A mafia style takeover of Ghana Gas Company (GNGC) by elements heavily connected to the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC), has sparked a war of words between the management of Ghana Gas, the Ministries of Energy and Finance and Economic Planning.
Ghana Gas, was initially planned to be an independent institution by the John Mills administration, and raise funds into the national kitty, but that position has since changed, as a takeover decision is being handled in a way that is raising eyebrows with even keen supporters of Mahama government, becoming suspicious.
Indeed, observers of the unfolding events, are describing the takeover as one of the fastest in the history of such transactions in the world. The documents were not sighted and resolutions were not passed yet, a takeover was, however, announced in a sensational manner.
In other instances, letters never got to their destinations or appeared backdated, so scheduled meetings did not come, because invitation letters for those meetings, were deliver long after the meeting had taken place.
The role of PricewaterhouseCoopers in the transaction as mentioned by Finance Minister, Seth Terkper, is looking like a ruse for an already formed opinion by the actors.
For example, Board Chairman of the GNGC, Dr. Kwesi Botchwey, attended one of such meetings on Tuesday, December 9, 2014, which lasted only ten minutes, and in attendance were; Ato Ahwoi, Kyeretwie Poku, Seth Terkper, Alex Mould and Emmanuel Armah-Kofi Buah; the Energy Minister.
Invitation for this meeting, was sent on Monday, December 8, 2014, but insiders say by the time Dr. Kwesi Botchwey got to the Ministry of Energy Conference Room at 2pm, the meeting was over and he was only briefed that the takeover has been decided without any input from the Ghana Gas.
The Herald, has meanwhile, intercepted a 7-page petition dated December 1, 2014, fired to President John Mahama by the respected economist cum lawyer and the longest-serving Minister of Finance; Dr. Kwesi Botchwey; the man who has incidentally helped the government turn the economy around, raising cogent reasons why Ghana Gas must remain independent.
Ghana Gas officials, first heard of the takeover in the 2015 Budget Statement read on November 20, 2014 by the Finance Minister, Seth E Terkper. Shortly after that, specifically on December 4, 2014, the same Mr. Terker, announced the appointment of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) as Transaction advisors, to advice on the takeover.
Barely had PricewaterhouseCoopers sat to consider and advice on the advantages and disadvantages of the takeover, came another statement from the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum dated December 12, 2014, saying that government’s interest in GNGC, has been transferred to GNPC.
But Ghana Gas Board Chairman, Dr. Kwesi Botchwey in a statement on the same day (last week Thursday) said, the announcement about the completion of the takeover process was “surprising and premature,” and insisted that, they are “yet to receive any written indications from either the Minister for Finance or Minister for Energy on the takeover decision and the way forward as the Company prepares to meet the Transaction Advisor.”
Mr. Buah fired back at Dr. Kwesi Botchwey, insisting that his Ministry duly informed the Ghana Gas of the final takeover by GNPC. However, a letter dated December 9, 2014 and leaked to the media, confirms that the Energy Ministry indeed, informed officials of Ghana Gas about the takeover, two weeks after the Budget Statement, through a letter dated December 3, 2014.
The December 9, letter, signed by the Energy Minister, Emmanuel Armah Kofi Buah, also referenced a meeting between the key officials heading the various companies at a meeting on December 9, over the matter.
Shockingly, the December 9 letter, together with two others dated December 3 and December 10 respectively, and signed by the Energy Minister, were delivered by a certain lady by name Elorm to the offices of Ghana Gas, late last Friday evening, when everybody had closed and gone home for the weekend.
The obviously backdated Energy Ministry’s letter, insisted that the meeting was attended by Dr. Kwesi Botchwey himself and his company secretary, a claim which he denies. The rest of the officials, who attended the said meeting are the Board Chairman and two Board Members of the GNPC and the Chief Executive of GNPC.
The meeting was also attended by officials of the Ministry of Energy.
The Ghana gas takeover, according to government is expected to make GNPC a stronger company with enough muscles to compete on the global stage.
According to the Finance Minister, “the consolidation of GNPC and GNGC will make it possible to enhance a more integrated management and continue financing of projects in the oil and gas enclave immediately”. The move will make Ghana gas a subsidiary of GNPC.
Dr. Botchwey’s press statement on Thursday describing the takeover as “surprising and premature”, revealed that “the Board & Management of Ghana Gas have not held a single meeting with the Transaction Advisor (who a statement from the Minister for Finance said has been appointed), neither has the Transaction Advisor requested the Company to provide it with any information.”
“It cannot, therefore be said that the process has been undertaken and concluded,” it added.
GNGC stated that, “while the Board has become aware of government intention, through its announcement in the Budget & Financial Estimates of 2015, to transfer its ownership of Ghana Gas to the GNPC, as a limited liability company, the Board of Ghana Gas has as of today not passed any resolution nor has the Board filed the necessary papers to effect the change in ownership.”
It said Ghana Gas Company is “yet to receive any written indications from either the Minister for Finance or Minister for Energy on the takeover decision and the way forward as the Company prepares to meet the Transaction Advisor.” It therefore urged all stakeholders to allow the appointed Transaction Advisor (PricewaterhouseCoopers) to undertake its assigned task before arriving at any conclusions.
Currently, there are speculations that some officials had schemed to handover Ghana Gas to GNPC, instead of the original idea of keeping it independent as espoused by the late President John Evans Atta Mills, whose younger brother, Cadman Atta Mills, and trusted political friend, Ato Ahwoi, are sitting and chairing the GNPC Board, respectively.
GNPC, is only mandated to lead exploration of crude oil in Ghana, but management of petroleum resources, have been left in the hands of the institutions which have shown the right acumen to management them. But the claims are that GNPC intend to handover Ghana Gas to Italy’s Eni Exploration. Other claims are that GNPC intends to use Ghana Gas to raise more cash.
Interestingly, Reuters on November 24, announced that Ghana’s government signed a $6 billion deal to allow Italy’s Eni Exploration to start oil and gas work at the Offshore Cape Three Points block and deploy a third floating production storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel.
The deal is subject to parliamentary approval and the block should start producing oil and gas by mid-2017, a statement said. Ghana produces around 100,000 barrels per day from the offshore Jubilee field. It plans to start production of oil and gas from the TEN fields in 2016.
(Written by Matthew Mpoke Bigg; and edited by Jason Neely).
It is not clear, whether some Ghanaian officials are teaming up with Italy’s Eni Exploration to kill Ghana Gas, which is capable of raising cash into the economy.
Dr. Kwesi Botchwey in his petition to President Mahama, reveals that “Many investors have also expressed a keen interest in collaborating with Ghana Gas in pursuing this development path. We would suggest that the nation stands to gain from a more comprehensive participation of an independent Ghana Gas, rather than a subsumed company working under the ambit of GNPC”.
The Ghana Gas Board Chairman insisted that “There are clear distinctions in the mandates of Ghana Gas and GNPC” adding, “the different mandates of GhanaGas and GNPC follow a model that most countries use to optimize the development and economic benefits of their petroleum resources. Some examples are the British, French, Russian and Equatorial Guinea models. Experience of the Nigerian model, where the gas company is a subsidiary of NNPC (which this decision appears to be following) is clearly not worthy of emulation.”
Dr. Botchwey’s petition dated December 1, 2014, further cited the case of Petrobras of Brazil, to strongly advocate his displeasure against the takeover, and demanded a meeting with President Mahama to discuss these and other concerns about the takeover of Ghana Gas by GNPC.
More to come!