpayer to put in more!
Some national and independent companies cut their teeth with onshore development and production. If the corporation is serious about learning to operate oil and gas fields, then a quarter of the “enablement” endowment could cover the drilling and appraisal of a stratigraphic well to test the viability/prospectivity of the Voltaian Basin. That is an onshore block, easy to deal with. That would be a more sensible national objective and better value for money.
Civil society organisation must get involved and seek redress at the international court of justice. Citizens and state officials of countries like America, Norway and United Kingdom love to point to Africa’s poverty in the midst of plenty as being the result of the corruption of her peoples and governments. However, they are among the worst offenders when it comes to corrupting African officials. Let Ghanaian patriots around the world come together to file charges against this rogue Norwegian company at the international court of justice.
The future of the youth of Ghana is being sold for a song. It is time for Ghanaians below age 40 to rise up and say enough is enough. These old hags are setting too many booby traps for you and your children! Let this be a test case. The people of Ghana must not allow this Norwegian rogue to get away with this insult to our 30 million citizens!
The writer is a former CEO of GNPC under the erstwhile John Agyekum Kufour administration.
He is currently residing in Bedfordshire, England.