Legal luminary and Member of the Council of State, Sam Okudzeto has joined the fray of growing public dissent against the country’s inaugural lithium lease agreement, asserting that the deal is not in the Ghanaian people’s best interests.
Corroborating the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), Mr. Okudzeto expressed reservations over the agreement; drawing parallels with colonial-era deals that historically resulted in meagre royalties for the state.
He argued that since time immemorial, the country has been subjected to receiving minimal royalties for its resources – a trend mirrored in the latest lithium deal. He also raised concerns over the deal’s lack of plans for adding value to domestically mined lithium.
Drawing comparisons with resource-rich countries in the Middle East, the Council of State member speaking in his personal capacity questioned why Ghana seemingly readily agrees to part with its resources for a modest 5 to 10 percent in royalties instead of alternatively considering service contracts.
In view of lithium’s potential as a critical mineral, particularly its significance as a transition mineral, he opposed the agreement which seeks to offer a greater percentage of the stake in its extraction to a private foreign entity.
“To me, it is nothing new – in the sense that I had raised this matter some 20 or more years ago,” he said in reference to having minerals and allowing others to take the majority stake while paying a pittance to the state as royalties.
Mr. Okudzeto was speaking on the back of a stakeholder consultative forum with religious leaders organised by the IEA in Accra, and recognised the created platform’s importance.
He said: “I am happy that the IEA has provided this forum, because I think part of the problem we have in Ghana is the fact we have never been able to provide such a forum whereby people can freely interact and share opinions on national issues.
“We are all Ghanaians. The interests of this country belong to all of us. Let us bond together. If this deal is not good, which I think it is not good, let us tell whoever signed the document,” he stated.
Against this backdrop, he cautioned Members of Parliament (MPs) to “do what is right – what is in the interest of Ghana”, while reiterating his position that the lithium agreement is not in the interests of Ghana.
He urged religious leaders to rally behind the IEA and demand that the lease agreement be reviewed.
The IEA’s presentation to religious leaders on the lithium agreement signed between government and Barari DV Ghana Limited – a subsidiary of the Australian-based Atlantic Lithium Company, follows a press conference led by retired Chief Justice Justice Sophia Akuffo on the agreement some days ago.
The IEA raised significant concerns, highlighting the need for parliamentary ratification per Article 268 of the 1992 Constitution.
It also contested Minister of Lands and Natural Resources Samuel Abu Jinapor’s assertions regarding the agreement’s favourability to Ghana – noting that the terms resemble past colonial-type agreements which have provided limited benefits to the average Ghanaian.
In contrast, the Institute suggested an alternative model – drawing parallels with successful lithium-producing countries like Mexico, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. One key aspect of this proposal is the establishment of a Ghana Lithium Company (GLC), tasked with overseeing the entire value chain.
However, the minister in response to the IEA and other critics of the agreement has come out to clarify that ratification of the mining lease is explicitly provided for in the Mining Lease granted to Barari DV Ltd.
He emphasised that as per the terms of the lease, ratification by parliament is a prerequisite – adding that the ongoing processes, including securing Cabinet approval, must be completed before presenting the agreement to parliament for consideration and ratification.
The minister justified the reliance on private companies for mineral exploration by claiming a lack of resources for independent exploration – allowing them to obtain mining leases without a tender process.
Regarding calls for a Ghana Lithium Company, the minister cited current mineral volume and government’s commitment to maximising benefits as reasons for deeming it unfeasible.
But Chief Justice Justice Sophia Akuffo, a distinguished IEA scholar, during the interactions with religious leaders maintained that there has to be a paradigm-shift in the way mining agreements are done in the country – especially given the current times.
“If one were to sketch the whole gold, cocoa and oil arrangements, and practically all our resources, the formula would be the same – what the IEA loosely calls ‘the colonial format’. And it is as though that is the only way for natural resources in Ghana to be contracted, exploited or used,” she stated.
The various religious leaders at the forum took turns to share their concerns on emerging issues surrounding the deal, noting that it is only proper for the country to revise its approach as suggested.
The IEA indicated it will work with leaders to petition the president and parliament going forward.