Friday, October 23, 2009

Ghana News Update: President Mills Calms Nerves After Fire at Foreign Ministry

Mills calms nerves at TOR

From Richard Kofi Attenkah, Tema
Friday, October 23, 2009

President John Evans Atta Mills, despite the shock that gripped him over the fire incident that gutted down the Foreign Affairs Ministry on Wednesday night, yesterday mustered courage to visit the troubled and ‘crude oil starved’ Tema Oil Refinery (TOR), to interact with the workers and management.

The visit was also to offer the President the opportunity to learn at first hand about problems militating against the smooth operations of the refinery.

The President and his entourage, including the Presidential spokesperson - Mahama Ayariga, Communications Director at the presidency - Koku Anyidoho, deputy Chief of Staff - Valarie Sawyerr, deputy Minister of Energy – Dr. Kwabena Donkor – held a closed-door meeting with management and union executives of the refinery for about an hour, before addressing the workers.

President Atta Mills assured the workers that everything was being done to ensure that they get the much needed crude oil to enable the refinery to commence operations. He however, failed to assure the workers when the crude oil would finally arrive in the country.

President Mills expressed his unhappiness about the way things were going on at the refinery, and appealed to the staff to remain resolute and wait for better days ahead.

According to him, in spite of the fact that things were not going on well at the refinery, he was happy that at least, he has had the opportunity to interact with the leadership of the company, the union executives and the workers to find a solution to the problems on hand.

He hinted that his presence at the refinery was principally to help find a way out of the problem; saying “If I am here today, it is because we want to find a way out of the present difficulties”.

Touching on the liabilities of the nation’s only refinery, President Mills indicated that it is important that the refinery look at how best it would be able to produce more petrol, before thinking of what to do with the debts.

He noted, “We have to be able to produce more petrol before we can absorb the liabilities”.

He further assured the workers that he would investigate allegations being leveled against some government officials; such as preventing Sahara Oil from lifting crude for TOR, to enable the refinery to resume its operations.

There have been allegations by some workers at the refinery and some members of the public that some government officials are seriously working hard to ensure that Sahara Oil does not get the opportunity to lift crude for the refinery.

One of the workers who had the opportunity to ask a question, appealed to the President to inform all who debate about the problems at the refinery not to concentrate too much on the debts that has engulfed the refinery, but rather they should do whatever it takes to be able to get crude oil to the refinery, to help revitalize operations there.

The union executives were reluctant to comment on their meeting with the President, his entourage and management of TOR.

They are billed to hold a meeting with the executives of the Tema District Council of Labour (TDCL), which they have petitioned to partner them to champion the betterment of Tema Oil Refinery.

Three in police grip… Over fire at Foreign Ministry

By Charles Takyi-Boadu
Friday, October 23, 2009

Three persons are being questioned at the Police Headquarters in Accra following Wednesday’s fire outbreak, which gutted the ten-storey building office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The three, who are said to be members of a private security firm, are being held on suspicion of either causing, or being part of a group that set the fire.

They were said be around when the fire started, and therefore are suspected to have knowledge about the inferno.

The Greater Accra Regional Police Commander, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), Rosemary Bio Atinga, told The Chronicle yesterday that the three were picked up by her men on Thursday morning, but later had to be transferred to the headquarters of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID), for further interrogation.

She however declined to give the names and identities of those arrested for security reasons.

Considering the magnitude of the fire outbreak, and the ‘strange’ circumstances under which it started, she said the police suspected foul play, and that it could be the handiwork of arsonists.

For this reason, the Regional Police boss said that they had set up a taskforce, made up of crack detectives from both the National and Regional headquarters, to unravel the mystery surrounding the entire incident.

ACP Bio Atinga has thus charged members of the public, who may be privy to some form of information, to volunteer it to the police.

She appealed to those who intend to go to the scene of the incident, to stay away to enable the police conduct unimpeded and thorough investigations.

The Foreign Affairs Minister, Alhaji Muhammed Mumuni, who is currently attending a programme in Malawi, has expressed utter dismay at the incident.

In an interview with the paper from his Malawi base yesterday, Mr. Mumuni said he was shocked when he heard the news, and that he was even making preparations to catch a flight back home.

“It is a calamity that is of the greatest proportion, with serious implications for the Ministry and the country,” he said, and called on the police to conduct a thorough forensic investigation into the incident.

Whilst appreciating the fact that it was too early to jump to any conclusions, Mr. Mumuni could not fathom how and why any reasonable human being would deliberately set fire to a building which serves the interest of the country.

Meanwhile, President Mills has ordered immediate investigations into the circumstances leading to the fire outbreak on Wednesday night, which took fire fighters several hours to bring under control.

Speaking with journalists after touring the scene of the incident, the President indicated that the investigations should be able to establish what might have caused the fire.

“I am not interested in scapegoats; I am not interested in witch-hunting. I am only interested in the truth, and once the truth is unearthed, we will know how to deal with cases of this nature,” he emphasised.

He empathised with the workers whose offices were affected by the incident, and assured them of alternative accommodation from government, saying “we are seriously looking for alternative accommodation, and we will, in the next few days, find you offices from which you can continue with your work.” The fire destroyed virtually everything in the ten-storey building, except the first and sixth floors.

Hell! Foreign Ministry Razed Down

22nd October 2009

A major calamity hit the country yesterday when the 10-storey Ministry of Foreign Affairs building near the Tema Station in Accra was completely consumed by an inferno.

Eyewitnesses said the fire started from one of the offices at a time when most workers had closed for the day. While the fire raged on, hundreds of people looked on helplessly as vital documents and office equipment, including fridges, furniture and air conditioners, went up in the flames that blazed through the entire 10-floor building.

Fire fighters who later made their way to the disaster scene could do little about it and one of them told the Daily Graphic that the nature of the conflagration at the time of their arrival was such that it required a helicopter to reach that high.

In the end, almost everything in all the offices, from the ground to the 10th floor, was consumed in the blazing fire, as nothing could be salvaged throughout the many hours that it lasted.

The damage in terms of money, equipment, intelligence and valuable documents is yet to be assessed but it could be staggering.

The cause of the fire could immediately not be ascertained but a fire officer said investigations would soon be conducted to unearth the cause.

From The Times
October 23, 2009

BP poised to battle US rival ExxonMobil for Ghana oil

Robin Pagnamenta

BP, the oil group, is considering a bid for one of Africa’s biggest offshore oilfields in a move that could pitch it into a direct battle for control with ExxonMobil, its arch US rival.

BP has held talks with Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) about a possible joint bid for a stake in the Jubilee deepwater field in Ghana, which reportedly contains up to 1.8 billion barrels of oil.

BP has not yet made a final decision but has hired Goldman Sachs, the US investment bank, to advise it on a possible bid for the 23 per cent stake held by Kosmos Energy, a private equity-backed energy firm.

A bid from BP would threaten to derail a plan by Exxon to acquire the Kosmos stake for more than $4 billion. Kosmos unveiled plans to sell all of its Ghana assets to Exxon, the world’s largest oil company, on October 12.

BP could face problems because Exxon’s agreement to buy the assets from Kosmos is believed to be exclusive. However, Ghana shocked investors this month by declaring that Exxon’s deal to buy the stake from Kosmos was illegal.

GNPC has said that it wants to buy the stake and has the cash to do so, potentially by working with a foreign partner.

Phil Corbett, oil and gas analyst at RBS, said: “It’s anyone’s guess how this plays out, but it is clear that there is a strong level of industry interest.”

Both BP and Exxon declined to comment.

The Jubilee field is 35 per cent owned by Tullow Oil, a UK-listed company whose shares surged yesterday on reports of BP’s interest.

Other stakeholders include Anadarko Petroleum, another US group, with 23.5 per cent, and GNPC with just under 14 per cent.

The discovery of oil in the deepwater Jubilee field in June 2007 is set to propel Ghana, whose economy depends on cocoa exports, into one of Africa’s top oil exporting countries when production begins next year.


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