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Ghana’s ITLOS victory: The KT Hammond factor

General News of Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Source: citifmonline.com

Kt Hammond33Kobina Tahir Hammond

Following Ghana’s historic victory over the weekend in the maritime boundary dispute with neighboring Cote d’Ivoire, Adansi Asokwa Member of Parliament, Kobina Tahir Hammond, has been speaking exclusively to Citi FM about the behind-the-scenes-roles he played in the eventual Executive decision that took the stand-off with the Ivoirians to the International Tribunal on The Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in 2014.

In his interview with Citi FM, Mr. Hammond also used the opportunity to explain how his “behind-the-scenes-involvement” somewhat caused colleague New Patriotic Party top members to wrongly accuse him of “being in bed with the Mahama government”.

“I went to the Flagstaff House to see President John Mahama on this matter that has now become the success that the whole country is celebrating today,” Mr. Hammond said.

He added, “I have followed this matter from my days when I was at the Ministry of Energy to when I was in opposition as Ranking Member and thereafter and I can confidently say that the outcome has been worth the pursuit”.

On Saturday, ITLOS resolved in Hamburg, Germany, the three-year-long dispute between the two West African neighbors over the Cape Three Points oil and gas fields [and the surrounding fields] in favor of Ghana at the Tribunal’s final sitting on the matter, brought by Ghana.

The judgment came as huge relief to both the government of Ghana and the major oil and gas companies whose investments in the disputed territory were, prior to Saturday’s decision, precariously at stake.

For instance, in April 2015, ITLOS ordered a number of provisional measures which forced Ghana to suspend the drilling of new oil and gas wells in the disputed territory, pending the outcome of the litigation.

That decision caused Ghana’s TEN field to begin production with 11 of the planned 24 wells, as no new wells could be drilled until the dispute was settled.

Again, Ghana’s public purse – which has so far raked in over 3 billion dollars since the country began commercial oil production in 2009 – would have taken a devastating hit had the ITLOS judgment found Ghana in breach of the territorial waters of her western neighbor, Cote d’Ivoire, and the consequences would have been grave.

For instance, if the ITLOS decision had gone against Ghana, the Ghanaian government’s Free Senior High School policy, which took off early this month with an ambitious plan to educate some 400,000 qualified Junior High School leavers for free in its first year of implementation alone, would have suffocated.

This is because the Nana Addo administration has said revenue from oil and gas, as well as earnings from other mineral resources, will go into funding the policy, which is expected to eat up some 400 million Ghana cedis in its first year of implementation.

As Ranking Member on Energy, Mr. Hammond, was a full-time critic of the John Mahama administration, often slamming the government for its management of Ghana’s oil and gas resources.

He was also a religious critic of the Mahama government’s handling of the nation’s most recent power sector crisis that crippled many businesses.

Mr. Hammond tells Citi News in an exclusive interview that in the course of his work as Minority Spokesperson on Energy, he stumbled on “a very disturbing allegation” that made him “panic.”

He said “credible local and international sources” had told him that the government in Accra was negotiating possible settlement of the maritime dispute in a way that could see the government in Abidjan walk home with a significant portion of disputed oil-and-gas-rich territory.

The former Deputy Energy said upon hearing the claims he immediately “sought audience with President Mahama” in order to ascertain the veracity of the allegations.

He stated that in what was his first and last visit to the Flag Staff House during John Mahama’s tenure, he advised the President “strongly” against taking any decision to settle the dispute out of court.

“It was at that meeting that the President told me that he will take steps to have the dispute with Ivory Coast referred to the ITLOS for settlement”, Mr. Hammond said on the phone from London, from where he monitored Saturday’s judgment.

“My mission to the Flagstaff House was clear. Tell the President what I knew about the dispute and to, as Ranking Member, counsel him not to settle for anything that could make us worse-off.”

Under pressure from this reporter to disclose further details of what the President Mahama said to him about the allegations, Mr. Hammond pleaded what he called “Presidential Privilege,” saying it barred him from making additional disclosures.

Mr. Hammond told this reporter that true to the President’s assurances to him at the closed-door-meeting, he was informed days later that Ghana had indeed dragged Ivory Coast before the ITLOS over the maritime dispute.

Asked if he felt vindicated by the outcome of the litigation, the Adansi Asokwa MP said, “I won’t call it vindication. I’ll say I have always known – based on the work we did during President John Kufour’s era – that the oil is ours. I knew, having worked under President Kufuor as a Deputy Minister for Energy, that there was no way Cote d’Ivoire was going to take away what is rightfully ours”.

According to Mr. Hammond the outcome of the ITLOS decision should be a devastating shame to all those NPP people who have used his meeting with President Mahama as evidence that he was in bed with the governing NDC at the time.

As an outspoken Ranking Member, Mr. Hammond was seen by many as a natural future Energy Minister in the event of Nana Addo’s victory at the 2016 polls.

However, eight months after the NPP won the elections, Mr. Hammond remains an ordinary Member of Parliament without any ministerial appointment.

Sources say his exclusion from Nana Addo’s government stems from accusations he was in bed with President Mahama’s government, claims he vehemently denies.

“So all those who think I was mixing up with John Mahama and his people must be ashamed by now. All those people who were moving from one place to the other with all kinds of gossip about must be embarrassed by the decision. They ought to have known that I was working for Ghana”.

He added, “I just could not comprehend that the Ivoirians, considering all we knew about them, the work we were doing, so belatedly, were laying claim to Ghana’s oil.

Former President Mahama was not immediately available to comment on Mr. Hammond’s claims, although he issued a statement on Saturday in which he named a number of prominent people who, he said, played significant roles in the ITLOS victory. Mr. Hammond was not mentioned in the statement.

“I am proud of the results and salute my brother President Alassane Ouatarra that we did not allow this litigation to mar the cordial relations that exists between Ghana and La Cote D’Ivoire.

Ghana owes a debt of gratitude to the following- former Attorney General & Minister for Justice Marietta Brew Appiah-Opong, Deputy Attorney General Dominic Ayine, Solicitor General Helen Ziwu; International Counsels Professor Philippe Sands Q.C. and Paul Reichler; Fui Tsikata and team from Reindorf Chambers; Hanna S. Tetteh, Kofi Buah, Nii Osah Mills, Jane Ahetor and Dr. Joseph Kwadwo Asensuo; Theo Ahwireng and team from Petroleum Commission; Thomas Manu and team from the GNPC; Kojo Efunam and officials of the EPA; Kwame Mfodwo & Professor Martin Tsamenyi from the Maritime Boundary Secretariat; Alex Tait of International Mapping Associates; members of the former Cabinet who endorsed my decision to proceed to ITLOS, and others too many to mention,” John Mahama’s statement said.

The Special Chamber of the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) ruled in favor of Ghana in the three-year-long maritime dispute between the country and Côte d’Ivoire on Saturday.

In a unanimous decision, the Tribunal found that contrary to the claims of the government in Abidjan, Ghana did not violate Côte d’Ivoire’s maritime boundary in anyway.

The Chamber also rejected Côte d’Ivoire’s legal argument that Ghana’s coastal lines were unstable. The panel also found that Ghana’s oil and gas exploration activities in the disputed basin did not violate Côte d’Ivoire’s sovereign rights.

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