Many Ghanaians believe that much as government derives revenue from the upstream petroleum industry, there is also the need to protect other traditional industries from the vagaries of oil exploration and production.
Civil l society actors have therefore been advocating the right governance structures to govern the fisheries and other traditional economic sectors to ensure their continuous developmental roles in the entire economy.
In recognition of the importance of the fisheries industry, drafters of the Ghana Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (GHEITI) Bill listed the fisheries sector among natural resources whose extraction needed to be covered by the EITI law.
“The drafters of that bill did a great job by recognizing that Ghana’s natural resource sector or most of the current natural resources that we have go beyond mining. Now the GHEITI has extended its focus and mandate on oil and gas; and also to some extent on forestry and also recognizing fisheries,” Noble Wadzah, Coordinator of OilWatch Ghana, told Xinhua here on Wednesday.,
He however wondered why unfortunately the governance structures elaborated in the bill did not support the intentions it had on the fisheries sector. “It means governance in the fisheries sector might be weak if not well addressed. So all we are calling for is that the intention demonstrated in the GHEITI Bill must be followed through and done well,” urged the fisheries livelihood advocate and petroleum expert.
Wadzah cautioned that if issues within the sector were not well addressed, livelihoods in fisheries communities would be lost, as the oil industry grows, urging that the necessary infrastructure that would carry the mandate for improved governance which the bill hinted at be put in place as had been done to the other sectors within the same bill.
“We have to deepen that attention that we already have and invest in the non-oil economic sectors. We need to deepen the attention and make it a reality. Making it a reality is the most important thing, not just talking about it. As for the oil it will run out at a point but agriculture and the fisheries sector are renewable natural resources which will continue to thrive,” the expert argued.
He observed that offshore oil exploration and Oil and fisheries sector had dwelt in conflict around the world over the years, since “the political eye that follows the oil is not the same eye that follows the fisheries”.
“While the fisheries sector is usually portrayed as a sector for peasant populations for which reason it does not make waves in the political limelight, the oil sector comes on another treadmill which makes the waves much stronger, so you have set the basis for conflict already,” Wadzah pointed out. He therefore urged that the bill should live up to its own expectations otherwise there would be no need or justification for having the fisheries sector in the GHEITI Bill.
“It should not just create a warped impression that something is being done when in actual fact nothing is being done. That is what we want to ensure,” the expert stated. Augustine Niber, Executive Director of the Center for Public Interest Law (CEPIL), also described as very well thought-out the bringing in of the fisheries sector under the EITI Bill.
This, he noted, would not only be beneficial in terms of revenue transparency and accountability but also a measure of identifying or seeing to what extent that it would lead to development in the fishing communities and in Ghana as a whole. There have been protests and agitations in coastal fishing communities, especially along the Western Coast of Ghana, about the truncating of fishing activities by exploratory and production vessels of the International Oil Companies (IOCs).
“The fisheries law would take care of issues like transparency, like contractual transparency and the rest, but just like the other sectors of the extractive industry like mining, oil and gas and the rest, you will always have the major law that takes care of issues of transparency and accountability. “But bringing GHEITI to the fisheries sector will also lead to accountability in terms of how much companies in the sector are paying and how much government is receiving and what type of developmental priorities it is being used for,” Niber explained. Enditem