The Maritime and Dock Workers Union (MDU) is lacing its boots for a showdown in court over the Atuabo Free Prot project which is being executed by Lonhro Ports Limited and has seen several interested parties raising the red flag about some clauses in the agreement basically on issues pertaining to exclusivity.
Barring any last minute hitch, the union would be in court with their lawyers on the same issue of exclusivity that all the other interest parties are fighting and will see them filing the suit this week.
This comes on the heels of a suite by five Members of Parliament who have also sued government over the project and seeking to expunge all the clauses that seek to give Lonhro so much leeway and exclusivity while tying the hands of Ghana’s oldest port, the port of Takoradi from the current expansion works that will place it in pole position to make the most of the oil and gas industry.
MDU General Secretary, Daniel Owusu Koranteng tells M&TD the union was poised to wage a legal struggle on the matter because they believe the deal was a bad one for the country, noting that whether or not parliament has ratified the deal was of no essence to the course they were charting.
“Our lawyers have been studying the document and thinking of what to do and we are going to go to court independently and fight our case because we believe we have a case” Mr. Owusu Koranteng posited.
According to him, the union is of the opinion that the ratification of the project is not in the interest of the nation for both the short and long term and that they believe it was a wrong move and everything possible must be done to ensure that it doesn’t succeed.
“Every company whether local or multinational must be a good corporate citizen and respect the laws of Ghana and so if you come into our country and undermine our laws, then you are not behaving like a good corporate citizen and must be dealt with” he opined.
According to him, the history of Lonhro vis a vis operating a free port especially with the example of Equatorial Guinea makes it an unattractive company to deal with.
Mr. Owusu Koranteng noted that the agreement between government and Lonhro undermines the constitution of Ghana, particularly PNDC Law 160 which establishes the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority as the main institution that should plan, develop, operate and regulate ports in the country.
“So what we are saying is that if a company can be effective only when it tramples on our national laws, then that makes its investment bogus which should not be entertained at all because the sovereignty of this nation can never and should never be compromised on the altar of such dubious investment” he lamented.
According to Mr. Owusu Koranteng the issue of national security also comes to the fore because the ports in the country are supposed to be and are classified as national security zones, stressing that handing the development of such facility to a private company to run puts the entire nation at risk.
“In a country like Ghana where democracy like Ghana where democracy is growing, we have on hand a number of problems including the issue of drugs, stowaway and other security challenges and the Atuabo free port cannot guarantee that it will ensure that all these challenges are taken care of” he noted.
According to him, if care is not taken, the Free Prot Company can become so powerful that it can have a strong say in the politics of the country, noting that a company that has operated in Equatorial Guinea on the same type of project cannot strengthen Ghana’s laws.
Mr. Owusu Koranteng further stated that in approving and ratifying the deal, parliament had undermined itself especially given that the same parliament has approved a loan in excess of 190 million Eros for the expansion of the Takoradi Port in order to position it as an oil and gas services hub, noting that tying up the hands of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority at this crucial moment with regards to the expansion of the port was at best hypocritical and out of place.
According to him, choosing to give 25 years exclusivity to the Atuabo Free Port with an option for a renewal cannot in any way be in the interest of Ghana be it for the long term of the short term, adding that parliament should have looked at the national interest before going ahead with the ratification of the project.
Mr. Owusu Koranteng also noted that they will not hesitate to call for international support for their campaign and advocacy against the project if need be, saying they will go any length to ensure that the deal is reversed.
Source: Maritime & Transport
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