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Exclusive Interview with Dr Ofori Quaah, the former GNPC CEO who made the first ever seismic map in Ghana.

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Christopher Sam
Christopher Sam is a web designer, developer and has advanced knowledge in Search Engine Optimization, Responsive Website Design, Emails Marketing, BULK SMS Messaging, Schema Markup and a certified Google Trainer. He is a creator and editor at Hypercitigh.com, an online digital platform focusing on Credible and Timely news and in Ghana.
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HYPERCITIGH: Hello Dr. could you please tell us who Dr. Amos Ofori Quaah was before he rose to becoming fourth CEO of GNPC?

DR. AMOS OFORI QUAAH: I started work as a Geophysicist in London with Phillips Petroleum Company, Europe-Africa in 1981.

I returned to Ghana in late 1984 and joined the then Petroleum Department as Senior Geophysicist (which became the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation in 1986), in 1985. I was right there from the start, and with my international experience, helped to establish the Exploration and Production Department.

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In seventeen years, I mapped every basin in Ghana, and supervised all the seismic data acquisition and processing that the Corporation undertook and actually mapped in 1992, the structure that ultimately led to the commercial oil discovery in 2007, fifteen years later! I have also discovered that prospects that I outlined in a major mapping exercise in 1999/2000, by the grace of God, have recently resulted in multi-billion barrel discoveries in deep water Tano. They are all detailed, with proof, in my memoirs, now available on Amazon “My Footprints in Ghana’s Black Gold

HYPERCITIGHCcould you please tell us (more) about your family and early education (Elementary and Middle Schools)

DR. AMOS OFORI QUAAH: I was born at Gomoa Gyaman in the Central Region on 13th September, 1948 to the Late Opanyin Kojo Ofori Quaah and Madam Mary Enyaah (my mother passed away last August aged 99), but my father died when I was only three months old. I have an older sister. My mother re-married and I had a half-bother who died ten years ago and a half-sister, a retired midwife of the Ghana Health Service.  

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I started school in 1955 at the Methodist Primary School in a very well designed bamboo building, as the primary school building was being extended to make room for a middle school. In those days, there were not that many Middle Schools in our part of the Central Region, but we had one at Gyaman. Class Six pupils from six primary schools took an entrance examination (English and Maths) for selection to Middle form One.

I started Form One in January 1960. I was part of the generation of Ghanaian school children who had double promotion in 1960, when the academic year was changed from January/December to September/June.  I sat the nationwide Common Entrance Examination in March 1962. We had to travel for the examination; pupils from the Gomoa, Agona and Awutu Districts took the examination at Agona Swedru.

I passed the entrance examination and an interview conducted personally by our late illustrious Headmaster, Mr SM Adu-Ampoma and was admitted at GSTS in September 1962.   

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HYPERCITIGH: Please share with us your experience in secondary school.

DR. AMOS OFORI QUAAH: My years at GSTS were the best of my life until my children were born. GSTS was a government school, just two at the time, GSTS and Government Secondary School, Tamale. We got everything from government. Most of us left home for the first time in our lives, to come to GSTS. The friendships that we made, with people from all over the country, have been life-long friendships. 

The discipline we acquired at GSTS served us well later when we had to travel outside Ghana to study, and much later, to work in Ghana and around the world. Even today, in old age I am still guided in many ways, by the strict discipline of my GSTS years, in what I do in the Church, at home, in the family and community. 

HYPERCITIGH: Did you involve yourself in extra-curricular activities when you were Secondary School?

DR. AMOS OFORI QUAAH: I only joined the Maths Club and was on the peripheries of the Scripture Union, but I participated in games. I played in the Junior football team for my first house, Dodoo. I also played hockey from Form One to Upper Sixth Form and actually won “colours” for it. I played    volleyball from Form two to Upper Sixth Form. In Sixth Form, I was part of Kennedy’s “Magnificent Six”, perhaps the best GSTS inter-houses volleyball team of all time.

Dr Amos Quaah with colleagues from the Squash club at Accra Polo Club

I played inter-house cricket from Form 3, until cricket vanished from the scene about Lower Sixth Form, and did a bit of athletics, hurdles and long-distance running, at the inter-houses level.

HYPERCITIGH: Please tell us about your tertiary education.

After GSTS, I did a first degree in Physics at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (UST at my time). I did one-year National Service at the Physics Department as Teaching Assistant (1974/75 academic year). From there, I proceeded to The Pennsylvania State University in the US where I did an MS in Geophysics. From Penn State, I came to Royal Holloway (University of London) for my PhD, specialising in earthquake seismology. I did a six-month microearthquake recording in Ghana for my PhD research and wrote a thesis on “The Seismicity of Southern Ghana”, completing in 1980.  I defended my thesis on 22nd December 1980,a  close call to Christmas. My Professor paid for an extra copy of my thesis to be lodged in the Balme Library of the University of Ghana, because of what he believed to be the importance of seismology to Ghana’s well-being.

Unfortunately, it has not made a dent in our national development or lack of it and I believe we shall pay the price for it some day.

HYPERCITIGH: We learnt during your time; university students were given free meals. Can you please tell us more about this?

DR. AMOS OFORI QUAAH: Oh yes, we were the lucky generation (1942 to 1952), possibly the best educated Ghanaians of all time. Unfortunately, we have not given back to society as much of the investment it made in us as we should. I personally believe that the difficulties in which Ghana finds itself today have been directly or indirectly caused by the actions and inactions of that group.

We had free meals at university, usually a choice of two dishes for breakfast, and three for lunch and supper. There were free snacks at 10 am, brought to the departments during the term, and served in the halls at 10pm during final examinations, to help us focus on our revision. 

Those who developed ulcer (I was one, from third year), were given special pepper free meals, a box of cabin biscuits per month and a tin of milk a day, as part of the control measures for the illness.

HYPERCITIGH: How will you say these institutions you had education from, contributed to the feats you have been able to achieve thus far?

DR. AMOS OFORI QUAAH: It all started at GSTS, the discipline at the workshops and laboratories, the urge for healthy competition and the success of Old Boys in industry and academia.

“O” and “A” Level mock and final examinations were always displayed in the glass noticed board in the old classroom block (under the clock tower). So right from Form 1, you pledged to yourself to be “one of those seniors.”

The vacation training scheme that was a compulsory part of all courses at UST helped me to focus on what I wanted to do in life. Going on “VOLU” voluntary work around Kumasi and Ashanti Region, generally, instilled in me the urge to give something back to Society, and I have been doing that ever since.

America was a cultural revelation. I went from a campus with about 4,000 students at the time to one with 33,000 on one campus! Penn State opened my sights to the urge to succeed at work, the benefit of hard work and hard-core capitalism. Not surprisingly, I got my first job with an American oil company, Phillips Petroleum.

London University developed social democracy in me.  I have been ever grateful to all those institutions   

HYPERCITIGH: First Chief Executive Officer of the GNPC! This is amazing.  What inspired you to pursue this feat?

DR. AMOS OFORI QUAAH: No, I was not the first Chief Executive of GNPC, I was the fourth. Incidentally, its first Managing Director, Professor A K Addae, was also a Giant.

Dr Amos ofori Quaah Off to Petroleum Department January 1985.

I was there right from the beginning, and with my international experience, helped to establish the technical (Exploration and Production Departments). I made the first ever seismic map in Ghana, using coloured pencils and erasers that I “borrowed” from my then four-year old son’s stock from England.

 A spinoff of the last major seismic map that Dr Ofori Quaah made of the deep water Cape Three Points sub-Basin and it is published with the permission of The Ghana Institution of Geoscientists (GhIG)

During sixteen years of active exploration, I mapped every basin in Ghana and supervised every seismic acquisition and then the processing that the corporation did in America, England, Canada, USA and Nigeria.

Work I did in deep water Cape Three Points in 1992, turned out to be the watershed of Ghana’s exploration programme. That was drilled as the major discovery fifteen years later in 2007. From the news, part of what turned out to be my last Geophysical exploration project in 1999/2000 has recently been drilled as multi-billion barrel oil discoveries in deep water Tano. These have all been detailed in my memoirs, currently available on Amazon as , “My Footprints in Ghana’s Black Gold.” I hope to introduce it in Ghana in due course.  

So, when the new government began in early 2001, I became the “fall guy.” I did the restructuring, cutting staff from 972 to 77, the most painful exercise I have ever done in my life, which involved dangers to my personal life, as well as cost to my family. However, the Lord saw me through it all and I am ever grateful because He has blessed me immensely through it all. 

HYPERCITIGH: Sir, what role will you say time management and friends played in you getting this far?

DR. AMOS OFORI QUAAH: Time management was very important in all that, and that again was consolidated at GSTS. Remember in our time, primary schools closed at 11:30 am and resumed at 12:30 till 3:30pm, while middle schools closed at 12pm and resumed at 1pm, till 4pm. You dared not be late at any point.

So by the time we went to secondary school, we were already used to time keeping, although at GSTS, moving from one classroom to another, Technical Drawing, laboratory or workshop in the course of one school day, made it more complicated.

That time management regime from early childhood has helped me throughout my life. Just imagine going to America and having to wake up on a snowy day, to be able to get to my first lecture at 7am! 

I have had life-long friends from my GSTS days and they have been very supportive, many during those very hectic months at the helm of GNPC.

HYPERCITIGH: Aside friends and time management, what other principles will you say helped you get here?

DR. AMOS OFORI QUAAH:  My belief in the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. It has all been the grace of God. Prayer and fasting, Bible reading and Bible studies. I am also a Lay Preacher of the Methodist Church Ghana and UK, which comes with its own discipline, principles and time management.

HYPERCITIGH: How was GNPC like for you and other pioneers when you started?

DR. AMOS OFORI QUAAH:  It was rough. The first time I was told about my salary I thought it was for a month. The year salary was less than my monthly pay at Phillips. The Corporation had no money at the beginning. On a number of occasions, I stopped in London to cash money from my personal savings for official business. On one occasion, I gave a cheque on my American bank account to my long-time American friend, who gave me cash. I still retain the counterfoil of that cheque.

2001-GNPC-Inaugulation-of-Board

It was a labour of love for many of us. “For God and Country,” it was.

HYPERCITIGH: Do you think the GNPC has followed well its mandate after you left?

DR. AMOS OFORI QUAAH: The whole painful restructuring exercise was to refocus the Corporation towards its mandate. It has so as far, as much as the political environment could allow. However, in technical matters like succession and the change from the tried and tested Production Sharing Agreement “PSA” Model to some nebulous “Hybrid” Model has not helped the mass of the country, as owners of the vital resource.

Apart from the advanced democracies of the world, and I worked in several countries after I left GNPC,  the allure  of the “black” gold is such that politicians will always have their fingers in the pie. However, I believe they can do it without impinging on the vital technical work that is essential to keep national oil companies afloat.

For instance, it is more prudent for the sake of efficiency and productivity, for technical people to follow their own hierarchy and career progression than for sitting governments to impose their cronies, people usually with no clue about the industry, especially the critical upstream end. 

HYPERCITIGH: Looking back, what would you say is the impact/are some of the impacts you have made in GNPC?

DR. AMOS OFORI QUAAH: As I said earlier, I was there from the beginning and by the grace of God played my part in the training of a number of people who now hold important positions in the industry in Ghana and around the world. One of my proteges, Mr Theophilus Ahwireng, is now Managing Director of MODEC, Ghana, possibly the biggest company in Ghana’s oil industry today. There are others in America and Canada.

Annual-Party-committee

When I travel to Houston in the United States, I am like a celebrity because people I mentored who now live and work in that city are so grateful for what little I did in the advancement of their careers.

Sadly, one young Giant that I mentored at GNPC, a real rising star of industry, passed away suddenly not long after the oil discovery.

HYPERCITIGH: What’s your assessment of GNPC’s work today?

DR. AMOS OFORI QUAAH: Technically, they are doing a great job. I only hope that more and more young Ghanaians are being trained in the technical areas, for the future.   From what I read in the media occasionally, I am not too sure about other sectors of the Corporation, though.

HYPERCITIGH:  Any fond memories from GNPC? (Let’s also get that of school too)

DR. AMOS OFORI QUAAH: Yes, I still have very fond memories of the geophysical/geological field trips in the marshes and forests of the Half Assini/Edu/Tekinta and Ebwazo areas. Sometimes, we had to crawl in the undergrowth for several hundred metres because there were no footpaths. Travelling from one village to the next, sometimes in dug out canoes along swollen rivers was quite a lot of fun.

GSTS was great. Living and studying with boys my age from different parts of the country was a wonderful experience. The friendships that we made have lasted for our whole lives. Any time I meet or speak to one of my mates on telephone, it is like back in Form One or Form Two or Lower Sixth Form, for those who joined us from other schools.

Incidentally, a number of us Giants played very significant roles in the commercial oil discovery for Ghana. This is also detailed in my memoirs, and I believe on one of our websites as “Lest we forget.”

HYPERCITIGH: Can you very briefly, give us a sense of some things you’ve done after leaving from GNPC?

DR. AMOS OFORI QUAAH: Owing to the rather traumatic interval that I went through during the drastic restructuring of GNPC, I stepped away from the industry after I returned to the UK in late 2002. I went to work for an Environmental Business charity for thirty months. This job was originally meant for twelve months, but we managed to secure funding for that long. When the funding finally ran out, a friend enticed me back into the oil industry.

I went to work for a small independent in Central London, where I dealt with exploration projects in Tanzania, United States of America, Yemen, Kenya, and North Korea. Later, I worked for an international consultancy before I retired in 2013.

Of all those places, I only actually travelled to Tanzania on several occasions and the United States. I also travelled to the Middle East mostly for meetings. I had heard so much about North Korea, and would have loved to visit, but I never had the chance, I did all the work from London.

The Tanzania project was most rewarding to me personally for a number of reasons:

First, the work we did resulted in oil and gas discoveries for that country.

Secondly, I got to speak on telephone to one of the first two ladies who did electrical engineering at UST while I was in the university. They were part of a group of four (two ladies and two gentlemen), who came to Ghana from Tanzania, to study at the university.  

I met their classmate at the National Oil Company and when she learnt that I had studied at UST, she said she knew two ladies who studied there and returned to Tanzania to do “weird things, climbing electric poles and fixing things that men could not do!” I said, “those ladies were one year behind me and I knew them because they often visited their male counterparts in Katanga.”

Thirdly, it is so gratifying to know that without much corruption, especially with respect to the new leadership in the country, Tanzania has developed and modernised in leaps and bounds since the discovery of those rather modest volumes of oil and gas. Each time I went to Dar- es-Salem and surrounding towns and villages, I could see very marked improvement in every aspect of their national life. Recent photos of the city show what proper planning and prudent use of modest resources can do for a country.   Dar- es-Salem is now one of my favourite cities in Africa!

HYPERCITIGH: Please, who has been your major source of motivation?

DR. AMOS OFORI QUAAH:  As a child, my mother who was widowed at age 28, and still managed to take care of our early childhood was my great motivator, apart from a number of my primary and middle school teachers. Then at GSTS, I met one Senior Derek Faidoo, who became something of a senior brother to me. I followed him to Katanga, and met up with him in England much later.

Among my teachers at GSTS, my late Housemaster Mr E A Teye was a great mentor. He was like another brother to me and I was devastated when he passed away a few years ago..

And the great pillar behind it all has been my wife, Sabina, my Number One cheerleader. I could never have done “GNPC” without her support, love and care. 

HYPERCITIGH: Do you have any advice for the youth?

DR. AMOS OFORI QUAAH:  As I have detailed in my memoirs, there are some generations of Ghanaians, many in my own extended family, who have the sense of entitlement and believe that they can simply acquire wealth, in fact, lots of it, without having to sweat for it. These are the men and women that are being duped big time by false prophets, pastors and so-called men of God as well as “Sakawa” and occultic men and women around the country. From my own experience, I am convinced that no matter where a person was born and under which circumstances, the grace of God abounds for all and with hard work, any Ghanaian or African, for that matter, can succeed anywhere in the world.

I must admit, though, that the opportunities that were available to every Ghanaian child of my generation do not exist anymore, especially for those that have been born to less affluent families and especially in the countryside. That is why I have personally been campaigning for the youth of Ghana to wake up and begin to respectfully ask questions of their elders and demand answers. With the vast natural and human resources that the Lord has blessed us with, the people and especially the youth of Ghana deserve much better than what is being served on their plates at the moment.

For instance, when I went to GSTS, the whole student population was only about 300.   With the construction of Block Four, it had gone up to about 400 by the time I left Sixth Form. And that was because the school was established with the specific purpose of training middle and senior level technical personnel for Ghana’s industrial development and it did it with distinction for about one hundred years! Today the workshops have been torn down to make room for classrooms. There is an unbelievable student population of 1,700 or thereabouts. What kind of quality education are the young people receiving? In this technological age, what kind of future are we building for our grandchildren?

Wearing my other hat as Seismologist and Disaster Management practitioner, I really fear for the future of my beloved country. At GSTS, it used to be that emergency vehicles could reach EVERY building and structure on the compound. The last time I visited my old houses, I must have I missed several beats at each location.

As Chairman of the Geological Disasters sub-Committee of NADMO, we toured most of southern Ghana in 2000 and wrote a detailed report on the danger that illegal “galamsey” posed to farmlands, the water bodies and general environment at the time. There was also the indiscriminate use of weedicides in the countryside and the unplanned development of precarious hillsides all over the country. There had been several landslides in various parts of the Greater Accra, Eastern, Ashanti and Western Regions.

As nation, we have modernised (not developed) as if science does not matter and there is a price to pay. The youth ought to open their eyes and begin to see the “booby traps” that their elders are setting for them!       

    

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NOTE: The Hypercitigh Media General Team will like to thank Master Dr Amos Ofori Quaah for his time and effort in making this exclusive interview a success.
Source:  Hypercitigh.com | Samuel Swanzy Baffoe | Sam Christopher

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