PRESS CONFERENCE BY THE OMANHENE AND PEOPLE OF THE WESTERN NZEMA TRADITIONAL AREA (JOMORO DISTRICT) ON THE PROPOSED RELOCATION OF THE DOMUNLI GAS REFINARY PROJECT
Members of the Press here present
Ladies and Gentlemen
Once again the Jomoro District is in the news. As usual, just to protest another marginalization and deprivation: a stab in the back. Regrettably this time, painfully this time, shamefully this time it seems to be spearheaded by people we have loved and trusted; people who are regarded as the representatives of the entire people of the Nzemaland. That is why we are fuming. We are fuming today as result of blatant betrayal by people we have trusted.
We are crying foul today because of the proposed relocation of the Gas Processing Plant (GPP) from Domunli in the Jomoro District to Atuabo in the Ellembele District. This is supposed to form part of the Early Gas Infrastructure Project whose budget stands at $1.2 billion. Since 2009, the GNPC has engaged experts to study soil and land suitability and finally settled on the Domunli near Bonyere in the Jomoro District. The GNPC approached the Chiefs and people of Jomoro for land of which they were allocated a land size of 18.9 sq. km. There have been a number of engagements between GNPC and government officials and the local people. The various pronouncements by government officials, Ministers and even the President point to Domunli. Trees and cash crops on the land have been destroyed without the initial compensation arrangement. In all these, the GNPC kept on promising the people of Jomoro of the take off of the Project in 2012. Ladies and gentlemen, to the amazement of many people, including officials of GNPC and VRA, the newly appointed CEO of Ghana National Gas Company (GNGC), Dr. G. Sipa Yankey spilled the rumour in the various media that the project would be relocated to Atuabo in the Ellembele District.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the proposed relocation of the Domunli Gas Project to Atuabo enclave cannot be accidental. It has been well planned and executed, and the traps well set with attractive baits. It is not accidental because Hon. Emmanuel Armah Buah is a Deputy Minister of Energy and the Member of Parliament for the Ellembele Constituency. Again, it is not accidental because Dr. Sipah Yankey is the Chief Executive Officer of Ghana Gas Company and he comes from the Ellembele District. We expect these two individuals to know better and also point out clearly to them that it is not by accident that His Excellency the President of the Republic in his wisdom appointed them to these key positions. We are inclined to believe that His excellency, besides the many reasons that informed their appointment, he took cognizance of respect for local sensitivities in an area where Ghana has discovered its first ever commercial quantity of oil and gas as crucial, and that is why he put the two personalities is such positions to protect the interest of the people of Nzemaland.
Members of the Press, these are the arguments they are putting up to justify the relocation:
1. That Sinopec- the company charged with the responsibility for the early Phase Gas Infrastructure Project (EPGIP) has conducted another geophysical and geodetic surveys subsequent to the one commissioned by GNPC 3-years ago, which was conducted by the Geological Survey Department of Ghana which looked at all the three sites including Atuabo (in Ellemble), Old Mgbem (in Jomoro) and Domunli Enclave near Bonyere (in Jomoro).
2. That if the project is moved from Domunli to Atuabo, the nation is likely to save a substantial amount for further development because 120 km stretch of pipeline costing $184.00 million will be reduced to 103 km that is $154.00 million; thus saving an amount of $1.5 million times 20 totaling $30.00 million.
3. Also, beside the topography of Atuabo being flat and therefore easier to work on, compared to the Domunli site, which is of an undulating nature and would require a lot of leveling to make it suitable for a gas infrastructure, the former has an access road whereas the latter site would require at least a three-mile stretch of access road.
4. Again, whereas the Domunli site affected eight communities, with one whole community, Bokakole, having to be resettled, the Atuabo area will affect only three communities.
5. Also a court action initiated by some farmers in the area, seeking to restrain Ghana Gas from continuing work on the land, among other reliefs, has been another source of disincentive to working on the entire land, as doing so risked being contemptuous of the court. When the decision was first made to relocate from Atuabo, in the Ellembelle constituency, the people complained bitterly and accused their Member of Parliament (MP), Hon. Emmanuel Armah-Kofi Buah, who is also Deputy Minister of Energy (petroleum), of not securing their interest.
Members of the press, ladies and gentlemen, on the first argument Sinopec has never been to the Domunli enclave and therefore could not have decided that the Atuabo area is best suited for the project. In any case, what happened to the feasibility studies conducted by the Geological Survey Department of Ghana which was the bases upon which we sought the loan for the project, are we then to say that the Geological Survey Department is not competent enough to conduct that survey?
With respect to the nation saving $30.00 million, the CEO did not tell the nation how much it would cost to extend the deep and shallow submarine pipeline (gas gathering pipeline) which is more expensive than the offshore pipeline. Furthermore, are we being told that the Osagyfo barge at Effasu-Mangyea is no more going to tap into the gas pipeline for it operations? What about the proposed VRA thermal plant at Domunli which is supposed to produce 500 MW of electricity to support the national grid?
With respect to the undulating nature of the Domunli site and the lack of access road, Dr. Sipa Yankey also did not tell the nation that the Atuabo enclave is a perennial flood prone area, and that according to sources close to VRA, it would cost the nation up to $15.00 million to use tailings from Tarkwa to fill every 1 sq. km to a height of about 1 meter at the Atuabo site so as to enable the gas processing plant to be sited at Atuabo. In this case, the nation will have to spend an amount of $60.00 million to fill the 4 sq. km area at Atuabo. The total cost cannot be compared to the construction of a 3 km access road to the Domunli site, which will initially be laterite. Again, the cost of leveling the undulating Domunli site will obviously be cheaper than that of filling the flood prone Atuabo site.
Ladies and Gentlemen, another immediate cost is the need to reconstruct a concrete bridge over river Amanzule near Allah Bokazo and the winding road from Alla Bokazo to Atuabo area. This wills cost the nation more in terms of financial, time and other resources. Again, Bokakole is a small community of just about 20 inhabitants whose relocation would be much smaller and cheaper.
With respect to the court action, it arose as a result of wrong approach adopted by the GNPC and its allies. They started felling coconut trees and destroying other food and cash crops in the area two years earlier without coming out in clear terms with the issue of compensations. Ladies and Gentlemen, these poor farmers depend on their crops for survival. If you cut down the coconut trees and you fail to properly arrange compensation for them, you leave them no alternative than to seek redress. We also think that if GNPC and its allies were really committed to out of court settlement, they could have employed the wise council of eminent chiefs in the area for support. Undoubtedly, there was feet dragging by GNPC on the court matter. In any case GNPC later on apologized and asked for an out of court settlement. Members of the press, Ladies and Gentlemen, all over the world when projects of such magnitude are to be constructed there would be problems. We can point to Adamus mineral resource at Nkroful, in Ellembelle district had problems when they were starting. People were maimed and lives were lost, it took the wise council of eminent chiefs of the Nzemamanle council to resolve the impasse. Now Adamus mineral resources is in operation and has employed lots of the youth in the area.
We are also aware that the project will need the construction of a jetty for the export of LPG and condensate and we are also reliably informed that the Domunli lagoon and its estuary provide the sheltered waters best suitable for such projects. Atuabo has no such advantage as the incoming waves are much stronger. It will therefore cost the nation time and resources to drench a distance of about five (5km) kilometers in other to construct the jetty.
It is also on record that the silica at Atuabo area will be tapped to feed the Abosso Glass Factory as part of the Prestea Industrial Estate Project. Why are we going to site the processing plant on the very resource that we intend to exploit?
Members of the Press, Ladies and Gentlemen, we strongly believe that Dr. Sipa Yankey and Hon Armah Buah are greedily motivated by the fact that they have had access to the Subsidiary Loan Agreement, and have full knowledge of the benefits that the catchment area stands to gain. One reason why the people of the Jomoro District find it disheartening is that Hon Armah Buah made a comment that: ‘We will show them where power lies’, when the Chief and people of Kabenlasuazo declined to an outright sale of land in excess of 100 acres close to the Domunli site to himself Hon. (Armah Buah ) and a ‘friend’. Would they have moved the project if they had been given the 100 acre land at Kabenlasuazo. We find the whole relocation attempt as personal and parochial interest motivated other than technical and economic considerations. It is for this reason that we will resist them fiercely with any means at our disposal.