Monday, 28 November 2011

HUMBLE ADVICE TO THE HON. HANNAH TETTEH & THE HON. MOSES ASAGA

Recently, the Hon. Hannah Tetteh, Ghana's minister for trade and industry, is reported to have said that growth in the agricultural sector of our economy, was being stifled by lack of tillable land, and difficulties to do with land tenure.

As an organic cocoa farmer myself, my humble advice to the Hon. Hannah Tetteh, and the government of which she is such a prominent member, is to simply make all types of farming tax-free ventures, nationwide.

With that incentive in place, she and her colleagues will be pleasantly surprised, to find that the agricultural sector of Ghana's economy, will expand rapidly - lack of tillable land and difficulties with land tenure, notwithstanding.

Her party colleague, the Hon. Moses Asaga, who heads the Parliamentary Select Committee on Energy, has also been speaking - but about his contribution to Ghana's nascent oil and gas industry.

Whiles we congratulate him for what he has been able to do for Mother Ghana thus far, let us also remind him, that if the Mills administration fails to get Parliament to pass legislation, which will ensure that oil companies (rather than the Ghanaian nation-state!), at the pain of having all existing agreements with Ghana nullified, if they fail to comply, are compelled to pick up the tab for cleaning up, after oil spillages.


If we fail to pass such legislation quickly, were there to be a spillage of the magnitude of the BP Gulf of Mexico oil spillage, all the oil revenues Ghana has accumulated so far, will only end up being used to clean up, and restore land in the contaminated coastal areas, as well as the ecology of the marine environment in the waters off our shores, to a pristine state again.

The Hon. Moses Asaga and his colleagues need not reinvent the wheel in this instance - let them more or less copy word for word (nothing shameful in that - for the purpose it will serve!), any new legislation put in place in the US, in the wake of the BP Gulf of Mexico disaster - to protect businesses and coastal landowners affected by future oil spillages.

If that is done, he will be remembered till the very end of time, for acting to safeguard the natural environment along our coastline and off it, and protecting all those Ghanaian families dependent on the marine and coastal ecosystems, for their livelihood.

We must not wait for disaster to strike before finally taking steps to ensure that there is legislation in place, which compels oil companies to more or less pay the same amounts that BP was made to pay - some 20 billion dollars if I remember correctly - into an escrow account at the Bank of Ghana immediately after a major spillage.

Such legislation must also stipulate that oil companies operating here, pay the same levels of compensation that BP paid to individuals and businesses operating along and off the Gulf coast, to all those individuals and businesses affected by any such spillage occurring in Ghana.

With respect, that is a more worthwhile legacy to aim for, for the Hon. Moses Asaga - than all that talk about transparency in the handling of oil revenues. Ordinary Ghanaians are now wide awake - and no government will be allowed to steal money from that source: as has been the case in Nigeria, for decades.

Essentially, our ruling elites need to remember that oil companies operating in Ghana, will never willingly spend money to do any effective clean-up after a major oil spillage along our coastline - and off it.

That is why we need to quickly pass legislation that compels them to do so anytime there is a spillage along our coastline and in waters off our shores. The ghastly state the heavily-polluted natural environment in Nigeria's oil-producing Niger Delta is in, ought to remind us of the callous nature of these companies.

As things stand, as sure as day follows night, they will head straight for the law courts - in order to use legal technicalities to wriggle out of having to pay for cleaning up after spillages: to protect their all-important bottom line, in the event Ghana was to demand that they meet clean-up costs.

We must always remember that they are here strictly to make money, not spend their precious profits keeping land in our coastal areas, and the marine ecology in the waters off our coastline, pristine, through expensive-to-implement best-practice operational guidelines, and from their point of view, playing the mug's game of voluntarily voting money for profit-destroying clean-ups, after oil spillages - especially when no such laws exist, which oblige them to do so.

So, as we say in local parlance: "Hon. Moses Asaga, over to you, Joe Lartey! Massa, aim to get Parliament to pass some of the toughest legislation in the world, which holds oil companies operating here, at the pain of having all existing agreements with Ghana nullified, if they fail to do so, solely responsible for paying for all the costs of cleaning up after oil spillages, and returning the natural environment, both on land and in the waters off our shores, to a pristine state - then you can congratulate yourself and blow your own trumpet, all you want!" A word to the wise...

Tel (Powered by Tigo - the one mobile phone network in Ghana that actually works!): + 233 (0) 27 745 3109.
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