nigeria and ghana: warning communities about Ghana black gold
New oil fields have now been discovered off the coast of neighbouring Ghana, and it is claimed that this will boost Ghana’s economy. But little consideration seems to have been given to its potential impacts on people living close to distribution pipes and refineries.
An exchange of information between communities in the two countries could help Ghanaian communities stop or constrain this dangerous practice, which is inimical to their livelihoods, environment and health. At the very least, informed communities could demand that oil companies are required to adopt best practices and accept international standards before any drilling is permitted.
Friends of the Earth Nigeria and Friends of the Earth Ghana supported a dialogue between communities in the two countries by bringing Alali Efanga, a representative of the Oruma Community and a member of the Nigerian Host Communities Network, to Ghana.
Alali was able to share his community’s problems with oil pollution, which he experienced first-hand when all the lobsters, oysters, crabs and prawns in his fish ponds died, leaving the community members with little food and income for many years. Hundreds of trees around the ponds also died or stopped bearing fruit due to the oil pollution, and even Shell’s clean-up activities caused damage.
Alali, who had inherited his fishponds from his late father, said, "Since the spill I have lost most of my income. Now we live from hand to mouth: sometimes I go into the bush, sometimes a company gives me a day's work for 500 Naira (3 euro)."
Experts on the environmental impacts of the oil and gas industry and its overall effect on peoples’ livelihoods and sustenance also had an opportunity to discuss the issues with a wide spectrum of community leaders, NGOs and media, at a workshop held in Ghana.
Community leaders - especially those in coastal areas, who are closest to the areas of oil discovery and exploration and whose livelihoods are most likely to be affected - learned about the opportunities and problems associated with oil and gas extraction. They can now make more informed demands of their government and the corporations intent on exploiting their natural resources. An alliance of different stakeholders was also created to voice the concerns of coastal community people when the need arises.
The community representatives from Ghana and Nigeria are already discussing ways of establishing a host communities network in Ghana as a first step, and a joint Ghana-Nigeria host communities network after that. They intend to ensure that there is a united voice demanding that any oil companies operating in their countries are required to meet best practice and international standards.
FoE Nigeria and FoE Ghana are currently compiling resource materials from the community exchange and other sources, in order to produce a simple illustrated manual for communities around the world resisting the double standards of the oil and gas corporations.
with thanks to our funders: the dutch ministry of foreign affairs (dgis)