YARO ORGANISES FORUM ON OIL & GAS FIND IN GHANA
Barring any mishaps, Ghana will start pumping significant quantities of oil by the last quarter of 2010 after few years of discovering the natural resource which many development experts have warned the nation’s managers not to let it be a curse to the people but a blessing.
In other African countries like neighbouring Nigeria, dissident residents of the Niger Delta State where the country drill its oil from, have been sabotaging the economy as well as multinationals engaged in the drilling processes through killing and kidnapping, due to the alleged failure by the Federal Government to develop communities around the oil town where majority of its population are living in abject poverty.
Other obvious examples are Guinea, Gabon and Angola among others where thousands of people have lost their lives since those countries found oil up till date. The “oil curse” as some choose to call it, has become both a practical experience and a useful advice and warning to countries like Ghana.
In trying to devise or suggest some ways on how the revenue from the oil find in Ghana could be utilized judiciously among other things, led to the organization of a multi-stakeholder youth forum on oil and gas policy advocacy and governance programme in Tamale, the Northern Regional on Tuesday 13, July 2010.
The forum, organized by Youth Action on Reproductive Order (YARO) with support from Ghana Research and Advocacy Programme (G-RAP) was under the theme: “ Promoting Citizens-Government engagement for Good Governance in the Management of Ghana’s Oil and Gas Resources for Sustainable National Development: The Role of Civil Society”.
Executive Director of YARO, Hajei Benin explained that the organization is a youth centered development organization currently working in the Northern, Upper West and Upper East Regions of Ghana. It exists to promote fair and open society that enjoys good quality life by facilitating evidence-based advocacy and within the context of achieving stronger pro-poor policies in Ghana, engage government on policy action and act as watch-dogs in the Ghanaian development process.
Mr. Benin noted that the goal of the forum was to create a platform for greater youth participation in oil and gas policy dialogues, learning and sharing of relevant information on draft policy documents so as to improve upon the quality of the legal framework that governs the oil and gas sector in Ghana.
In a presentation, a Deputy Registrar of the University for Development Studies (UDS) Dr. A.B.T Zakariah, lauded the government for taking bold and meticulous steps to avoid any economic destruction, social despair and national chaos regarding the oil find.
Speaking on the topic “Overview of Ghana’s Draft oil and gas revenue bill: Issues and challenges for policy advocacy”, he said there is currently a process to pass a law that will determine how to use revenue from the country’s oil and what agencies will be responsible for the control and disbursement of the oil revenue.
According to Dr. Zakaria, a preliminary draft proposal on “Ghana Petroleum Revenue Management” by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, suggests that legal, financial and social policy structures and regulations are being put in place in the form of an oil and gas bill, to help regulate the revenue and other benefits that will accrue from Ghana’s oil and gas production.
However, he cautioned the government to learn lessons from countries such as Nigeria by beginning now to work out strategies and mutually acceptable relationships and agreements between government and the people within the geographical locations in Ghana, where the oil production is going to take place.
The development expert also urged Civil Society Organisations including the media to assist the government through research and advocacy that would address some anticipated issues and demands that will come from the people within the geographical locations where the oil is produced in Ghana.
Meanwhile, Dr. A.B.T Zakaria proposed that an Educational Fund should be setup to run alongside the GETFund or better still a separate one so that, a percentage of the oil revenue and taxes from all activities in the oil industry will be put.
The fund should be discriminatory in its funding and support, he stressed, adding that regions, districts and local communities which have been identified as deprived in terms of educational facilities should receive the bulk of the money from the Fund.