Editors’ Forum on Oil & Gas Development in Ghana

Friends of the Nation and its partners organized a one-day Editors’ Forum on Oil & Gas Development in Ghana under the theme “Exposing the Media to the livelihood and environmental issues under Ghana’s Petroleum Industry and call for policy formulation and passage of the E & P bill into law”.

The forum took place in Accra on February 4, 2014 and seeked to provide the platform for sharing of information by civil society actors and affected communities to the media on the critical livelihood and environmental issues. It was also geared towards discussing the gaps in the regulatory and legal framework in the petroleum and how the media can join the advocacy campaign to address them especially the passage of the E & P bill into law.

The target audience were editors from both electronical and print media houses who have interest and report on Oil & Gas issues. These editors form the core of the editors’ forum, a group of media practitioners, who have become the agenda setting group for the media landscape in Ghana. Usually, they decide which story is news worthy or gets a front page highlight. Friends of the Nation considered that engaging this group is therefore relevant to our quest to catalyst a strong and vibrant media support for our advocacy actions.

Background

The discovery and subsequent production of oil off the western coast of Ghana, has raised expectations of further economic progress in areas of infrastructure, job creation, social services and livelihood enhancement. Towards ensuring reaping of maximum benefits from the petroleum industry, there are a number of policy proposals that are underway for formulation and legislation. Unfortunately, debates and dialogue around policy proposals are mostly skewed towards revenue maximisation and benefit sharing over environmental and livelihood concerns. There are also inadequate laws on pollution, compensation and livelihood issues.

Already the development of the offshore oil & gas is negatively affecting fishing livelihoods. There have been reports of fatal accidents between supply vessels and fishing vessels resulting in death of fishermen and destruction of their fishing gears with the affected fishermen given little or no compensation. This coupled with restriction of fishing around the oil & gas installations and other areas are fuelling tension between fishermen and petroleum companies. There have also been reported cases of toxic waste dumping into the sea, spillage of tar balls and reclamation of wetlands for oil and gas support services.

Inadequate Legal and Regulatory Framework

Against the effects of oil and gas exploitation activities of coastal livelihoods and environment there is inadequate legal and regulatory framework to ensure environmental and livelihoods protection. The absence of the Petroleum Exploration and Production (E & P) law has created an enormous vacuum for proper management of the negative externalities of the sector. This coupled with the lack of urgency by policy makers and government to pass the E & P bill into law is a great worry environmentalist and all those who seek the best interest of the nation with regards to improved benefits maximization from Ghana’s petroleum resources.

Friends of the Nation therefore seeks to provide adequate information to enlighten the editors on the socio-economic and environment issues related to the impacts of oil and gas exploitation activities, as well as encourage the editors to give headlines to socio-economic and environment stories of the oil and gas from the host communities’ perspective. Last, but not least the forum invited the participants to activate investigative journalism into actual and potential effects of oil and gas exploitation on marine biodiversity, coastal environment and livelihoods.