Atuabo Freeport project: Residents disagree with 5 MPs
Residents of Atuabo disagree with five Members of Parliament who have sued government over the controversial Atuabo Freeport project aimed at developing oil and gas in the region.
The residents believe the court action is inimical to their interest.
They told Joy News' Western Region correspondent they are excited about the economic prospects the project will provide and are actually looking forward to the commencement of the project-not a court action that will derail the process.
The five MPs- Kwaku Kwarteng (Obuasi West), Kwabena Okyere Darko (Takoradi), Joseph Cudjoe (Effia), Mavis Hawa Koomson (Ewutu Senya) and Kofi Brako (Tema Central) who filed the case at the Sekondi High Court are protesting a clause in an agreement that set up the Atuabo Free Port Project.
Clause 7 of that agreement signed between the government of Ghana and a British company, Lonrho Ports, "bars Takoradi Port from further expanding its facilities for oil and gas until Lonrho has built its freeport, recovered all its cost, and made enough profit. The agreement actually bars all persons or companies from building any oil and gas port facilities in the entire Western Region until Lonrho has recovered its investment and made its profit.”
The MPs are convinced the agreement contravenes Ghana's laws, especially when there is an expansion project at the Takoradi Harbour being supervised by the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) to which an amount of 197m euros had been solicited.
If the Lonrho agreement is upheld it means the expansion project at Takoradi harbour would have to be shelved, an action the MPs insist is unconstitutional.
One of the MPs Okeyere Darko told Joy News the agreement is an illegality.
He argued per PNDC law 160, it is only the GPHA that has the power to develop manage and maintain ports.
"So there cannot be a clause somewhere that will limit the expansion prospects of GPHA.
While the MPs are not wholly kicking against the investment by the British firm, Okyere Darko argued Lonrho must be made to invest and compete as all other companies in the oil and gas industry instead of giving them unfettered privileges.
The concerns by the five MPs are shared by workers at the Ports and Harbours in Takoradi and Tema.
Kweku Owusu Peprah reported the workers as saying they do not in principle have anything against the establishment of the port but they have a problem with the port being operated by Lonrho.
"We will be compromising the sovereignty of this nation. It will be very dangerous for a free port like Atuabo to be left in the hands of private operators, one of the workers said at a press conference.
But residents in Atuabo think otherwise.
They believe the project will provide job opportunities as well as lead to the massive development in the area.
The Paramount Chief of the Eastern Region Awulae Amihere Kpenyili III agrees with the residents and is convinced the project will be in their interest.
Meanwhile the Vice Chairman of the Roads and Transport Committee Tetteh Chai says the action by the MPs is hypocritical.
While he is not surprised by the action taken by the workers of the GPHA, who he suspects want to protect their turf, he accused the five MPs of being political and hypocritical.
He said there was broad consultation between the MPs from both sides of the committee before the agreement was signed.
He found difficult to understand why the MPs will now proceed to court on the same matter.
Tetteh Chai said the deal with Lonrho is fair and acceptable.
"If a private man wants to invest his money, he should be able to recoup his money. Is that not fair. It is fair," he indicated.
He added this is a project that the Ghana government is not investing a penny and yet 45 per cent owners of the project.
He said in the next few years the project will wholly be owned by the government of Ghana.