The long held strong suspicion that the Mahama-led government was giving away juicy oil blocks to friends and cronies has been given a major boost as a Deputy Energy Minister, Benjamin Dagadu, has been fingered in a web of conflict of interest.
Mr Dagadu, who until April 2013, was the General Manager of A – Z Petroleum Products Ghana Limited has been accused of signing a letter giving away the oil rich Tano Shallow Water Concession to his former employers.
The award of the block to A-Z is likely to receive a Cabinet approval this Thursday.
In fact, there is a strong suspicion that the Deputy Energy Minister would next year go back to A-Z Petroleum and reclaim his position as the General Manager.
The decision by Mr Dagadu to give away the oil block to A-Z may come as no surprise since, he, as Manager of Field Evaluation and Development Department of the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation, worked on the Tano fields and so knows how rich that particular block is.
According to a source at the Energy Ministry, “ Mr. Dagadu is very experienced in the oil business as compared to the Minister, Armah Kofi Buah and so he is virtually calling the shots there(Energy Ministry)”.
The source therefore appealed to President John Mahama to “investigate the award of all the oil blocks since it is giving Ghana a bad reputation globally”
The source further revealed that it is only A-Z Petroleum Company in the oil business which has been given three oil blocks to drill. He mentioned the three blocks as Tano Shallow Water Concession, Gasop Relinquished Block and the Takoradi Offshore Black.
“Although they have been given these blocks to drill, they would in turn sell them off to different companies at exorbitant prices because it has not got the capacity to undertake the project,” the source added.
It would be recalled that, the Africa Centre for Energy Policy recently expressed worry “at the rate at which Ghana was throwing out promising oil blocks to relatively inexperienced oil companies”.
Unfortunately, according to ACEP “these contracts are being awarded at the blind side of Ghanaians, who are the primary owners of Ghana’s oil and gas resources”.
The oil think tank recalled how Parliament approved two new oil contracts under certificate of urgency. “These contracts which were approved by Parliament were laid before the House on 27 February 2014. The contracts were however approved less than 6 hours after the notice of the motion for the approval was given. This contradicts parliament’s own standing order 80(1) which provides that a motion can be moved after 48 hours have elapsed from the time of notice.”
Touching on the allegations of forgery by the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum against Miura Petroleum and its Canadian partner Gondwana Oil, majority owner of Miura Petroleum, over the South Block Offshore West Cape Three Points, ACEP stated that there was more to it than what meets the eye.
“We take this allegation serious particularly coming from the Ministry of Energy and for the grave implications it has for Ghana’s oil and gas industry. We however expect that the on-going investigations into the matter will go beyond the alleged signature forgery to cover the processes for the award of petroleum licenses including alleged insider deal by some officials of the Ministry”.
“ACEP’s investigation shows that there is more to the issue than what is reported by the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum. We know that the suspect for the alleged forgery is on investigation by the Ghana Police; but we also know that the Ministry of Energy was economical with the truth on the entire application for a block by Miura Petroleum and its partner. Indeed, we find the Ministry very unprofessional in the role it played by putting out a press release which contains information contrary to the truth as established by us.
First, in the statement by the Ministry of Energy, the Ministry stated that the applicant (Miura Petroleum) was unknown to the Ministry and that they were told the block in question was not available. However, we are curious how an application for a block which was not available was referred to the Petroleum Commission and then to the GNPC in line with established procedure for petroleum licensing in Ghana.
Second, the Ministry claimed in its statement that Miura Petroleum (the applicant) did not enter the GNPC data room to review seismic data on the block in contention. However, we can confirm that Miura had access to the data room in response to a Data Review Letter issued to them.
Third, the Ministry’s statement also indicated that the block in question was being processed for approval for another company. The Ministry neither provided the name of the company nor its owners. Our research has revealed however that the company being favored (name with-held) is one which one of the Deputy Ministers of Energy and Petroleum worked for over a decade. Another Senior Official (a Director) at the Ministry who is facilitating for the company was also a former worker of the company.
We suspect therefore that some officials of the Ministry are engaged in insider dealing with some oil companies and we are at pains to know how the Ministry can be fair to other companies when important players in the Ministry have interests. This raises serious conflict of interest situation which must not be allowed in the country’s oil and gas industry. It is for this reason the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum must halt its internal investigations into the matter”.
The Center in its statement signed by its Executive Director, Mohammed Ami, therefore called on the President to investigate the potential role of the Ministry’s officials including potential conflict of interest and the abuse of established procedure.