Oil exploration in Keta Basin faces legal hurdles

Plans to prospect for and drill oil in the Keta Delta Block may not be coming on soon as two organisations: Centre for Natural Resource and Environmental Management of Tema and Keta District Vegetable Farmers and Marketers Association of Anloga are challenging the government and the block owners as to the proprietary of such an action.

In a writ filed at the Supreme Court against Swiss African Oil Company, SWAOCO), Pet Volta Investments Limited, Ghana National Petroleum Corporation, GNPC and the Attorney General, the group being represented by Fidelity law Group said the ‘declaration of the “Contract Area” including the Keta Lagoon Complex Ramsar Site by the Minister of Petroleum as an area “open for petroleum operations” is unfair, arbitrary and capricious and is therefore unconstitutional.”

In the reliefs being sought, the group said declaring the ‘entire Keta Lagoon Complex by the Minister for petroleum as an area open for petroleum activities does not constitute an appropriate measure that will safeguard the Keta lagoon Complex which is a nationally and internationally recognized Ramsar Site under the Wetlands management (Ramsar Site) Regulations 1999 and the Convention for the Conservation of Wetlands, 1971 for posterity and is therefore contrary to Articles 36 (9) and Article 296 of the 1992 Constitution’ the plaintiffs stated.

In the suit filed at the Supreme Court of Ghana on February 21st 2018, the plaintiffs are asking for a true and proper interpretation of Article 20 of the 1992 Constitution the designation (under section 7 of the Petroleum (Exploration and Production) Act 2016) of the keta Lagoon Complex as an area open for petroleum operations by the minister for petroleum and the subsequent signing of a Petroleum Agreement under section 10 of Petroleum (Exploration and Production) Act, 2016) in favour of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Defendants constitute a compulsory acquisition of the legal interests or property rights of the people of Anlo in the Keta Lagoon Complex.

Among the other reliefs, the plaintiffs want a declaration that sections 7 and 10 of the Petroleum Exploration and Production) Act 2016 (Act 919) that empowers the minister of petroleum to pen an area for petroleum activities and enter into petroleum agreements with contractors without an obligation on the minister of petroleum to pay fair and adequate compensation to owners of lands and other property and also a right of access to the high Court to enforce such rights is contrary to Article 20 of the 1992 Constitution and therefore unconstitutional.

The have therefore asked the court to declare the approval given by parliament for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd defendants without compliance by the state as unconstitutional.

Concluding the plaintiffs want the Supreme Court to revoke the agreements on the grounds that ‘minister’s decision is contrary to Articles 20 and 36(9) of the 1992 Constitution and the Wetlands (Ramsar Sites) management Regulations of 1999.

According to the exploration map, the area licensed stretches from Denu in Ketu South District to Akatsi, Akatsi South in the north including Keta, Tegbi and towns across the lagoon including Abor, Atiavi among others. The oil block also includes Ada in Dangme East, Greater Accra Region.

By Kafui Gale-Zoyiku