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Friday, February 5, 2010

Ghana must avoid the resource curse

By Lord Aikins Adusei

The phrase ‘resource curse’ has come to represent a great majority of African states where years of oil, timber and mineral exploitation has not trickled down to people in these countries except few people who control the machinery of government and the corporations that are involved in the resource exploitation.

There has been many discussions regarding how Ghana should use the revenue from the oil and this article is a contribution to that discussion. The economic, social, environmental and development problems Ghana as country is facing is not hidden. The problems are everywhere for all to see.

We know how millions of our youth have been unemployed for years. We know how children are dropping out of school to act as bread winners. We know the dysfunctional nature of our rail sector and how that vital sector cannot deliver because of lack of resources.

We know the traffic congestions in our cities and how commuters spend hours in traffic. We know the lack of paved roads in our cities and rural areas and how many of our rural areas are shut off during the rainy season because of lack of good roads and bridges preventing food and other goods from reaching needed areas. We know how the poor nature of our major highways has contributed to increased road accidents. We know the problem with our energy sector and how unreliable Akosombo dam is.

I cannot write without mentioning the telecommunication infrastructure and how landline telephone service is almost absent in the entire country. Internet service in the cities is slow and people living in the rural areas still do not have access to telephone, internet and broadband infrastructures.

Farmers in the country continue to farm with cutlasses and hoes and they lack access to tractors, irrigation, storage facilities and other modern farming technologies that could help increase yield and cut the nation’s dependence on food import from China, India and USA.

The universities, polytechnics and secondary schools lack modern facilities to produce high quality graduates: they lack classrooms, lecture halls, laboratory simulation facilities, books, vehicles access to the internet and visual communication infrastructures including computers. The universities’ halls of residence are overcrowded and four students have had to occupy rooms meant for one student. In this age of technology the institutions of learning deliver education by means of chalk and blackboard. It is a fact that only 54% of Ghanaians can read and write and the nation can never develop without educating the remaining 44%.

The poor state of hospitals, clinics and health centres; the lack of essential medicines and equipments for doctors to conduct simple operations in the country continue to make the news. In many of the hospitals patients who are supposed to be receiving care sleep on hospital floors due to lack of beds and other accoutrements. These problems coupled with low number of health workers is sending many of the people who should be living to their graves at very young age.

People in rural areas and villages live in substandard houses, in mud houses roofed with raffia leaves without running water, electricity, adequate sanitation facilities and social security. Those living in urban areas do not have access to water and face constant barrage of power cut despite being bombarded with high utility bills.

The problems of waste management in the cities and the associated health effect on the people need no telling. Accra and Kumasi Metropolitan authorities and other city authorities are struggling with waste management issues due to lack of vehicles, waste treatment plants and inadequate personnel capacity. Sewerage in the country is almost non-existent, with only a portion of Accra, Tema, and Kumasi enjoying piped sewerage services. There is no centralized wastewater treatment system in most of the cities and households and commercial premises generally have no onsite flush latrines. Within Accra, Kumasi, Takoradi, Tema and most of the cities and towns solid waste is unhygienically burned, disposed; and indiscriminate dumping of waste is creating health problems.

There are few cities and towns with reliable piped water supply. Many residence of Accra do not have access to good drinking water and many households have to resort to extreme measures to be able to cope. In short the infrastructures to deliver water to the people do not exist and poor city planning and management as well as untamed urbanization and continued influx of people from the rural areas into the cities have complicated the matter. The water situation in the rural areas is even worse. In the three northern regions people have to walk several miles in order to get water. The end result is that people are not able to live healthy lives due to poor water quality and dwindling accessibility.

The recent report by the International Migration has said Ghana is loosing the best of its workforce because of lack of job prospects and opportunities. These are some of the things we should be spending the money on: to build the infrastructures of 21st Century that will make businesses grow and transform Ghana into a middle income country for the entire people to benefit.

We definitely need to have a comprehensive development plan that will guide us to modernise our country and make it the envy of the rest of the continent. We must use the money to create wealth that will enable Ghana to attain middle income status. We cannot attain a middle income status unless the revenue is used to help Ghanaians own businesses in the country. It took Britain and the Western countries 200 hundred years to reach where they are today, at the same time it has taken Singapore, Korea, Malaysia and Taiwan about 30 years to realise the kind of development they are witnessing today. If we plan and put the right policies in place and invest the money well we can become the shinning example for the rest of Africa.

There are two critical examples for Ghana to learn from

Ghana can learn from the experience of Norway a nation that was one of the poorest in Europe but whose proper utilisation of oil revenue has made her the envy of other countries. Norway has used her oil revenue to build the infrastructures that has made it possible for businesses to thrive. They have built fast electric rail lines. They have educated their people. People are not begging in the street, homelessness is less visible, old people are properly taken care of; their universities now attract students from all over the world. They have built highways and every road to a village is paved. People do not struggle to get water to drink and there is constant supply of electricity 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. She has paid the debt she owed and every year she gives almost 1% of her gross domestic product (GDP) as aid to poor countries all over the world. They have built strong institutions to ensure that money meant for projects are used judiciously.

The leaders in the country know the oil revenue will not last forever and have taken measures to ensure that the country will not return to her poverty situation when the oil resource runs out. Through these measures the country has built excess reserve to the tune of US$700bn and has been taking advantage of the current global crisis to buy some strategic assets throughout the world. Norway is one of the least corrupt countries in the world and has consistently come on top as one of the best places to live.

All this has happened through planning and policy implementation strategies put in place through the collective effort of government, opposition parties and civil society which has ensured that there is a very tight control system regarding the utilisation of the oil proceeds.

and the executive always has to seek approval from Parliament on what percentage of the oil money should be used annually in short there is accountability and there are institutions who make sure monies allocated for projects do not go to line the pockets of few individuals. Profligacy

Nigeria and the Price she is Paying and its lessons for Ghana

We can also learn from the experiences of Nigeria. The reputation of Nigeria as a corrupt failed state is known throughout the world. It started with their leaders amassing the oil wealth instead of using it to build a country in which every Nigerian can be proud of. The leaders signed shady oil deals with corrupt oil companies. They diverted oil revenue into their personal bank accounts in Switzerland, Monaco, Britain, United States and the Caribbean with the assistance of corrupt banks operating in and outside the country. They inflated cost of projects and made fortunes at the expense of the poor people and the country. Military generals staged coups and counter coups to take their share of what they saw as free money and the politicians and civilian governments have continued in the same direction.

In Kaduna, Kano, Maiduguri and major cities in the north of the country abandoned children with plates in their hands going from house to house begging for food are visible everywhere. Fuel shortages and drivers queuing for oil are frequent in the country even though it is Africa’s biggest exporter of oil. Electricity supply is rationed although the country has over 36 billion barrels of oil in the ground not to mention large quantities of gas which is wasted everyday through flaring and the abundance of sunshine that go.

Infrastructure decay is everywhere. Graduate unemployment is skyrocketing. Illiteracy is widespread. The educational system which produced Nnamdi Azikiwe, Tafawa Balewa, and Wolen Soyinka and which was once the jewel of the nation is nothing to write home about and those who can afford are now sending their children abroad to be educated.

Nigerian cities are full of unmanaged waste, filth and diseases are rampant as municipalities and health officials struggle to do their best with the near absence of resources.

Even Abuja the supposedly planned federal capital has not escape the problems as the following statement shows:

“From Lagos which is ranked as one of the fastest growing cities in the world and yet the dirtiest and least liveable to Abuja, our supposedly modern capital city … the story is the same. There is entropy of organized disorder, decay of infrastructure facilities …inefficient waste management system. [Abuja] was properly conceived to contrast with the crisis-ridden Lagos … Greed, corruption and avarice of highly placed government officials including politicians thwarted the Abuja plan… Consequently, unconformity and chaos reigned in Abuja”. Source: Onyanta Adama, from her book: ‘Governing from above: solid waste management in Nigeria’s new capital city of Abuja’, 2007 page 15.

And it is all of them who are paying for the disgrace that has come to be associated with that country today. The politicians are not safe anywhere in the country. Top civil servants in the country are not safe too. The bank officials and the business men who continue to rape the country are not safe. The multinational corporations who have over the years being dishonestly obtaining contracts in the country and colluding with the corrupt officials are not safe either. They have had to erect high walls and built gated houses with advanced security systems just to protect themselves from the society they have helped created. In effect all of them live in fear. The high level of corruption and the associated dilapidation and poverty have created an unstable and lawless environment where people are kidnapped and robbed on a daily basis in broad day light and in Hollywood style. While writing this article news came to my desk headlined “Gunmen seize Britons in Nigeria oil city of Port Harcourt” the story reads: “Three British people and a Colombian working for oil giant Shell have been seized in Nigeria's Delta region. Kidnappers snatched the four near the city of Port Harcourt, killing a Nigerian guard” Source:, Tuesday, 12 January 2010. Kidnapping of foreign workers and ransom payment is now the order of the day.

Faced with hopelessness and frustration in the mist of oil wealth the youth in Niger Delta region where most of the oil is taken have resorted to arms to make their voices heard, an act that has worsened the already bad security situation in that part of the country. Oil pipelines have been sabotaged and oil corporations have had to move their operations further into the sea to avoid confrontations with disgruntled communities; further increasing their cost of operations. In 2008 total oil output was cut by twenty-five percent due to the growing security threat.

Environmentally, decades of oil spills, flaring, and other oil polluting activities have resulted in the contamination of soil, water, wells and creeks and most farmers and fishermen have been put out of business adding to the dire unemployment situation in the country.

The fact is that with over 600 billion dollars of oil revenue, Nigeria could easily have become the United States of Africa but the leaders chose the path of profligacy and waste; exploiting the economy to enrich themselves at the expense of the nation and its people as senators, governors, police and military generals, judges, civil servants, state and federal officials and assemblymen and women, all took turn to loot the money meant for the development of their own country and mismanaged what remained of their loot.

The cost Nigerian leaders are paying in terms of security is enormous. They cannot travel in the country without police protection and have to barricade themselves in their securitised houses for fear of being kidnapped, robbed or assassinated. Everyone is a target the politicians themselves, their children and family members. The rich and famous in the country are at the mercy of criminals. Besides every Nigerian travelling in Europe or North America is marked for maximum scrutiny at airports and many of them have to hide their nationalities or assume the nationalities of other countries. This is happening because of the corrupt leaders they have had. The leaders were not patriotic, neither were they nation builders. They were greedy, selfish people who thought only about themselves without thinking about the wider implications of their actions in the long term.

Although Angola another oil exporting nation has been doing well in terms of economic growth for the past 8 years, the situation in the country is still not different from Nigeria, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and Congo. The following observation in the Economist magazine regarding Angola is very valid: It is sticky, dirty, chaotic and hugely expensive for visitors. Logistics are a nightmare. As the country has no manufacturing base to speak of, most items have to be imported, which pushes prices up. The ports are clogged. The rubbish-strewn streets, potholed and still usually made of mud, are jammed with traffic. Red tape snags almost every activity. Electricity is patchy. There are few skilled locals. Corruption and nepotism are pervasive. Angola is near the bottom of the corruption-perceptions index published by Transparency International, a Berlin-based watchdog. Moreover, the petrodollar influx has yet to improve ordinary Angolan lives very much. On paper, GDP a head (at purchasing-power parity) has more than doubled since 2002, to $6,300 in 2008, lifting its IMF ranking to 98th out of 181 countries measured, just above China. But last year’s UN human development index put Angola near the bottom in almost every category: life expectancy is 46 years; infant mortality is 180 per 1,000 live births (against less than ten in America and Europe); one-third of adults are illiterate. While the new elite lives sumptuously, two-thirds of the 17m Angolans survive on less than $2 a day”, Source: The Economists, “Rising Angola: Oil, glorious oil-The country’s breakneck growth is slowly benefiting the masses” Jan 28th 2010.

Julius Nyerere the former president of Tanzania and one of the illustrious sons of Africa had warned Africa politicians of the consequences of looting the resources without developing their countries saying:

We can try to carve for ourselves an unfair share of the wealth of the society. But the cost to us, as well as to our fellow citizens, will be very high. It will be high not only in terms of satisfactions forgone, but also in terms of our own security and well-being.” Julius Nyerere, from his bookUhuru na Maendeleo’ (Freedom and Development), 1973.

Ghana and what she must do

Coming to Ghana it is without doubt decisions regarding how the oil money should be utilised are going to be taken by our leaders and the politicians in particular. They are going to award contracts, receive and manage money on behalf of the people. If Ghana is ever going to avoid the resource curse then we need honest politicians who will act in good faith and put the interest of the nation above all other interests.

The high levels of poverty and the associated misery, frustration, hopelessness written in the faces of Ghanaians today despite decades of gold, diamond and cocoa export is the culmination of rampant corruption that our politicians engaged in the beginning of the 1960s. Their corrupt activities paved the way for the many coups that we saw in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s and we know how the army used corruption involving the politicians as an excuse to intervene in political system and milked the nation themselves.

The recent case in Britain in which some Ghanaian politicians were named as having collaborated with Mabey and Johnson to dupe the nation is an eye opener and points to the fact that there are some people who call themselves Ghanaians who will exchange the wellbeing of their country and its citizens for few thousand pound sterling and there is no doubt that there are many today who see the oil find as an opportunity to get rich quick and are strategising to loot the country ones again.

Ghanaians must prevent this from happening at all cost. They cannot allow the previous corrupt practices to go on as they prepare to receive the oil revenue. This is why I call for all people seeking any political office to declare their assets the very day they submit themselves for vetting. Asset declaration must be made part of the resume of all those seeking political office. Ghanaians cannot wait two years for politicians to tell them what properties they have. Failure to declare ones asset during vetting must be seen as an attempt to hide something from the people and all those in that category must be prevented at all cost from holding any public office. The recent news that only 37 out 200 government officials have declared their assets one year after taking office is totally unacceptable and is a recipe for corruption to breed. All political office holders must declare their past activities, the interest they have had, companies they have worked for whether local or foreign. All political parties must have rules that compel their office holders to have their assets declared before taking office. Politicians must know that politics is not a trade that should make them rich in a year or two. Service to ones nation must be seen as a duty not as a means to acquiring wealth. If they go the path of corruption as happened in previous decades regarding the sale of gold and other resources then they must know that we cannot prevent another revolution and another Rawlings from coming to power to demand their head.

Obama declared “No country is going to create wealth if its leaders exploit the economy to enrich themselves, or police can be bought off by drug traffickers. No business wants to invest in a place where the government skims 20 percent off the top, or the head of the port authority is corrupt”., 11 of July 2009.

Obama hit the nail right on the head because corruption in Ghana is like cancer that has reached advanced stage in its development. Recently the Enquirer newspaper in Ghana reported that officials working under former President Kuffour demanded 5% Kickback on oil deals must be of grave concern to all true and well meaning Ghanaians. The allegation is a serious matter that needs to be properly investigated and those involved brought to book immediately.

The paper quoted officials of Anadarko International Oil Company that “We were informed that if we made such a strong bid, it would overcome a previous demand by then Chairman of GNPC, Stephen Abankwa, that we carry an unknown Ghanaian party for five percent (5%) something neither Hess nor Anadarko can do, given that we are both subject to the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and other related US legislation,” According to Anadarko, together with Hess, they subsequently submitted a combined bid, “but were shortly thereafter informed by Chairman Abankwa that if we did not accept the third-party carry of five percent (5%) another company, the Norwegian company Aker, had already agreed to do so and would be awarded the block” Source:

The corruption in Police Service is beyond measure. Currently four MTTU Officers working at the Achimota Overhead have been charged for extorting money from drivers but such extortion is considered normal practice in the Police administration. Top Cop Officers have been embroiled in allegation of aiding drug barons. There are allegations of corrupt practices at Tema Harbour where importers have been made to pay millions of cedis in order to clear their goods.

The Mabey and Johnson trial has shown that there are Ghanaians who are acting as agents to lobby government to award contracts to certain companies through corrupt and dubious means. These people are using every means to get rich quick at the expense of the nation and as Obama said we can never develop if these agents are allowed to buy government.

The state has a duty to make sure revenue from the oil will not go to line up the pocket of few NDC and NPP members. If Ghana is ever going to avoid the situation in Nigeria then government must take steps to weed out corrupt people in its mist.

Parliament as the body representing the people has a duty to ensure that the people are not cheated again. Parliament must enact special laws to protect our nation from corrupt politicians in the NDC and NPP, businessmen and their associates. The laws must seek to ensure that oil money will not line up the pockets of the elite to the detriment of the people and the economy. The law must take care of how the oil should be managed; how contracts should be awarded; how the proceeds should be utilised; and how the environment should be protected. Ghana should put in place proper laws that will make the utilization of the oil sustainable and environmentally friendly. Therefore environmental impact assessment should be conducted for every project linked to the oil operation.

A fund must be created where all proceeds from the oil would go into with parliament given the sole power to determine and certify how money could be drawn from the fund. Therefore the proceeds should be removed at all cost from the control of the executive branch of government.

Every ministry or department which receives oil money for project must publish in detail how it utilises it. The law must propose for stiffer penalties for officials and companies who will misconduct themselves.

Therefore, the utilisation of the proceeds must be transparent and democratic. The best way to do this is to actively involve all stakeholders including the people, the government, opposition parties, NGOs, CBOs, Church and all interest groups. Record must be kept by every institution that receives oil money and the release of those records to anyone with a genuine interest must be made mandatory.

To detect and punish corruption we need strong independent institutions which are equipped with the necessary powers, personnel and resources to detect and punish corruption.

The media has a serious role to play to ensure that people entrusted with public money do not enrich themselves over night at the expense of the nation and its people. The media has a duty to hold public officials to account; the media has a duty to inform the people what their money is being used for; who is getting contract; and on what basis are contracts awarded. The people of Ghana need to know everything that goes on regarding the oil operation and it is the media’s responsibility to inform the people.

Therefore media practioners must stop being defenders, mouthpiece and unofficial spokespersons for political parties and concentrate on their job as the fourth organ of government. The sophisticated nature of modern day corruption requires expert training, retraining and the use of cutting edge technologies to be able uncover corrupt practices. More investigative journalists should be employed by the media houses and their capacities build up to reflect the challenges of the upcoming battle. As Ghana prepares to review its constitution it is important that any law that will hinder the smooth operation of the media will be considered for repeal. Therefore the Freedom of Information Act should be passed by Parliament to make it easier for citizens, media, and interest groups to obtain information regarding oil exploration, marketing, distribution, contracts and revenue disbursement.

Judiciary is one of the few institutions in Ghana that is still trusted by the people. But there is no room for complacency. The judiciary must act with boldness and toughness. They must dispense justice without favour or without fear of intimidation, arrest and harassment. People accused of corruption must have their day in court to answer charges and the judiciary must deliver judgment without kowtowing to political pressure. Ghana will not build a justice society if corrupt officials are not severely punished. Therefore a financial court should be created to investigate and prosecute entities who may try to enrich themselves overnight at the expense of the people.

The position of independent democratic and anti-corruption watchdogs such as Serious Fraud Office (SFO), Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) should be strengthened and provided with all the resources they need to function effectively.

The Police Service as an institution has a major role to play in combating financial crime. The Service must be independent and resist any attempt by the Executive arm of government to use it to achieve selfish propaganda. A special financial crime unit must be established within the Service to investigate and financial issues; and must share information with SFO and CHRAJ. But the Police Service must rid itself of corrupt officers. The Service will not be able to combat financial crime unless the corrupt miscreants who extort money from members of the public (i.e. taxi drivers) in broad day light are weeded out of its rank.

Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII), Alliance for Accountable Governance (AFAG) and other non-governmental organisations must continue to educate the people, demand explanation from government regarding utilisation of oil revenue, bring poor environmental and financial practices to the notice of the people; mobilise the people to challenge unpopular government decisions especially in the award of contracts and use of revenue. However AFAG and others must remain apolitical if they want to enjoy the support of all Ghanaians.

The people must be active and begin to ask questions regarding how oil revenue is disbursed. The people should not sit down when things are going wrong. They must use their constitutionally mandated rights to effect actions; force politicians to rescind unfavourable decisions; engage in peaceful demonstrations and protests to register their displeasure of government decisions. Ghanaians must eschew politics from the use of oil revenue. Politicians may try to politicise issues regarding the oil revenue but the people must recognise that it is a national asset that must be protected and used to benefit all not just few individuals. The people must know that like majority of Nigerians they stand to loose if they allow politics to overshadow their conscience. Ghanaians must resist all attempts by politicians to play games with the oil money. They must be ready to vote corrupt governments out of office and force the powers that be to take action when one of their own is found to be corrupt.

Ghana cannot fully realise the dream to harness the oil resource without partnering with companies with experience in exploration, drilling, refining, and distribution. That is why the nation must work closely with nations and corporations that have the technology and expertise to explore and drill the oil.

However, Ghana must be careful not to sell the soul of the nation to them for if given the chance these corporations can employ all manner of tactics to deceive the nation and that is why everything must be done to ensure that we are not treated unfairly by these MNCs. Therefore to get the best out of the oil all companies directly or indirectly involved in drilling, marketing, distribution or export of oil must be made by law to publish what they get as profit and what they pay to government. They must also indicate whether they have paid bribe to officials within or outside the country. The relationship between Ghana and the corporations must be based on mutuality. This is because there are catalogue of abuses associated with these corporations in Africa and other developing countries where they have operated. They have been accused of encouraging and financing civil wars, unashamedly polluted rivers, wells and the soil through their oil activities. They have been accused of deliberately understating their profits and falsifying profit documents, as well as undervaluing their goods, indulging in smuggling, theft and the falsification of invoicing and non-payment of taxes, and employing kickbacks and bribes to public officials. They also overpriced projects, provided save havens for looted funds, promoted the sale of guns, helped in overthrow of African leaders, supported dictatorships and assassinated those who disagreed with them. We know, for example, the tragedy of Ken Saro-Wiwa and the support the Shell and Elf gave to Sani Abacha of Nigeria and Omar Bongo of Gabon.

It is no secret that Royal Dutch Shell, the big oil company colluded with Nigeria's corrupt Abacha regime to steal oil, pollute the country's rivers, wells, creeks and soil and render millions of farmers and fishermen in the Niger Delta jobless. “[Shell] admitted that it inadvertently fed conflict, poverty and corruption through its oil activities in the country. Nigeria contributes to about 10% of Shell's global production and is home to some of its most promising reserves, yet the country is steeped in poverty and conflict.' Source: BBC News, 18 June 2004.

The fact is that Shell, in addition to stealing Nigeria’s oil and polluting its rivers, wells and soils, also promotes corruption, poverty and conflict. “In June 8, 2009 Shell agreed to pay $15.5 million to settle a case accusing it of taking part in human rights abuses in the Niger Delta in the early 1990s”, including the hanging of the writer and environmentalist Ken Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni eight. Source: New York Times, June 8, 2009

It is no secrete that the French Oil Company Elf Aquitaine (now merged with Total) operated as an arm of the French state supporting dictators (Omar Bongo, Paul Biya, Denis Sassou Nguesso), and looting resources and establishing flush funds used to bribe African leaders to look the other way while the corporation looted Africa’s oil and gas. The author of ‘Poisoned Wells’ Nicholas Shaxson wrote of the subject: “Magistrates discovered the money from Elf’s African operations supplied bribes to support French commercial, military and diplomatic goals around the world. In exchange, French troops protected compliant African dictators.” In the Elf corruption case André Tarallo, the real boss of Elf-Afrique, 'told the court in June 2003 that annual cash transfers totalling about £10m were made to Omar Bongo, Gabon's president, while other huge sums were paid to leaders in Angola, Cameroon and Congo-Brazzaville. The multi-million dollar payments were partly paid to ensure the African leaders' continued allegiance to France. In return for protection and sweeteners from Elf's coffers, France used Gabon as a base for military and espionage activities in West Africa.' Source: The Guardian, November 2003.

The real deal is that Elf, Shell, British Petroleum BP, Chevron, Texaco, Italy’s BNI and their counterparts in Europe and America pay bribes to African leaders to induce them to look the other way while they plunder resources. These corrupt practices on the part of these oil corporations are part of the reasons why the people of Nigeria, Gabon, Congo, Angola and Equatorial Guinea wallow in deep poverty. What is so tragic is that the people know they have oil and see these corporations processing them everyday yet do not know where it goes, who buys them and where the proceeds go and when they protest they become targets of massacre and assassinations as the following write up shows:

“The International Labour Rights Fund (ILRF) has requested a jury trial of ExxonMobil and subsidiaries ExxonMobil Oil Indonesia Inc., Mobil Corporation, Mobil Oil Corporation and PT Arun LNG Company. The suit alleges that Indonesian soldiers hired by Exxon Mobil "committed murder, torture, sexual assault ... genocide and crimes against humanity.” ILRF is seeking substantial damages from the companies for the atrocities committed. The fund claims that murders carried out have been “part of a systematic campaign of extermination of the people of Aceh by ExxonMobil and TNI security forces and, therefore, constitute ethnic genocide”. The companies have also “paid mercenaries to provide advice, training, intelligence and equipment to the TNI military in the project area”. “Numerous human rights groups, including several based in Aceh with current information on the genocide of the people of Aceh, specifically requested that the Mobil companies and, since November 30, 1999 ... Exxon Mobil, cease its operations in Aceh until it could make arrangements to operate without using the murderous TNI for security”. Source:, 15 August, 2001.

These Corporations have been accused of declaring about 40 per cent of their profits in the African countries where they operate, while siphoning the rest into their safe-haven accounts in order to avoid paying taxes which could be used to eradicate poverty. In short these corporations who are lining up to exploit Ghana’s oil have a history of questioning activities and Ghanaians must be aware.

Ghana as a nation cannot allow these excesses associated with these corporations to be imported into the country. That is why all Ghanaians must be awake to ensure that they do not suffer the misfortunes of Nigeria, Angola, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and Cameroon that has led to the coining of the phrase ‘resource curse’.

Government must hire experienced tax experts and fraud detectives to scrutinise activities of the multinational corporations who may want to import their shady deals of theft, tax evasion, bribery and false accounting into the country. Government must do this as a necessity even if that means hiring foreign experts.

Both Norway and Nigeria have a lot to offer Ghanaians in terms of their experiences. The politicians in Norway are comparatively honest and all the people live in peace without fear of instabilities. In short the distribution of revenue is not skewed towards the politicians, their families and cronies, every citizen has been made to feel part of it and that is exactly what Ghana must do. The opposite of the good things in Norway can be found in Nigeria, Gabon, Angola, Congo and Equatorial Guinea where the leaders, politicians, businessmen and women and their cronies with the connivance of foreign multinational corporations have raped their countries.

Ghana has a clear choice either to use the money to invest in infrastructures, provide for her people, build economy, create wealth by helping Ghanaians to own businesses, or the country and its leaders can choose the path taken by their neighbours: Nigeria, Gabon, Angola, Congo and Equatorial Guinea.

Ghanaians are poor today but if the leaders (politicians, civil servants, MPs, president & his vice, ministers, assemblymen and women, district and municipal chief executives, party officials, business leaders, church leaders, members of the judiciary) and in deed all Ghanaians act honestly and put the interest of the nation first they can avoid the tragedy in the Niger Delta, they can avoid the civil wars in Chad, Sudan, Angola and Congo, and they can become the Norway of Africa.

Botswana has avoided the resource curse by investing in economic and social infrastructures including roads, rail lines, health, human capacity development, libraries for communities and has one of the highest standards of living in Sub Sahara Africa. Ghana can do the same. Ghana leaders can built and expand their harbours, build underground rail networks to help decongest their cities, build quality houses for the people, invest in water delivery systems, develop the Volta River to increase transportation of people, good and services between the north and south of the country. They can construct rail lines from Takoradi to Sunyani, Accra to Ho, to Donkokrom, Kumasi to Tamale to Wa and Bolgatanga. In short they can modernise the country rather than having to live in 19th Century condition with no water, electricity, clinics, schools and playing grounds for their children.

With this Ghana could be praised again for leading the continent in the right direction as her democratic credential shows.

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