Undeniably, the discovery of oil at Cape Three Points in the Western Region in 2007; brought smiles on the faces of many inhabitants, as they looked forward to a massive boost in their socio-economic lives in the subsequent years.
But the production of Ghana’s first oil on December 15, 2010 at the Jubilee Fields, approximately three years after the discovery, gave a rather different picture – and over time dimmed the light of hope that many had.
Today, it’s been nearly six years of commercial oil production, in addition to the production of huge gas reserves – that has seen Ghana build its first Gas Processing Plant at Atuabo in the Ellembele district of the Western Region.
Even so, the basic objective of the Gas Processing Plant producing enough gas to power thermal plants at the Volta River Authority (VRA), to cut down the use of crude oil – thereby producing cheaper energy, has been fraught with challenges.
Instead, the cost of power has gone up significantly over the last few years – and the folks in the Sekondi-Takoradi Metropolis, and other parts of the region, are equally feeling the heat just as their counterparts across the country.
And fuel is not cheaper merely because the Ghana is now an oil producer – although not one of the biggest in Africa or in the world.
For many residents of the Sekondi-Takoradi and its environs, the oil and gas production and its related activities, have brought more harm than good; in view of the fact that cost of living has gone up drastically and keeps going up.
In Takoradi today, the cost of rent for residential and commercial facilities has shot up hugely; whereas the cost of food items, and general goods and services, are also up – since the forces of demand and supply are at play.
Residents, who use to pay 100 cedis or less for a decent single room self-contained, are now paying between 200 and 250 cedis; whereas the cost for two-bedrooms or more have also gone up exceedingly.
In some cases, the natives of Takoradi are forced to vacate their rented apartments for much lower options; due to the excessive amounts being charged by property owners – some of who are redesigning their facilities to meet the demand of expatriate oil and gas workers.
And so when the homes or apartments are abandoned by the locals, the visitors to the city, especially expatriates working in the oil and gas industry and its allied jobs, willingly and readily pay for the increased charges.
The situation eventually leaves some locals with no cheaper option, to pay for the high charges.
The prices of land have also gone up excessively, as businesses expand and new offices and homes spring up to benefit from the booming economy that is largely in the interest of visitors than the locals.
Local residents are thus often angered by the lack of ample opportunities in the industry, to engage the city’s youthful and skilled population, coming out of the country’s tertiary institutions.
Although government has often claimed that the passage of the local content law among other laws have given jobs to Ghanaians off-shore, as well as indirect jobs and direct jobs on-shore, the locals have often lamented that the real number of people working in the industry is quite insignificant.
Some have also accused government of doing very little to equip the unemployed population particularly in the catchment areas of the oil and gas find, to benefit fully from the industry.
This has accounted for the scenario where some oil companies operating in the Takoradi enclave and providing various oil and gas services, are importing services and goods, such as vegetables and others from neighbouring Cote D’Ivoire and elsewhere, when such can be procured locally with government support.
Even the few fortunate inhabitants of the Sekondi-Takoradi Metropolis and other parts of the region who have landed off-shore jobs which involves working on oil rigs, they are largely dissatisfied; just like those employed on-shore.
Several off-shore workers have complained about the failure of Government to protect their interests in these companies; largely owned and run by expatriates; and in some cases led by Ghanaian managers.
According to them, unlike other oil producing countries in Africa, such as Gabon and Angola, which protects the interest of their citizens in foreign-owned oil firms in their countries – Ghanaian workers in the industry have largely been neglected and left at the mercy of lawless and callous expatriate managers – despite the passage of the local content law.
In some cases, their attempts to form local worker unions to fight for better conditions of service, has led to unfair dismissals and victimization – a situation that has forced many to keep mute and suffer in silence.
Majority of these workers complain about poor salaries, inadequate allowances, a wide salary disparity between locals and expatriate staff for same or more level of work, job insecurity, and inadequate safety measures among others.
Whiles only a few people are benefiting from the oil and gas industry in the Sekondi-Takoradi Metropolis, not much is seen by way of central government development projects, funded by the oil revenue.
And for many of these locals in the Sekondi-Takoradi Metropolis and other parts of the Western Region, they fear that socio-economic conditions could worsen in the ensuing years, as long as the local oil economy expands; and life becomes more expensive; with only few of them securing jobs in the industry with poor salaries.
By: Ebenezer Afanyi Dadzie/ghanadecides.com/Ghana