The Chief of the Defence Staff of the Ghana Armed Forces, Lieutenant General Peter Augustine Blay Expatriate companies operating within the restricted Ghana Air Force enclave in Takoradi are to vacate the premises within the shortest possible time to prevent the security and independence of the military from being undermined, a senior official of the Ministry of Energy has stated.
The ministry is now fine-tuning details of the relocation process with the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) to pave the way for the companies to move to new locations.
The companies currently operating in the restricted area are Tullow Ghana, Kosmos Energy, WEBB Construction, Crane Mobicrane, NHV Aviation, I.A.S. International, Hess Ghana Exploration and Vanco Oil Ghana Ltd.
Two of these companies operate aircraft services from the Takoradi base to the rigs and back and could continue to operate from there until a public airport is built.
According to the official of the Ministry of Energy, the relocation had become necessary because expatriate companies had the potential to interfere with the security of the military.
The directive to the companies came on the back of reports that a number of oil and service companies located in the restricted enclave had illegally been using electricity and water without paying bills for the past seven years.
In addition, supply vessels serving offshore oil operations are also reported to be drawing potable water from the Home Port of the Western Naval Command free on the government’s account.
The Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) and the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) have, consequently, bared their teeth at those practices and threatened to head for court.
The oil and service companies are using the premises of the Air Force in a leasehold but have refused to pay for the utilities because the military, as a government institution, is not required to pay for those utilities directly.
Officials of the ECG and the GWCL told the media that when they dispatched their field officers to the premises to demand payment, the officers were verbally assaulted and chased out.
According to the Ministry of Energy official, the continuous stay of the companies at the military installation after commercial production of oil had several implications, such as corrupting the military, intercepting sensitive national security information and diverting the attention of the military from performing its core function of protecting the interest of the nation.
He said currently the Ghana Air Force had been retooled to protect the country’s interest to ensure that the operations of those oil companies conformed to acceptable standards.
“Therefore, if these companies are located within the premises of the same institution that is supposed to monitor them, it will amount to a conflict of interest,” he said.
He said another dangerous aspect of the situation was that the offices of those oil companies were close to the conference room of the Ghana Air Force.
“Therefore, any sensitive information exchanged by the national security could be monitored or intercepted by anybody standing by the building, a situation which is not the best,’’ he said.
The decision to relocate the oil and service companies from the military enclave, he said, had been on the table for some time now, but recent developments had prompted the ministry to hasten the process.
The official, who wanted to remain anonymous, said the best thing to do now was to allow the companies to pool their resources to establish a dedicated shore-base facility to serve the oil industry and not allow those foreign companies to turn the country’s security post into a shore-base facility.