As it stands now, it is clear that Ghana cannot do away with maritime boundary disputes with its neighbouring countries especially with countries she shares borders including Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, and Togo.
Not long ago, Ghana won its maritime dispute over her neighbour, Cote d’Ivoire at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) after a long-protracted misunderstanding between the two countries.
The ITLOS in its ruling on Saturday, September 23, 2017, said Ghana had no special responsibility towards Côte d’Ivoire and so the issue of reparation (payment to Cote d’Ivoire for drilling oil in its maritime boundaries) was of no effect.
Cote d’Ivoire had wanted the Special ITLOS Chamber to invite the parties to carry out negotiations in order to reach an agreement on the terms of reparation due them.
Although Ghana emerged the winner after the ruling on a unanimous decision basis, the country spent an amount of US 3.8 million dollars from the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation’s (GNPC) resources on activities of the ITLOS secretariat with regards to the disputes.
The Public Interest and Accountability Committee (PIAC), an institution mandated by law to track the use of all revenues accruing from the petroleum sector, has consistently said the decision to fund the ITLOS secretariat activities was not a core mandate of GNPC but the Government of Ghana.
It is clear that GNPC’s mandate under PNDC Law 64 of 1983, (now PNDC Act 64) is to undertake the exploration, development, production and disposal of petroleum in the country.
The objectives of the Corporation are to promote the exploration and the orderly and planned development of the petroleum resources of Ghana as well as to ensure that the country obtains the greatest possible benefits from the development of its petroleum resources.
Then the GNPC is also to ensure the effective transfer to Ghana of appropriate technology relating to petroleum operations and ensuring the training of citizens and the development of national capabilities in all aspects of petroleum operations.
And finally the Corporation is to ensure that petroleum operations are conducted in such a manner so as to prevent adverse effects on the environment and the people of Ghana.
In August 2017, the Parliament of Ghana approved a budget of US 534.77million dollars for the operations of GNPC, which included expenditure for maritime boundary special projects.
The GNPC is funded from the Petroleum Holding Fund, the fund created by the Petroleum Revenue Management Act, 2011 (Act 815) and the Petroleum Revenue Management (Amended) Act, 2015 (Act 893) where all petroleum revenues are deposited for onward transfer to various accounts.
It is in the same year that PIAC noted in the 2017 annual report on the management of petroleum revenues, its dissatisfaction with the use of funds for GNPC operations to fund a national operation.
In the said report, PIAC stated in its recommendations that the ITLOS dispute was between two sovereign States and not between a sovereign State and a national oil company for which reason it is wrong to have used GNPC’s resources to settle the cost of litigation.
The said report recommended that the amount 3.8million dollars spent on the litigation should be refunded to GNPC.
In the 2017 annual report published by PIAC, GNPC received an amount of US 182 million dollars from the Petroleum Holding Fund.
According to Dr Steve Manteaw, the Chairman of the PIAC, it is imperative for GNPC to be allowed to remain resilient and focused on its core mandate to ensure the maximum benefits of oil exploration to the country.
The dispute between La Cote d’Ivoire had taken from GNPC, US3.8 million dollars. That transaction has passed and we have to deliberate on whether or not it was right as a nation to proceed in that direction, I believe the answer is crucial to streamlining the Corporation’s activities.
Answering the question above is especially important considering that the country is currently at loggerheads with Togo, another neighbouring country, over another maritime boundary as revealed by Mr Francis Ackah, the Acting Director of the Resource Management Unit of the Petroleum Commission, in June last year.
Mr Ackah said Togo had between December 2017 and May 2018, stopped two seismic vessels from Ghana from undertaking seismic activities to acquire seismic data in the deep sea in the territory that approaches Togo. (A seismic vessel is used as a survey vessel for the purpose of pinpointing and locating the best possible area for oil drilling in the middle of the oceans).
He explained that in December 2017, a seismic vessel from Ghana was on the sea when the Togo Navy stopped it from working adding that in June 2018, while authorities were resolving the issue, another seismic vessel was stopped by the Togolese.
Mr Ackah said, “Togo says that it does not recognise our borders and so we need to meet the authorities of that country and see how we can resolve the issue. Already, the Ministry of Energy has put in place a committee to handle the issue.
There is likely to be more disputes with our neighbours since we all share borders. And if the dispute rises to the level as seen with the ITLOS maritime disputes – that would involve a lot of resource- litigation, should the GNPC fund all such disputes?