IMANI Africa, might have goofed on Dr. K.K. Sarpong and the ownership of Fueltrade, but succeeded in exposing President Akufo-Addo’s claim that, his government had championed and discovered one of the biggest crude oil deposits in Africa within a record time.
Last Thursday’s press conference by Kofi Bentil,Vice-President of IMANI Africa, on issues surrounding the US$4.4 billion petroleum agreement between Ghana and Aker Energy Ghana Limited, has revealed that President Akufo-Addo, has not been truthful to Ghanaians, on when and how the discovered was made.
At this year’s State Of the Nation Address (SONA), President Akufo-Addo stated, “There has been good news with the recent announcement by Aker Energy of one of the biggest oil finds in Africa. Mr. Speaker, this has led me to think that an NPP government must be good for Ghana. After many, many years of our looking and almost giving up, it took an NPP government to discover oil in 2007. In eight years of NDC administration, 13 oil block deals were signed, and not a single one was developed. The first one signed in 2017, under my government, which was Aker, has led to the second biggest oil discovery in Africa. Enough to make a believer of anyone, I might say”.
But events, since the Policy think tank’s press conference, have established that exploration within the Deepwater Tano /Cape Three Points (DWT/CTP), have been on over a decade now and several Chief Executives of the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC), the state agency responsible for the exploration, licensing, and distribution of petroleum-related activities in the country working on the find long before the advent of the Akufo-Addo government in January 2017.
Indeed, Alex Mould, who was appointed by the President John DramaniMahama, last Saturday on Joy FM’s Current Affairs Programme; Newsfile, also confirmed working on the oil find, including getting a budget of US$42 million to pay for a 10percent state in the find.
He was unhappy that, the Akufo-Addo government, has messed by the arrangement and currently Ghana, is about to lose a substantial stake in that find.
Although, Mr Mould, said he was yet to see the economic model and other arrangements made by the present management of GNPC, snippets of information available to him, suggests that Ghana stands to benefit nothing from the agreement being discussed.
Early in the year, the company announced the discovery of oil in the Pecan South-1A well in the Deepwater Tano Cape Three Points (DWT/CTP) block offshore Ghana; touted as the biggest oil find in Africa, but Kofi Bentil, argued forcefully that the find was being claimed by Aker Energy, without a legal basis.
Aker Energy, acquired the 51percent stake in an earlier well in the area found by another Norwegian company, Hess Oil.
Hess Oil, operated under a Petroleum Agreement with the government of Ghana signed in 2006, which granted the company seven years within which to undertake oil exploration in a given area, the Contract Area.
This Exploration Period ended in 2013, and Kofi Bentil, argues by the laws governing oil exploration and production in Ghana, any oil find made outside of the exploration period, cannot be claimed by the company that found it – it belongs to the state.
In fact, he said, Aker Energy, having inherited the well from Hess oil at a time the exploration period had ended, was not permitted by law to continue any exploratory activities.
They were only required to do appraisal work on the Pecan find made by its predecessor company – Hess Oil.
Aker Energy, is the operator of the field with over 50 per cent stake. It recently submitted a US$4.4 billion plan of development to the government for approval and allow for development and production activities to start.
IMANI, said it was concerned that Aker Energy, may be disregarding Ghana’s laws, because it is politically connected. In this regard, Mr Bentil, accused the government of treating AKER with kid gloves, alleging that the company has “been calling the shots” in most of the key decisions since buying out Hess Petroleum in 2017.
He called on the government to be firm in dealing with Aker Energy, noting that most of the decisions that should have been taken by Parliament, have been unilaterally taken by Aker Energy in a manner that raises eyebrows.
Aker Energy, is 50 per cent owned by Aker of Norway, leaving the other 50 per cent for Norwegian billionaire, Kjell Inge Roekk, through his private firm.
According to him, the oil find is actually US$30 billion and unless the government acts quickly to protect the interest of the state, Ghana may lose to the Norwegian company; Aker Energy.
The estimated 450 million to 550 million barrels of oil – found in two wells – was discovered in February and March 2019.
Why were they permitted to engage in exploration in flagrant violation of the laws? Kofi Bentil wondered. Assuming that Aker Energy, accidentally stumbled on a new well in the course of the appraisal, it was legally obligated to announce this to the government for a negotiation on who controls what stake, but Kofi Bentil, said that has not happened in this case.
Instead, he said, the company has claimed the new wells, as though they formed part of the stake acquired from Hess Oil, emphasizing that the new wells, could not be said to be part of the original well, because an assessment showed that there is no dynamic communication between the new wells and the existing one.
Kofi Bentil, read copiously, documents suggesting that Aker Energy, has submitted to the government its Plan Development in respect of the new wells stating that by law, the Minister of Energy, is expected to assess that Plan of Development (PoD) and either disagree or endorse it.
Where the minister fails to respond in 30 days, the proposals submitted by the company, are deemed as accepted.
The IMANI Vice-President, said if the Energy Minister, John Peter Amewu, fails to respond – the Petroleum Commission has advised him to – the $30 billion oil find would become the sole property of Aker Energy.
He does not understand why the ministry appears to be lax while the country stands on the cusp of losing a resource that rightfully belongs to the people of Ghana. The two new oil wells are not the only resources Aker Energy is claiming ownership of.
According to Mr Bentil, in clear violation of the laws, the company has refused to relinquish the rest of the contract area back to the state.
In fact, the company has claimed the 30percent relinquished by Hess, before its stake was acquired by Aker Energy. The company, has actually indicated it would continue to explore for oil in the Deepwater Cape Three Point/Tano South area.
This is in spite of the fact that, there is no petroleum agreement permitting it to continue conducting any exploration. Kofi Bentil, insists that having made a find and having conducted appraisal of the wells, the remaining parts of the Pecan field, should have been relinquished.
While maintaining that, IMANI, is not interested in making allegations and accusing people of wrongdoing, he insisted the government must protect the national interest by claiming its share of the newly discovered oil wells.
He is surprised that government did not pay the $140 million it was required to pay to retain a stake in the Pecan well.“ Ghana needs the money,” he said, “God knows we need it so government must act quickly and claim it.”