Monday, June 23, 2014

Discontentment Among Residents of Oil City

Drop of oil
The pomp and pageantry that heralded the news of petroleum discovery in Cape Three Points in the Western Region of Ghana, right from the corridors of government to traditional palaces and homes of ordinary citizens in 2007 seems a bit too different today.

Open expressions of discontentment, disenchantment and dwindling hope on the faces of almost every resident of the Takoradi Metropolis is much glaring when the question of “how are they feeling the impact of petroleum production in their lives” is posed to them.

The high hopes and anticipation of having their lives turned around probably within a short period are beginning to wane as some residents openly told Savannahnews in separate interviews that the government has let them down.

Undisputedly, the Western Region produces a bulk of the countries natural resources such as gold, diamond, bauxite, cocoa, timber and now petroleum. But, it is still faced with some teething development challenges such as poor railway network, bad or inaccessible roads, polluted water bodies as a result of illegal small scale mining activities, water and sanitation problems among a few others.

Thus, it is not surprising that, residents of Takoradi, a town nicknamed –“The Oil City”, are not seeing the benefits of the new natural resource. This is in spite of the fact that, Ghana has earned revenues totaling over US$1.9 billion from the resource up till date. 

Lucy Quayson is a food vendor, and she tells this reporter that, since petroleum production started cost of living has risen to an all-time high leaving in its wake a heavy burden on parents whose responsibility it is to take care of their children’s school fees, medical bills, feeding and payment of rent.

“A jelly can of water is 0.40GHP….you buy GH¢10.00 of power and it won’t take you beyond two days. We’ve heard of the oil but we can’t see anything positive happening in our lives. Even the food I’m selling is not bringing the expected returns”, she remarked.

Kofi Oduro, a mason and father of six children expressed frustration in his interview with this reporter. According to him, it is difficult for one to get a job in the oil sector unless one knows somebody in government or in authority somewhere to facilitate his/her’s application.  

He said: “We want President John Mahama to use Ghana’s share of the oil money to open a training centre where we can be trained as artisans to work in the oil sector. He should also make the free education possible so that we can enrol our children in school. 

“We’re energetic young men willing to work and take care of our family. But because of lack of job opportunities further compounded by family pressures, some of us have now taken to alcoholism. There are some people who have reached retiring age but have refused to retire and instead, sign new contracts to continue to work, thereby making it impossible for job vacancies to exist”, Mr. Oduro lamented.

Before oil was discovered, accommodation of all kinds in Takoradi according to residents was generally affordable for the average person. Between 2007 and 2012, a single bed room went for GH¢5.00 or GH¢10.00 a month. But currently, a single room is between GH¢60.00 and ¢100.00 a month whereas a chamber and hall or three and four bed rooms with veranda, bathroom and toilet is between GH¢160 and GH¢250.00 and GH¢350.00 and GH¢400.00 a month respectively.

Takoradi township

One taxi driver popularly known as Justice acknowledges the fact that, the Western Region has a lot of natural resources. But sadly, he says, the rate of development in the region does not correspond with the level of wealth and resources in the area.

“There are no jobs for young people to do. Even those with capital to establish business are not succeeding. Many of the young guys now are into sakawa (money rituals/internet fraud) and prostitution. Even married women are forced to commit adultery in order to make ends meet. Those who are not yet married are also breaking up due to infidelity caused by economic hardship.

“Look at our roads….manholes everywhere. The distance from Effia-Nkwanta to Afigyai is more than from Tarkwa to Bogoso. If you travel on this stretch of the road you’ll definitely take your vehicle to the auto mechanic”, Justice observed.

A landlady by name Judith who spoke to this reporter on phone, said a single bed room in her house is GH¢70.00 whereas a chamber and hall with toilet and bathroom is GH¢160.00. She charges an advance of two years.

There are newly established executive hotels now in Takoradi and some residents’ claim that is an indication of a boost of the hotel industry triggered by the petroleum production. 

But Cadmond Dadzie, Vice President, Sekondi-Takoradi Chamber of Commerce, said that assertion cannot be true because the establishment of new hotels in the Takoradi Metropolis came as a result of the 2008 African Cup of Nations hosted by Ghana. 

According to him, due to the too much hype given to that tournament quite a number of hotels sprang up. But unfortunately, some of them he said could not meet the required occupancy standards and remained dormant since then until recently they started to revive. 

Mr. Dadzie observed that, the bad nature of roads in most parts of the city has also made office accommodation in a few attractive locations costly, because demand for offices in such locations has outstripped supply. 

He also noted that, the boom in the petroleum sector is not as huge as a lot of people are seeing it but hope that will happen only when the TEN project eventually comes on board to boost current oil production levels which is just a little over one hundred thousand.

On his part, Member of Parliament for Takoradi Constituency Kwabena Okyere Darko Mensah agreed with claims made by residents interviewed by Savannahnews. He also observed that, the expansion of the Takoradi Port which is supposed to be completed with a Chinese Development Bank loan has hit a snag due to delay in the disbursement of the loan, adding that “a lot of the major roads are linked to the port and if they are constructed, it will open up the place and new jobs will spring up”.

He further observed that, there are some jobs such as stewardship, cooking, shipping management among others that can be done by local business people who have the capacity but a lot of the time such opportunities are given to people in Accra to do and that is not good. 

He urged government to encourage all oil companies to relocate their head office to Takoradi so that a lot of their contracts can be bid by local companies who have the capacity to execute them. 

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