[BLOG] “The Accidental Ecowas & AU Citizen”: Troubles in the West African pipeline; trouble in West African cooperation?
The other day I boarded a taxi -- only to catch a glimpse of a discussion of Ghana’s Electricity Company of Ghana. So far, so familiar, I thought. Within minutes, the discussion had segued into no less than that of the West African Gas Pipeline. It’s not every day one hears a twi-speaking station talking about West Africa and its gas pipeline. So when one hears a discussion of how it has affected our electricity and the load-shedding, it’s only normal for the interest to be piqued—so much so to write an article!
In May, I was also in a car with a source that has significant insights into our electricity problem (generally a problem of distribution; generation; and transmission -- and not necessarily in that order all the time!).
The most shocking insight, however, had to do with the speculation of Nigeria’s intentions and how it is believed to undermine the West African gas pipeline project, which it is a part of. The West African Gas Pipeline is an ECOWAS-supported project to transport natural gas from Nigeria to customers in Ghana; Togo; and Benin.
When the regional problem turns local
Earlier in the year, one of the reasons for the load-shedding had been ascribed to the shortage of gas by Nigeria to the WAGP. A quick perusal of their website (http://www.wagpa.org//) sadly reveals it to be in a state of flux: sadly, the information is not as updated as regularly as one would have hoped, with the last news item being in July 2012. This, to me, suggests a lack of attention to their outreach—either because they feel member states do not care, or simply that they don’t yet have a strategy that includes providing adequate information about the state of the gas pipeline.
While we are at it, let me just add that the websites of VRA (http://www.vra.com/) and GRIDCO (http://www.gridcogh.com/) are nice-looking ones, but with no information on the break of the gas pipeline. ECG (http://www.ecgonline.info/ecgweb/) is frankly this side of terrible and not befitting a service provider of ECG’s status in the least! If you felt these three are found wanting, you’ll be horrified to read that even ECOWAS’ own West Africa Power Pool of ECOWAPP (http://www.ecowapp.org/), while a great-looking website, is very poor in the manner in which it has offered no information on the gas pipeline problem that has bedevilled Ghana this past year. Its regulatory counterpart in Ecowas—known as the Ecowas Regional Electricity Regulatory Authority (http://www.erera.arrec.org/About-us.aspx) – also has a good-looking website, but offers no information.
What we do know is that in an effort to contain the problem of Nigeria's inability to supply gas, a meeting was held earlier in the year. The organisers set up the West African Gas Market Development Committee (WAGMDC), which is primarily made up of representatives of World Bank, WAPCo, ECOWAS and WAGPA. This committee will facilitate meetings amongst buyers and sellers of gas, determine market requirements and through advocacy gain sub regional government support to foster gas market development strategies
Now, the reason for the alleged sabotaging of the gas also has a lot to do with the fact that, as the source inferred, Nigeria has a lucrative deal exporting its gas to Europe, which is embattled because of the fiscal crisis. There are many articles online that attest to a crisis-ridden Europe, but the article—entitled “Banks Battling European Debt Crisis Lose on African Deals”—is perhaps one that reflects how Europe is scrambling for opportunities in Africa in every nook and cranny.
Suffice-to-say, there has been little explanation of this development in the media. The Ghanaian press did talk about the lack of gas from Nigeria through the WAGP. However, an interesting article in Nigeria's Business Day is perhaps the best source so far that suggests Nigeria may be up to no good.
Here are some juicy quotes:
• In furtherance of its expansion plans, Oando Gas and Power, late last year entered into agreement with the United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) to jointly fund a feasibility study toward the development of an interstate natural gas transportation pipeline from the Excravos-Lagos Pipeline System to other southwest states
• For Oando Gas and Power, Nigeria’s leading indigenous developer of gas and power solutions and one of the companies actively involved in the actualisation of the Nigerian Gas Master Plan, the Federal Government’s initiative is a reinforcement of its robust energy programme meant to provide a home-grown solution to Nigeria’s energy crisis
• With the country’s proven gas reserve base of 187 trillion cubic feet and a further undiscovered potential of 600 trillion cubic feet, Nigeria is positioned to accelerate industrialisation on the back of massive utilisation of gas, thereby creating jobs which will in turn lead to political stability and security
• the development was in line with the current drive by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to boost domestic gas supply under the Nigerian Gas Master Plan.
• BusinessDay’s investigation reveals that Oando Gas and Power is currently developing a Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) facility in Lagos. The CNG facility will deliver natural gas in compressed form, bottled in huge cylinder vessels to customers that wish to adopt natural gas as fuel but are outside the gas pipeline coverage. It will also be used to serve customers that have been unable to connect to the gas pipeline grid due to inability to meet the cost of pipeline connection
Now, no-one is saying there is anything wrong with Nigeria developing its domestic capacity on gas. If Ghana can supply Togo with both water and electricity and Ghanaians have accepted it as fostering cooperation and integration, I do not understand why Nigeria might not see same benefits. I do not want to malign Nigeria, but this revelation continues to be too juicy to leave to oneself.
If I have not made it clear that I am all for ECOWAS and regional integration, let me just say I am! However, if Nigeria chooses to pretend to cooperate with its neighbours when it's doing something else, I believe member states should advise themselves. A way forward on this specific development could be WAGP members calling for Nigeria to shape up or ship out.
Back in Ghana, I believe our media must get serious on seeking accountability of these regional institutions. I pinch myself how the state of Ghanaian media in general seems so unconcerned about developments outside the country.
In May, when I learnt that Ghana is ready to go nuclear and ready to export power to the sub-region (http://www.theafricareport.com/index.php/20120515501811584/west-africa/ghana-adds-nuclear-power-to-boost-energy-export-plans-501811584.html), I wrote in my facebook status the following:
“So Ghana is set to export NUCLEAR ENERGY to the sub-region, at a time when it already exports POWER to its West African neighbours. Now, there's an ECOWAS agency--the ECOWAS Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERERA) in Accra--and in an ideal world, more of the Ghanaian media would be connecting the dots and enlightening us all on the role of ERERA in facilitating/monitoring sub-regional power!;-)”
I further explained that few may be oblivious to the fact that Ghana hosts an Ecowas agency, which main objective is to ensure the regulation of interstate electricity exchanges and to give appropriate support to national regulatory bodies or entities of the Member States”. I went to speculate that if this is the case, then we should surely expect ERERA to do the following: “1. synergy with either GRIDCo; VRA; ECG; 2. maybe a hotline (okay, pipe dream!) for ERERA; 3. a clearer structure of its supervisory role ; 4. its relationship with, say, Ghana's Public Utility Regulatory Commission and any synergy thereof?”
Three months on, nothing has happened. It is true Ghana has since been terribly distracted (to say the least!), but I hope this will be an opportunity to seize the moment and start doing some serious reading and investigations as to whether Ghana is benefitting from the West Africa Gas Pipeline project – or whether some of the countries involved may have nefarious motives that seek to break the unique West African cooperation project that is likely to take the economies of West Africa to greater heights.
In 2009, in his capacity as a “Do More Talk Less Ambassador” of the 42nd Generation—an NGO that promotes and discusses Pan-Africanism--Emmanuel gave a series of lectures on the role of ECOWAS and the AU in facilitating a Pan-African identity. Emmanuel owns "Critiquing Regionalism"
(http://www.critiquing-regionalism.org http://www.critiquing-regionalism.org ).
Established in 2004 as an initiative to respond to the dearth of knowledge on global regional integration initiatives worldwide, this non-profit blog features regional integration initiatives on MERCOSUR/EU/Africa/Asia and many others. You can reach him on email@example.com@ekbensah.net / Mobile: 0268.687.653.
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