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09.09.2005 General News

Journalists, civil society group divided over effect of gas pipeline


Accra, Sept. 9, GNA - Journalists and an organisation, the Civil Society Group of Affected Communities of the West African Gas Pipeline (WAGP) project on Friday disagreed about the effects of the project on the population and participating countries.

At a press conference called by the civil society group to bring to public notice certain inadequacies in the project, the group repeatedly said a lot of issues had been left unattended to by West African leaders, the West African Gas Pipeline Company Limited (WAPCO) and the consortium of investors. It also said there was gross neglect of the views of the communities.

The groups represented were Friends of the Earth, Ghana and Togo, Oil Watch Africa from Nigeria, Third World Network, Friends of the Nation, Integrated Social Development Centre (ISODEC), Consortium of Affected Communities, Nigeria, and Environmental Rights Action of Nigeria.

The journalists at the press conference demanded concrete evidence of these inadequacies and gross neglect of the laws of the various countries that the group claimed had been flouted.

Mr Noble Wadzah of Friends of the Earth, Ghana, who was the spokesman of the civil society group, claimed that the pipeline project, one of the region's largest trans-boundary investments, was a matter of concern since emerging realities indicated that the project could not deliver what its sponsors had promised.

"Rather it would lead to subversion of national laws and sovereignty, worsening environmental degradation ... and dislocating Nigerian communities while setting the stage for unregulated profiteering," he said.

The West African Gas Pipeline Project, estimated to cost close to 600 million dollars is an initiative of the governments of Ghana, Nigeria, Benin and Togo under the auspices of the Economic Community of West African States.

It is to make available clean, abundant, stable and cost-effective natural gas supply from Nigeria as fuel for power generation and industrial development in Ghana, Togo and Benin.

Mr Wadzah claimed that even though the promoters of the project said the project was West African, the company that would own and operate the West Africa gas Pipeline (WAGP) was not registered in any of the countries, but rather in Bermuda.

He, however, admitted that this was not a major issue but it preferred that the company was registered in any of the four participating countries.

The group maintained that Ghana would be buying WAGP's gas at a fixed price for 20 years, ruling out the possible future alternative energy choices.

"We are worried that deregulation and liberalization of the energy sector in Ghana and Nigeria as designed by the World Bank and the USAID in favour of Chevron and the WAGP, would increase energy costs above the reach of ordinary citizens and small scale businesses."

Mr Wadzah said the group was also concerned about the meagre compensation that was to be paid to the affected communities where the pipeline was to traverse.

The journalists noted that it was rather strange for political leaders in all the four countries to "connive" with Chevron, World Bank, USAID and all relevant bodies to push through a project that was going to cause discomfort to their people as claimed by the group. The group said this was strange to them too, since a number of the issues were raised earlier but had been ignored.