MPs lose appeal in Atuabo Port case

The Court of Appeal in Cape Coast on Wednesday, dismissed an appeal case filed by five Members of Parliament (MPs), against the Atuabo Free Port project.

The court, presided over by Justice Clement Hoenyenugah, in its ruling said, the application was defective, and consequently struck it out.

A cost of GH¢6,000 was awarded against the applicants for the respondents-the Attorney-General and Atuabo Free Port.

The MPs — Mr Kwaku Kwarteng, Obuasi West; Mr Kwabena Okyere Darko, Takoradi; Mr Joseph Cudjoe, Effia; Mr Kofi Brako, Tema Central; and Mavis Hawa Koomson, Ewutu Senya-filed an application at the Sekondi High Court to have clause seven in the agreement, removed, claiming that that clause imposed an illegal restriction on the Takoradi Port from expanding into oil and gas services.

The Sekondi High Court, presided over by Mr Justice Peter Kwabena Ababio, had earlier dismissed the case, with the reason that the court could not interfere and overturn a decision taken by Parliament, as an independent body, in accordance with the Standing Orders of the House.

It said Parliament, in approving the agreement, did not violate any constitutional provision as it followed the process, according to the Standing Orders.

The court contended that since the House did not breach any constitutional provision, it could not interfere, explaining that it could only intervene and grant the wish of the applicants, if Parliament had failed to follow the procedures or set aside its own standing orders.

The appeal was seeking to overturn a ruling by the Sekondi High Court that dismissed the five New Patriotic Party MPs’ application for a judicial review of a law they claim restricts further expansion of oil and gas facilities at the Takoradi Port in favour of the Atuabo Free Port (AFP).

In July last year, Parliament approved a commercial agreement between the government of Ghana and a British company, Lonrho Ports, for the development of a 600million dollar oil and gas free port at Atuabo in the Western Region.

In a statement after Wednesday’s ruling by the Court of Appeal, Atuabo Free Port Ghana Limited said it was “pleased that this matter has now come to a close”.

“With the ongoing soils investigation and other processes continuing, we look forward to the realisation of Ghana’s first Free Port offering a gateway to the offshore oil and gas industry in Ghana and the wider Gulf of Guinea,” said the statement signed by Philomena Kuzoe, External Affairs Officer.

A few weeks after the Sekondi High Court ruling, the MPs, in a letter to Lonrho after that ruling, indicated that they had nothing against the project, except that they wanted the clause seven to be removed.

The letter signed by Kwabena Okyere Darko said, “As you well know, the matter we put before the Sekondi High Court, which matter we have again put before the Appeal Court, has nothing to do with the Atuabo Freeport”.

“There is no controversy over the Atuabo Freeport, and we respectfully urge you to proceed with the project without further delay,” the letter said, adding that their aim was to get the Appeal Court to rule on the restriction imposed on the expansion of oil and gas facilities at the Takoradi Port, to also give the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority the freedom to operate.

Clause Seven of the agreement bars the Takoradi Port from further expanding its facilities for oil and gas until Lonrho builds the freeport and recovers all its costs.

By Edmund Mingle

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