Dear Editor Freedom Newspaper: As a regular follower of your distinguish newspaper since 2009, I am sending you this pieces as a contribution to the enlightenment of our country men. It should be clear to Gambians that the issue of petroleum discovery in the Gambia does not necessarily reflect the thriving of our country. I am please counting on your trust on the issue of anonymity. Best regards
When ‘the president, Yaha Jammeh’s’ message of The Gambia’s expected joining of OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) were flashed on some CDs and broadcasted on national TV, GRTS back in 2004, nearly everyone in the country was consumed by optimism and blinded by it for so long. It reflected a habitual trend in our societies in Africa for a wholesale consumption of whatever scum our so called leaders spew our ways. To further exacerbate our ordeals, some religious elders distort religious text and devilishly draw parallels between today’s Presidents and divinely chosen leaders. They go to a length of brandishing antagonism against the power that-be to the blasphemous act of going against the will of God.
When his message was aired on TV, with the intent of goading Gambians to believe that the black gold (Oil) is just about to be exploited, nearly everyone was convinced. To be frank, he is an uneducated political drunk, who knows how to play with the Gambia psyche. Our strong believe in religion, tradition and culture apparently tame Gambians to denounce violence or to even legitimately pursue our God given rights. These are weaknesses the status core today and the president in particular know about and use them to his advantage of holding on to power.
That simple but sophisticate presentation of a political knockout punch enticed and convinced young intelligent and enthusiastic school going lads like myself and brilliant girls who are today the faces of a successful Engineering graduates. The rhetoric served its purpose. It canvassed support from youths. Our votes became his properties. Simply because of our optimism of the future that is promised in the broadcast and our blind support for his calculated nonsense. Ten or more years later, we still can’t find infrastructural developments to usher in the false pledge of the black gold (Oil). Instead graduates who were sent to study Petroleum Engineering and related fields are finding themselves in jail for trivial issues. Not because they are guilty of anything seditious against the state but for the mere fact of knowing the unscrupulous internal dealings of government’s big tugs. Knowledge of money laundry at the department has rendered many jobless and helplessly languishing in jails in the Gambia. A classical example is the former permanent secretary of Petroleum on trial, Mr. Muntaga Sallah. Someone, who has worked his way through the ranks with the ambition of contributing his quarter to national development (Note that I am not excusing his alleged crime).
Then the ultimate question ‘is there Crude Oil both on and offshore of The Gambia?’ It’s difficult to ascertain this claim despite the long ongoing exploration in The Gambia. Answering this question gets even more difficult because of the inaccessibility to data that should be public knowledge. But fishy stuffs, and the secretive maneuvers that the government or should I say few people are involved in the petroleum sector in The Gambia makes it even more difficult to access data to verify the claims of Petroleum resources.
However, the simplest answer to this question is both a yes and a no. Oil can be found anywhere provided the geological structures support the existence of it and the monetary investment required to verify its existence are invested. The likelihood of even finding it in The Gambia is supported by the recent discoveries made by Cairn Energy in Senegal (this does not put Senegal on the list of Petroleum exporters yet). Senegal however has an extended offshore stretch far beyond that of The Gambia which increases their chance of finding more potentially exploitable deposits of oil. It should be clear that discovery does not necessarily mean production of oil. The process goes through phases. Petroleum is explored, discovered, appraised and when economic and political factors inherent in Oil business are satisfied, then production starts.
If you could remember ‘the president’ bragged about not giving into the demand of oil companies. In his words as I paraphrase ‘over his dead body will he allow such agreements to be signed’. Saying Oil in The Gambia belongs to the Gambians and any multinational company willing to explore should be ready to give back much of its findings. That’s too naïve of him when one puts the issue of oil exploration and production into actual context.
Gambia as nation has no financial muscle to even initiate the exploration of oil to say the least even finance the entire process. This will require the whole of our national budget and still beg for loans to even complete one phase in the discovery and production of oil. This brings multinational companies with financial, technical and technology capabilities into play, who will venture into Petroleum exploration on behalf of the country.
The subject of oil exploration and discovery is a probability, a fifty-fifty game. Find exploitable Petroleum reserve, then your initial capital investment and probably profit is recoverable. Failures to find anything on the other hand means capital investment (sometimes in Millions and Billiions of Dollars) down the drain. With that in perspective, small countries like The Gambia with virtually no financial strength are forces to let multination companies dictate the theme around finding and exploiting Oil resources. That’s exactly where Gambia stands with companies exploring Petroleum reserves. With that huge investment risk undertaking by multinational companies, it is logical if they (the oil companies) demand more of the percentage of the exploit when it is found. Therefore rendering a mere few token of royalty payments to the licensing government. Regarding this burden undertaking by multinational companies, host countries like the Gambia have no strong negotiating positions. Nor can they make unnecessary demands of splitting the fortune equally. It contravene simple business agreements for lower risk takers like The Gambia Government to request for better sharing deals when Oil is discovered. The Gambia therefore may not be any exception to the trend seen all over Africa. Where resource supposedly belonging to the people, become a curse for the nation. Worst of it all, our country is unfortunately not sophisticated intellectually on the ground as it is self-evident, to come top in negotiation with these giant multinational companies. Not with the incompetence that is perpetually displayed by this Government. So, his claims of requesting a better sharing deal for the Gambia is not supported by logics of business investment. Therefore, no wise Gambian should be gullible enough to think if Petroleum resources are found in the Gambia, our status will ever change for the better. Worst it could be a nightmare for our country if the earnings from oil related revenues are shrouded in secrecy and benefiting few people.
Many of us have not considered the consequence of finding Oil in the Gambia. How about the environmental impact, the possibility of oil related incidence, the exacerbation of corruption, money laundering and the use of oil revenues to force a one sided political narratives and so forth? Bearing these in mind, one should be careful what we wish for concerning oil discovery in The Gambia. The greatest danger is to be oblivious of the consequence of resource related problems while presuming that our long recorded of being submissive citizenry will be sufficient enough to avoid any backlash.
It is high time that Gambians braces for the worst. That finding Petroleum resources does not necessarily mean Gambia will benefit from it. Sighting the fact that investments in exploration and production are highly risky venture undertaken by investor companies and recovering their investments is nonnegotiable. It’s time to discrete the false political claims that are tailored to subdue our passions for change, for transparency, for accountability and probity. Ignore the promises about Petroleum resources if it is used in his campaign pledge in the upcoming 2016 elections.
Written By Anonymous 198449