FG Insists on Right to Produce Head of West African Gas Authority

FG Insists on Right to Produce Head of West African Gas Authority

•Says action not in breach of regional treaty

Emmanuel Addeh

The federal government has insisted that it wasn’t in breach of any part of the treaty setting up the West African Gas Pipeline Authority (WAGPA) by the selection of a Nigerian to head the organisation.

WAGPA is an international institution established by the treaty on the West African Gas Pipeline (WAGP) Project signed by the Heads of States of the Republics of Benin, Ghana, Nigeria and Togo.

But it was gathered that the selection of a Nigerian, Ms. Chafari Kanya, had raised eyebrows within the regional body , with the francophone countries insisting that Nigeria cannot have both the headquarters and the director general simultaneously.

THISDAY learnt that Nigeria’s argument is that no part of the international agreement imposes any obligation on members of the organisation to forfeit their right to produce the DG even if the head office is situated in their country.

The pipelines project is run by the West African Gas Pipeline Company limited (WAPCo), jointly owned by Chevron (36.7 per cent), Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) (25 per cent), Shell Overseas Holdings Limited (18 per cent), Takoradi Power Company Limited (16.3 per cent), Société Togolaise de Gaz (2 per cent) and et Société BenGaz (2 per cent).

Speaking at the meeting of the Committee of Ministers (CoM) of WAGP in Abuja, Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, Mr Timipre Sylva, maintained that the Accra resolution of November 2021, to move ahead with the appointment of a Nigerian as the head of the body remains very critical.

He called for the understanding of member nations, urging them to stick to the rules setting up the body.

“Dear colleagues, I know we have some differences in respect of the appointment of the DG but I am confident that through a common understanding, which has been the hallmark of this body, we will all agree to respect one another’s existing right under the WAGP Treaty.

“As parties to the treaty and the agreements, we should all be guided by the applicable provisions of these legal instruments especially section 4(2) of Article IV of the Treaty, which guides the appointment of the Director General of WAGPA.

“It is clear that section 4(2) of Article IV of the WAGP Treaty does not discriminate against any State Party in the appointment of the Director General of WAGPA and by my letter earlier to you my dear colleagues, I have conveyed this express position of the Treaty.

 “In the circumstances therefore, I will seek the understanding and cooperation of all of us to be guided by the provisions of the Treaty in reaching a sustainable, profitable and fair decision on this matter.

“It cannot be argued otherwise that in a situation like this, to be guided by the Treaty, which brought the State Parties together is the most dependable internal mechanism provided for conflict resolution,” the minister pointed out.

According to him, it would be most unfair to disregard an applicable provision of the treaty in violation of the existing right of one of the parties to the treaty, which is Nigeria.

“I am certain that as committed signatories to the treaty, we shall not find any difficulty in allowing section 4(2) of Article IV of the Treaty to resolve the issue of the appointment of the Director General for all of us.

“ If section 4(2) of Article IV of the Treaty says a Nigerian is not qualified to be appointed the Director General, then such agreement must be kept and be upheld.

“ But if section 4(2) of Article IV of the Treaty is to the effect that Nigeria is qualified, then, there need not to be further objection against what section 4(2) of Article IV of the Treaty plainly stated,” he argued.

Sylva noted that the meeting was coming at a very critical time especially the changing socio-political landscape occasioned by the Russian-Ukrainian war that has put pressure on global gas demands across Europe.

Noting that the organisation was set up to ramp up cross border natural gas transportation, he pointed out that since inception, the Takoradi-Tema Interconnection Project (TTIP) and the lifting of force majeure that was in place by Nigeria Gas Company (NGC) between June 2013 and October, 2020 had been achieved.

In addition, he listed the reforms of the Access Code to the WAGP Network Code and the ongoing amendment to the WAGP Act and the WAGP Regulations to give licencing power to WAGP Authority to oversee the activities of the Shippers as some other milestones.

“We will as a nation continue to work with all stakeholders for the improvement of the project performance. I must dare say that we have not done badly in our collective quests to realise these laudable objectives,” he said.

He explained that since the global community had classified gas as part of renewable energy and since members cannot but join the global energy transition train, they must hurry to explore and exploit the abundant natural gas deposits within their borders.

In her comments, the new DG, Kanya, pledged to  collaborate with WAPCo and other stakeholders in the WAGP Project to identify areas of gaps in the delivery of better services to ensure continuous, increased and sustainable flow of gas.

“To me, this is important because adequate flow of gas to end users through the WAGP will fast-track positive growth of the power sector of the countries, accelerate industrialisation, generate employment, increase revenue for the State Parties and increase infrastructural developments for our people,” she noted.

 She affirmed that she was aware of the sentiments that over-regulation could bring discouragement and be counterproductive , but said that the regulations fashioned out for WAGP Project were amendable where they become counterproductive.

Minister of Energy, Ghana, Dr. Matthew Prempeh, who is also chair of WAPG, in his intervention, stated that in spite of the “technical breaches” encountered in the past, the WAGP remains a regional asset and has been a significant contributor to the stability of power supply in beneficiary countries.

“ It is therefore appropriate that there are plans to extend the pipeline further along the West African Coast up to Morocco to  supply natural gas to the countries along the pipeline route, as well as those inland.

He pledged Ghana’s commitment to the Takoradi to Tema Interconnection Project (TTIP), which was fully paid for by the Government of Ghana at the cost of approximately $200 million.

Managing Director of WAPCo, Gregory Germani, lauded the role of the committee of ministers in keeping the WAGP a going concern as it celebrates 10 years of commercial operations.

He noted that WAGP was important for regional integration and the sub-region’s energy future, saying it continues to serve its purpose as a development instrument among member countries.

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