Ghana's oil find, if not properly managed could lead to unrest comparable to what is happening in Nigeria's restive Niger Delta region. A respected legal practitioner and lecturer at the University of Ghana Law Faculty, Dr. Raymond Atuguba has revealed that militants in the Niger Delta region, notorious for blowing up oil pipes, kidnapping and demanding huge ransoms and causing unrest in the oil rich Nigerian region have started tripping to Ghana.
Militant groups in the Niger Delta employ abduction of expatriate oil workers and the destruction of oil production facilities to back their demands for a larger say in the exploitation of oil deposits in the region.
Nigeria relies on oil exports from the Niger Delta for more than 90 per cent of its total annual revenue.
Dr. Atuguba in an interview on an Accra based radio station said the essence of the militants' interest in Ghana is to mentor folks in the Western Region, on whose offshore the country will be drilling oil.
He said, when he visited the Western Region a few weeks ago, he discovered that 'groups there were already creating linkages with groups in the Niger Delta'. According to him, the people were 'preparing to create the same amount of chaos we have in the Niger Delta if we neglect their concerns.'
Dr. Atuguba stopped short of stating the exact 'lessons' the Ghanaians would be taking from the visiting militants, but said people were preparing to protect their interests. He remarked that if the security agencies were on their toes, they would have noticed the movement of arms.
Dr. Atuguba said the culture and livelihood of the people located on the coast of the region will be greatly affected, due to the infiltration of various forms of social vices.
As if making a case for the them, Dr. Atuguba said as a result of the governmental decision to drill oil in their area, 'prostitution is going to increase in their community, stealing and contract killings are going to increase in their community, land grabbing has started in their communities such that they can't even buy a piece of land in their communities to build a house�You have dislocated the man in his own society and you expect him to sit there and watch you do it �and the politicians will take the money and stuff it in their foreign accounts somewhere�'
Dr. Raymond Atuguba who is also the director of the Law and Development Associates warned that it will be tragic to ignore the concerns of those communities. 'We should not underestimate it�' he advised.
Expressing his opinion on how to deal with the looming crisis, he proposed a two-prong approach.
First, he thinks 'government needs to implement a strategy for keeping off pressure from the President. These oil companies are so big and powerful that they can get Obama to call Mills; they can get the Queen to call Mills; they can do anything�"
In the face of the above, he said he believes the government needs to draw a strategy for dealing with external pressures from companies working through other sovereign states or directly through their CEOs on government and forcing it to do things that otherwise government wouldn't have done.'
He said, once that pressure is managed a technical team should be put together to design a plan for making the nation maximize gains from the oil industry. The gains he mentioned must be invested in critical social sectors that will move the country forward.