An Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) court has ruled on a controversial gold deal in Ghana, dismissing the case brought against the government by a coalition of civil society organisations, reports Alfred Olufemi.
A three-man panel at the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice (CCJ) has upheld the Ghana government’s defence in a lawsuit seeking to challenge the propriety of a Gold Royalties Monetisation Transaction known locally as the Agyapa deal.
As an “innovative financing solution” to its debt crisis, the Ghanaian government pushed for this deal in 2020.
The government proposed to cede over 70% of its gold mining royalties to a new offshore company, Agyapa Royalties Ltd. This proposal also included selling 49% of the shares of this company in an Initial Public Offering (IPO) while the government would control the remaining 51%.
But three anti-corruption groups – Transparency International, Ghana Integrity Initiative and Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition – dragged the government to the regional court in the same year, challenging the legality of the proposed transaction.
The non-governmental organisations sought a court order to halt the deal, arguing that it was dominated by "politically exposed persons" and violated the rights of Ghanaians to have permanent sovereignty over the country's natural resources.
They cited Article 21 (1) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) which says that “All peoples shall freely dispose of their wealth and natural resources. This right shall be exercised in the exclusive interest of the people. Inno case shall a people be deprived of it.”
Responding to the allegations, the Ghanaian government said that the transaction was not meant to cede the country’s sovereignty to foreigners in any way. The government stated that it was a means through which the people would benefit from an investment of “a portion of the proceeds from the exploitation of natural resources”.
It also maintained that the NGOs failed to provide any evidence to substantiate claims that the deal was dominated by politically exposed persons who wanted to misappropriate Ghana’s commonwealth.
Ruling on the matter, the regional court upheld the government's defence and dismissed the case.
In delivering the court’s judgement, the Justice Sengu Mohamed Koroma-led panel noted that two of the applicants – Ghana Integrity Initiative and the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition – failed to provide evidence to support their allegations of misappropriation of the commonwealth by the Ghanaian government.
The court had earlier expunged Transparency International from the suit, stating that the NGO did not demonstrate its interest in the matter and isn’t a member of the community.
The applicants have expressed dissatisfaction and disappointment at the regional court’s ruling. Michael Boadi, spokesperson for Ghana Integrity Initiative, described the ruling as a betrayal of “the quest of West Africa’s peoples to ensure that their governments are accountable to the citizens”.
“We remain convinced that the proposed sale would serve corrupt interests and not the people of Ghana, and call on the government to terminate the already stalled Agyapa deal once and for all,” the coalitioninsisted in a joint press release.
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