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23.09.2004 Business & Finance

WAGP project to take off in November

By GNA

Accra, Sept. 23, GNA - Dr Paa Kwesi Ndoum, Minister of Energy, on Thursday said the construction of the West African Gas Pipeline (WAGP) project was expected to take-off in November.

He said the board of the World Bank (WB), financiers of the project, was expected to meet next month and give the necessary approvals to the various study documents and provide the political risk insurance for the project to take-off.

"The political risk insurance covers 40 per cent of the total cost of the project, which stands at 600 million US dollars," he said. The minister made the statement at a forum for the Presentation of the Economic and Financial Assessment of the WAGP project, organised by the stakeholders, including the government of Ghana, Benin, Togo, Nigeria and the World Bank.

"I am confident that all parties involved in this important project will meet our obligations so that we can reach a Final Investment Decision in October.

"This will make it possible for us to organise a ground breaking ceremony in November this year to signify the beginning of the construction phase of the project."

Dr Ndoum noted that the various beneficiary countries had managed to convince the financiers to include some amount of local content in the execution of the project, saying that at least 15 per cent of all contracts at the construction phase of the project would go to local contractors.

"We are negotiating for more contracts, to ensure that our people are not left with only menial jobs as labourers and office hands during the construction of the projects. Our contractors deserve the opportunity to participate in this international project to improve their experience and also to ensure that the benefits stays in this country."

Dr Ndoum said it had not been easy negotiating for much of the benefit to be kept within the base countries.

"Our negotiations with the financiers have not been a friendly one in that we never failed to point out that we would not sit down for them to invest in our countries and repatriate all the financial benefits to their countries."

"We pointed out again and again that we want the gas but we want it at a reasonable price and we want our people to participate in the various phases of the project."

The minister said the World Bank, in addition to sponsoring the project, was also assisting the various power generating and distributing bodies in the stakeholder countries to improve their efficiencies and ensure that the consumer, who is the intended ultimate beneficiary, would enjoy the benefits of the project.

Mr Kofi Asante Okai, External Affairs Manager of WAGP, told the GNA that the other requirements such as the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) by the various Environmental Protection Agencies (EPAs) had been completed but the final write-ups were still being put together. Meanwhile the WAGP treaty and its accompanying International Partnership Agreement (IPA) have been ratified by the legislatures of all the stakeholder countries, awaiting the enabling legislation next month for take-off in November.

Mr Okai said a draft was ready for Ghana's Parliament to consider and pass into law when it resumes next month. A Gas Payment Agreement has been completed between the financiers and the Volta River Authority (VRA) and what is left is for a similar agreement to be completed between the financiers and Benin's Electricity Company (CEB).

Mr Okai said extensive safety measures had been including in the design, construction and operational phases of the project to ensure that risk was highly mitigated in cases of leakage, explosion and fire outbreak.

He said a number of workshops were held between the stakeholders and the various EPAs to design an Emergency Response Plan (ERP) and also to put in place an Emergency Response Team (ERT), including staff from the Fire Service and the Navy from all the stakeholder countries to assist in averting any risky situation.

"We also have in-built emergency response systems both on line and on site with back-ups, that would detect and isolate faults from the main system," he said. "In case of leakage, for instance, there is an in-built system that would automatically shut-down the valves."

Mr Okai said an Environmental Management Plan (EMP) and an Environmental Management Team (EMT) have been put in place to monitor the construction and operation of the project to ensure that the approved environmental standards were being met to safeguard the interest of the people.

The Economic and Financial Assessment of the project was presented by IPA Energy Consulting, consultants to the project. An overview of the World Bank Group Project Support was also presented and discussed at the forum.

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