16 October 2015, News Wires – A Ghanaian government delegation is reported to be holding emergency talks in Nigeria to avert the threat of a gas supply cut that could trigger a political crisis.
State-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation has warned it will cut gas supplies by 70% to Ghana’s main power generation company VRA by Friday due to unpaid debts of $181 million.
Nigerian gas meets about 25% of the energy needs of Ghana, which already suffers power shortages that have raised the cost of doing business and angered voters at a sensitive time for President John Mahama’s government ahead of what is expected to be a tough re-election battle next year.
Mahama has vowed to end the power cuts by the start of next year and the energy minister has said he would resign if the problem has not been fixed by then.
“They are already in Nigeria. They left Ghana last night. We are praying that they are able to negotiate … so that it doesn’t come to a cut in supply,” a spokesman for the Energy & Petroleum Ministry told Joy FM radio on Thursday, according to Reuters.
However, the government’s room for manoeuvre is limited under the terms of an aid programme with the International Monetary Fund intended to restore balance to the Ghanaian economy.
Ghana was for years one of Africa’s economic stars but falling global commodity prices have blunted the value of its gold, cocoa and oil exports.
Its fiscal problems include inflation of up to 17.4% in September, a currency that has fallen sharply in the last two years and a debt-to-GDP ratio of around 70% with what economists say are high debt service costs.
The Nigerian threat is a sign of budgetary stress and the strain of energy sector reform in Ghana, experts said.
“It is extremely embarrassing for the government. It touches on credibility … Every investor will be looking at that and saying, ‘Is this a country to do business in?'” Ben Boakye of the Africa Centre for Energy Policy think tank told Reuters.
Nigerian gas flows to Ghana through the West African Gas Pipeline Company’s pipe that runs via Benin and Togo.
Hydro supplies around 50% of Ghana’s power with the rest from its own gas and other sources.
The power crisis stems from a fall in supply from Ghana’s dams, government underpayment to the Electricity Company of Ghana, residents’ illegal consumption and tariffs too low for VRA to recoup its costs.