The five members of Parliament who challenged portions of the Atuabo Freeport Project in court say they are not to blame for the delay of the project. If at all there is delay the MPs say it may be due to the fact that government and its project partner, Lonrho Ports are broke.
They are also asking government not to collapse one port to establish another.
In a statement signed by one of the MPs, Joseph Cudjoe, they say claims by president John Mahama and the Petroleum Minister Mr Armah Kofi Buah that the five MPs were to blame for the delay of the project were untrue.
“Last week, President John Mahama and the Petroleum Minister, Mr Armah Kofi Buah stated publicly that the delay in the start of the Atuabo Freeport project is coming from some Members of Parliament.
“These claims are false and misleading. We, the said Members of Parliament state for the records that there is currently no court injunction on the Atuabo Freeport project. Indeed, there is no court action against the project. These statements are untrue. We challenge government to tell the public the suit numbers of the suit(s) they are attributing the delay to.
“It is obvious that the cause of the delay is the inability of government and Lonrho Ports to find the money to finance the project,” the statement said.
In July last year, Parliament approved an agreement between the government of Ghana and British company, Lonrho Ports, for the development of an oil and gas free port at Atuabo.
Clause 7 of the agreement bars Takoradi Port from further expanding its facilities for oil and gas until Lonrho builds its freeport, recovers all its costs, and makes enough profit.
The five MPs described the clause as illegal, proceeded to court and hoped the Accra High Court will rule in their favour. But the court did not.
The MPs have put an appeal process on hold and are seeking further due diligence from government.
In the statement, the MPs drew government’s attention to the fact that Parliament has approved a €197 million loan facility for Takoradi Port to expand and provide oil and gas services to the emerging petroleum business in the Western Region. The Takoradi Port is again in the process of contracting another US$400 million for the purpose of further expanding its facilities to provide oil and gas services.”
The MPs do not understand why in spite of these huge investment into the Takoradi Port, government will still enter into an agreement with Lonrho Ports, the effect of which would restrict the expansion of Takoradi Port.
“If this restriction is allowed to remain, Takoradi Port cannot repay its loans, the Port and related businesses in the Sekondi-Takoradi metropolis will collapse, and the unemployment that will attend this collapse will be unbearable for the nation.
“It also needs to be noted that, in anticipation of expanded oil and gas business at the Takoradi Port, both local and foreign businessmen and investors have invested in the residential, commercial and real estate sectors in Sekondi-Takoradi and the surrounding townships. Hotels, restaurants, financial institutions, etc have all invested substantially in the Sekondi-Takoradi metropolis. So the exclusion of Takoradi Port from the oil and gas business poses serious risk to these investors. It would not augur well for Ghana’s investment policy credibility.
“We support government’s effort at giving Western Region two ports. We don’t support killing one port to establish another,” the statement said.
The MPs also say they have information that suggests that Lonrho does not want to come under the regulation of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority.
“To please Lonrho, government and Lonrho have put a clause in the Atuabo Freeport agreement that Lonrho would deal with GPHA at arm’s length if at all Lonrho decides to deal with the GPHA. Please refer to Clause 13.2 of the Atuabo Freeport agreement.
This disregard for Ghana’s institutions is wrong and unacceptable,” the statement said.