18 May 2012

Ghana: Leave the Crude Oil in the Soil

Oil watchers around the African continent have initiated a campaign, calling on African governments and oil transnational companies to leave the oil in the soil because the balance sheet of oil production has historically shown a negative trend if judged on economic, social harmony and environmental protection.

They argue that oil exploration and production in Africa have a history of creating social and economic inequality, deepening poverty and slowing down the pace of economic growth and development.

According to them, oil cash has reproduced the lack of interest and focus on the part of political and economic elites in pursuing national development agenda and the specific concerns of citizens in addition to the negative environment effects caused by processing of extractives.

Indeed, the injection of oil cash makes leaders and political elite in oil dependent African countries to lose interest in their fellow citizens as they try to get access to free cash. By rushing on the ?free cash? they also forget and lose focus of the direction of national economy,?they added.

The call was made at a two-day international conference hosted by the Oilwatch-Ghana in Accra early this week. It was on the theme, Oil over Africa: oil, Economic Boom and Burst.

The Conference deliberated on the recent proliferation of oil and gas exploration, development and production projects in Africa and their impact on Africans, particularly the socio-economic and environmental costs associated with these new investment flows and extractive activities in the oil and gas sector.

The conference brought together members from Oilwatch Africa network, Civil Society Organizations including members of the Civil Society Platform on Oil and Gas, grassroots organi sations, community-based organisations, traditional authorities and academics.

Participants were of the view that, the cost of oil exploration to the ordinary citizens of Africa and their economies presently was so high that some believed it was meaningless extracting the resources any further.

They called for a paradigm shift in pursuit of alternative responses by African governments to challenges posed by the globalisation and international capital.

They explained that their radical position was in recognition of the fact that activities of transnational oil and mining companies did not dispose to a positive response to the development priorities of national economies and rural communities of the people of Africa.

In a presentation, Nnimmo Bassey, Chairman of Friends of the Earth International, observed that ?oil does not translate to prosperity , it is a creator of poverty and generator of conflicts in the communities.

He emphasised that since the governments of Africa did not generally provide its people the environment to live and develop, the people must ensure that they defended their environments.

Contributing to the discussions, Faith Nwadishi, Publish What You Pay-Nigeria, lamented that Africa was gradually forfeiting its natural resources because most of the African countries were too much in a rush to rake in the dollars.

She maintained that Africa had a lot of natural resources but those who benefitted from the resources were from outside the African continent. The problem, she indicated, arose because the issues were too technical for the local people to understand.

African leaders, she noted, must continuously engage the people ?if not by the time we realize, we would have sold the whole continent to multinational oil companies.? She reiterated earlier the position by previous speakers that the crude must be left in the ground.

Dr. Vladimir Antwi-Danso, Acting Director of the Legon Center for International Affairs and Diplomacy (LECIAD) who chaired the conference, said the debate on whether or not oil was the solution to the problems of Africa would continue to take center stage.

?Oil is wealth but oil is death, however, governments proud themselves with oil find. But when pollution comes they do not want to take the blame,? he noted.

He stressed that if the exploitation did not benefit the people of Africa, it was better to leave the oil in the soil. He equally espoused the idea that African leaders must change the African development philosophy.

Noble Wadzah, a representative of Oilwatch Ghana stressed that Oilwatch Africa aims to ultimately stimulate a transition from fossil energy dependency to completely renewable energy options as viable and sustainable alternatives.

Oil Watch-Ghana is a member of the Civil Society Platform on Oil and Gas and an affiliate of Oilwatch International, an international non-governmental organization network committed to promoting appropriate energy sources such as renewable as an alternative to fossil fuels.

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