Another potential multi-million-dollar scandal is brewing around the Akufo Addo administration as the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) presents a memorandum of the Ghanaian Parliament to seek a loan of US$ 1.6 billion to undertake oil exploration.
Suspiciously, the GNPC is seeking to sink in some US$1.3 billion of that money to buy back a 37% stake in the Deep Water Tano/Cape Three Points asset operated by Aker Energy AS and 70% stake of the South Deep Water Tano (SDWT) field which GNPC previously had over 43% stake in but was dubiously reduced to 18% following a convoluted renegotiation of that contract with Fiance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta playing a suspiciously major role in it.
Around 2019, the Akufo Addo administration caused a serious uproar among industry players and civil society groups by pushing Parliament to renegotiate a 2013 Petroleum agreement between Ghana and AGM Petroleum/Aker Energy Petroleum resulting in the decline of GNPC’s stake 43 percent to 18 percent in the SDWT bloc which it is seeking the staggering loan from Parliament to buy back stakes it relinquished recently.
When GNPC’s stake through several opaque boardroom dealings was dropped, suddenly, a new local content partner Quad Energy which was nowhere involved in the oil bloc was sprung into play reportedly by Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta.
Quad Energy. Quad is owned by Joseph Babatunde Ampah and his Uncle David Adomako, who Whatsup News gathered was smuggled onto the AKER board by Mr. Ofori-Atta. As for Mr. Babatunde Ampah, he is a close family friend of President Akufo Addo and his cousin Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta.
Indeed, Mr. Ampah, was a Vice President in charge of Investment in Ken Ofori-Atta’s company, Databank Financial Services.
After analysing the proposals by GNPC and Government, we are clear in our minds that the transactions, if approved, will short-change Ghana. Therefore, we request Parliament to intervene, given that the deal has gone through all the relevant branches of the Executive1, ostensibly glossing over important threats of the transaction to the country’s fiscal situation.
Today, the Alliance of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) working on Extractives, Anti-Corruption and Good Governance raised serious red flags through a press statement that the loan being surresptiously being pushed through the Ghanaian parliament amounts to short-changing Ghanaian taxpayers funds and unduly burdening the country with extra debt.
“After analysing the proposals by GNPC and Government, we are clear in our minds that the transactions, if approved, will short-change Ghana. Therefore, we request Parliament to intervene, given that the deal has gone through all the relevant branches of the Executive1, ostensibly glossing over important threats of the transaction to the country’s fiscal situation,” the CSO alliance warned.
According to the group in the statement copied to all relevant stakeholders in the upstream petroleum industry, the asking price of AKER to relinquish almost all its stake in the two oil blocks amounts to a possible scam.
“Aker claims it has invested about US$800 million so far on the blocks in a document submitted to Parliament. While GNPC claims it has verified the expenditures, it still appears inflated if juxtaposed against the amount of work done by Aker and the value of its acquisition three years ago,” the statement from the CSO’s noted.
In their analysis of why the amount being sought by the GNPC was unnecessarily inflated, the group explains that Aker Acquired Hess’s interest in the DWT/CTP for US$100m in 2018. Before selling its interest to Aker, Hess had appraised the field with estimated recoverable oil of 450 million barrels. In total, Hess drilled 12 wells (seven exploratory wells and five appraisals well). With that amount of work done, the highest valuation Hess got was about US$400 million in 2016.
Aker claims it has spent about US$420 million on five wells drilled on the two blocks and documents Economic Management Team (EMT) shows that the US$420 million relates only to three wells on DWT/CTP.
The CSOs think Aker had all along unduly inflated its operational cost to the Akufo Addo administration in what could be a complex conspiracy to loot, given how closely tied the Finance Minister is tied to Aker Energy.
“GNPC claims that money was used for “certain activities essential for establishing resource in the blocks”. This is overly ambiguous and cannot be accepted as a cost with this kind of description which questions the distinction between that activity and data acquisition and studies done as part of exploration and appraisal,” the extractive sector CSOs queried.
Aker Energy made a comeback to Ghana in 2017 through two acquisitions; South Deep Water Tano (SDWT) block, which Aker exited after its agreement with Ghana was abrogated in 2009.
Industry watchers believe that Aker’s comeback was a carefully planned heist.
In December 2019, controversial New York-based Africawatch Magazine linked what it terms President Akufo Addo’s ‘Family and Friends’ to Aker Energy’s oil contract in Ghana that had curiously enjoyed exceptionally favourable treatment by the administration.
Africawatch’s investigation revealed that 69-year-old Norwegian businessman Kristian Arvid Haug who incidentally dubiously sold his home to Ghana to be used as Ghana’s Embassy in Oslo, is a close family friend of President Akufo Addo, and that Huag had been shuttling between Accra and Oslo, through London with some of the President’s relatives to meet with Norwegian oil companies. One such company, Africawatch hints, is Aker Energy ASA or Norway owned by Norwegian billionaire Kjell Inge Rokke.
The Magazine claims that it was through this close family dealing that resulted in GNPC’s stake being reduced in the two oil blocs currently doing a comeback in GNPC’s priority list.