…as motor & human traffic hit record high
From Zambaga R. Rufai, Takoradi
THE much-awaited official commencement of oil production in Ghana by the Jubilee Partners begins officially today, and has already brought pressure to bear on the twin-city Sekondi-Takoradi.
Apart from activities which usually characterise the yuletide period, activities heralding the official commencement of the production of oil in Ghana from the Western Region have also contributed significantly to the increase in commercial activities.
The population within the central business district, in the last couple of days, has increased, contributing in no small way to congestion at the main market center (Market Circle).
During rush hours there is the growing phenomenon of heavy traffic situations around the major roundabouts and principal streets of the twin city, making trading and business activities tedious to dealers and commercial drivers.
Apart from the high rising cost of food prices, accommodation and transportation, there are fears of sudden increase in social vices such as prostitution, and crimes of various forms in the metropolis.
According to the Executive Director of Friends of the Nation, Mr. Mevuta Donkris, unless something dramatic happens, the increase in social vices would be unstoppable.
In an exclusive interview on the activities in the oil industry, and the expectations of the people regarding the extractive industry in the country, the civil society activist said since there was no safety net to take care of the poor, the marginalised and the underprivileged, it was possible crime would rise, and social cankers emanating out of negative consequences of anger and resentments.
The issue of accommodation, both office and residential, has become very difficult to contend with by residents of the twin-city.
Mr. Donkris believes the situation has reached its zenith since the commencement of oil activities in the city.
The danger associated with these uncontrollable market indicators, regarding the accommodation situation, he noted, would certainly be visible, because once demand exceeds supply, a crisis would loom.
The authorities in the region have however, been promising to find antidotes to the situation, but have not been forthcoming since the announcement of the official commencement of the production of the black gold, as it takes off today.
The Sekondi Takoradi Metropolitan Chief Executive (MCE), Mr. Kobinah Pra Anann, has however, indicated that old government bungalows in the city would be pulled down to make space available for the construction of more affordable houses.
As to whether his assertion would be feasible, the question of accommodation crisis in the city lingers.
The Regional Officer of the Rent Control office, Mr. Atsum Ampofo, in an interview on the rising cost of accommodation in the twin-city, said it was illegal to increase rent rates more than 20%.
According to him, many tenants were currently suffocating unduly, because of the pressure being mounted on them by their landlords, either to vacate their premises for better offers, or pay extra money to stay.
A situation, he described as unacceptable, urging tenants to report the conduct of landlords to the Rent Control office for swift action.
Traditional rulers in the region are also worried about the increasing rates for accommodation, particularly, in the metropolis.
Awulae Agyeifi Kwame, Paramount Chief of the Nsein traditional area, also told The Chronicle that it was disheartening to sit back and watch the level of underdevelopment of the region, whilst enormous resources from the region were being carted away by the government for the development of the entire country.
A cursory look at the local economic situation in the region suggests that petty trading, the hospitality, and transport sectors are currently the only ones cashing in on the new oil industry. Other sectors such as agriculture, health and fishing are yet to experience any improvement.
Awulae expressed grave concern over why these sectors had not been properly handled by the government in order to support the extractive industry to blossom, pointing out that there were several flaws in the arrangements leading to the commercial production of the oil in the country.
He said Ghana’s failure to check the minor errors that crippled the economies of other countries in the extractive industry could pose a threat to its success story. Lack of jobs for the people, he emphasised, could be dangerous to the operations of the industry.
Gas processing plants, oil refineries, and fertilizer plants have all been promised by players of the private sector, but as the production of the oil commences, nothing visible regarding these areas is there to be shown to the people.
Awulae Agyeifi Kwame therefore, called for stronger legislation by Parliament to back activities of the industry, and appealed to the government to hasten approval on the demand being made by chiefs from the region for a certain percentage of the oil revenue to be allocated to the region for speedy development.
He blamed governments from the First Republic to date, for the under development of the west.