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General News Thu, 21 Jun 2007

Massive Heckling Halts Energy Crisis Debate

The Parliament of Ghana, for two days running, saw incessant heckling and name-calling by the leading minority party, National Democratic Congress (NDC) and ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) members MPs, which saw Speaker Ebenezer Sekyi-Hughes on the second day, yesterday, cut short Parliament's debate on the energy crisis.

Interior Minister, Albert Kan-Dapaah, who had the floor at the time of the abrupt end, was barely through with his submission when the Speaker issued the fiat stopping the debate.

The Minister, who was the second speaker after submissions from the minority Spokesman on Energy, Moses Asaga, blamed the crisis on the NDC's mismanagement of the Akosombo Dam, which he said caused the low level of water in the dam.

Hon. Dapaah, who told his colleagues that he had prior information that the minority was going to prevent him from contributing to the debate on the energy crisis, then plunged into the minority.

"The erratic rainfall pattern warned all of us in the energy industry that we needed to respect the engineers' advice and not take more from the lake than what the engineers advised. I was saying the same thing at the time. It was because they destroyed the reservoir capability in 1997 that we had the problem in 1998 that we are having now; it was because they mismanaged it."

This contribution also attracted an objection from Mr. Asaga who, speaking on a point-of-order said the minister, an accountant, did not know what a reservoir was, pointing out that the reservoir of the dam referred to the stretch of the Volta lake behind the dam's turbines stretching from Akosombo to Yeji.

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But Mr. Kan-Dapaah, who was the first Energy Minister in the Kufuor administration stirred more controversy when he said the then NDC-dominated Parliament had approved a 300 million-dollar-loan for the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) to find gas to run the Osagyefo Barge, but the government had not supported it.

"Mr. Speaker, they have also been talking about the Osagyefo Barge and they said that the barge is there; why won't you use it? The barge was built for the people of Ghana with a grant from Japan because we had found gas in Effasu. Mr. Speaker, this House subsequently approved a loan of 300 million dollars for Mr. Tsatsu Tsikata's GNPC to develop that gas that we have found so that we will use it to fuel that barge. Mr. Speaker the loan was approved, disbursement started but the NDC government themselves got up and said 'no, there couldn't be any gas there and they stopped further disbursement of the 300 million dollars."

He said if the disbursement had continued, the nation would have found the gas to run the barge. Amid shouts of "No," "No," and "where is the money", Minority Leader, Alban Bagbin disputed the claims, saying parliament did not approve any such money for the GNPC.

"I believe, as politicians we still know that we have a creator and it is important that in making statements on the floor we show regard to the truth. Mr. Speaker I'm saying this because I have been in this house since 1993. I don't remember us approving 300 million dollars for GNPC to use to exploit gas at Tano Basin. 300 million dollars, Mr. Speaker, he should just produce the evidence, it is important."

Kan Dapaah conceded he was wrong and apologized, but his revised figure of 294 million dollars met with yet another point of order, with Bagbin insisting the House never approved any such amount, while others engaged in taunting across the floor. The speaker, who could not control the MPs at this stage, adjourned the debate to enable the House move on to other items on the order paper.

The Interior Minister's contribution to the debate had also attracted a point of order from the Minority chief whip.

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Joy News correspondent, Araba Koomson, who covered the energy debate, said it had been rescheduled for Thursday.

The Minority Leader had earlier drawn the attention of the House to the absence of the Energy Minister and his deputy at the 'very important' debate, which the Majority Chief Whip, Osei Kyei Mensah-Bonsu agreed was critical, but the two soon joined the debate.

They were said to have been involved in other very critical meetings hence their absence from the beginning.

Yesterday's debate itself took off with heated arguments over decorum and the use of 'bad language', which saw two members withdraw uncomplimentary remarks against the persons of other members.

Source: Ghanaian Chronicle