Aboadze (W/R) Dec.3, GNA - President John Agyekum Kufuor on Friday cut the sod for work to begin on the construction of the 678-kilometre West African Gas Pipeline (WAGP) from Alagbado in Nigeria through Benin and Togo to Aboadze in Western Region of Ghana.
The project, which would cost about 600 million US Dollars, is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2006 to transport natural gas from Nigeria to the rest of the participating countries to meet their energy demands.
The WAGP project had been negotiated between the four West African countries and other international stakeholders including the World Bank under the auspices of the ECOWAS on a Build Own Operate basis. President Kufuor expressed appreciation over "the great strides" that had been achieved since the conceptualisation of the project in early 1990.
"Today, the WAGP is no longer an idea on a drawing board but a feasible project which is supported by the World Bank and earmarked by the African Union as a flagship project under NEPAD", he said.
President Kufuor said that the energy infrastructure was very significant and its timely development would promote and consolidate regional cooperation and economic integration of the ECOWAS sub-region.
President Kufuor said the project had demonstrated the increasing resolve of African nations and governments to work together for the development and growth of their countries and the unification of the continent.
"Further, it reflects the true spirit of NEPAD being pursued on the continent and encouraged by international bodies."
President Kufuor, who is also the ECOWAS Chairman, said the huge investment in the project was expected to contribute to the economic transformation of the participating countries and the sub-region. He therefore, called the management of the project to adopt best industrial, financial and social practices to meet the tests of efficiency, accountability and transparency.
The ECOWAS Chairman said the project should be a blessing to all the partners and therefore called on people within the participating countries to cooperate to realise the objectives of the project in a spirit of friendship and common interest.
"The successful launch today should mark the beginning of many more such joint ventures among nations of the sub-region in their quest to establish an economic and political union", he added.
Dr. Paa Kwesi Nduom, Minister of Energy said following several studies, a lot of commitment, efforts, sacrifice and very intense and useful debates the project had been brought from its conception, nurtured through a feasibility study and structured into a significant international standard and rating.
He paid tribute to past Ministers of Energy in participating countries and other stakeholders in the project for their initiative that had brought the project to fruition.
Treaty for the project was signed by the Heads of State of participating countries on January 31, 2003 in Dakar, Senegal and subsequently ratified by Parliament on June 2004.
At a separate ceremony earlier, Energy Ministers of participating countries and representatives of stakeholders signed the West African Pipeline Acts Regulations, which forms an important process for the construction of the project. The Ministers include Mr. Kamarou Fassissi, Benin, Mr. Issifou Okoulou-Kanpchati, Togo, Alhaji Jaafaru Aliyu Paki, Nigeria and Dr.Paa Kwesi Nduom, Ghana.