Some fifteen Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) are up in arms against government's controversial Agyapa Mineral Royalty Limited deal, described by some concerned Ghanaians as "shady" deal, which was first disclosed by The Herald in July, this year.
Among the revelations by this newspaper is the involvement of Kofi Osafo-Marfo, son of Senior Minister, Yaw Osafo-Marfo, who is currently the Deputy Director General in-charge of Investment at the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT).
At a press conference yesterday in Accra, the CSOs argued, that Ghanaians are being shortchanged and called on the Akufo-Addo government to suspend the implementation of the Mineral Income Investment Fund (MIIF) with immediate effect.
Ahead of the Press conference yesterday, a Deputy Minister of Finance, Charles Adu Boahen, accused critics of the Agyapa Royalties mineral agreements of lacking understanding of the current deal, hence their opposition to the deal giving legal backing to raise some US$1 billion to enable government finance large infrastructural projects.
However, the chairman of the Alliance of CSOs working on Extractive, Anti-Corruption and Good Governance, Dr. Steve Manteaw, insisted at the press conference, that the deal is opaque, lacks oversight arrangements, and places Agyapa Royalties above the country's tax laws.
"The recent amendment of the Minerals Income Investment Fund creates more suspicion. The rushed amendment and inserting worrying clauses including clauses that leaves a special purpose vehicle; Agyapa Royalties above Ghanaian tax laws, outweighs Ghana's immunity and by that, expose Ghana to the risk of damaging lawsuits should any future government seek to reverse this transaction."
"What we find even more repulsive about this whole transaction is the provision that permits Agyapa Royalties, a supposed company of the sovereign state, to register in tax payments to borrow money or raise equity in foreign currency from any source on the back of the gold royalties of Ghanaians without the requirement of any further approval, consent and administrative Act of the Government of Ghana. This provision takes Agyapa Royalties away from parliamentary oversight and control", he added.
Already, the deal has been criticized by many with the flagbearer of the opposition NDC, John Dramani Mahama, serving notice he will cancel it, if he is elected as President in December.
"Agyapa is a very shady deal. It is a theft of Ghanaian royalties. If I become President, I will not accept that deal".
Some have described it as a way of mortgaging Ghana's mineral resources and the CSOs, have demanded a full disclosure of the faceless individuals behind Agyapa Mineral Royalty Limited and also the transaction advisors among others.
The CSOs, included Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana) Institute of Democratic Governance (IDEG), Integrated Social Development Centre (ISODEC), IMANI-Africa, Centre for Energy Policy (CEP) Ghana Extractive Transparency Initiative (GETI) Oil Watch Ghana.
Thegroup also known as 'Alliance for CSOs, raised concern about the lack of transparency in the agreement and also the indecent haste in okaying the deal in Parliament by the Majority side of The House led by Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu in the middle of night ,after the Minority had boycotted the transaction with a walkout from the Chamber.
Dr. Manteaw, who is also the Executive Director of ISODEC, described the deal which was initially Asaase Royalties registered as an offshore company in the British island of Jersey, as unfortunate, attempt to disregard dissenting views.
"Those who have divergent views, are equal stakeholders in the mineral revenue therefore, attempt to disregard dissenting views is most unfortunate".
Dr. Manteaw, called on Ghanaians to rise up as there is elite capture of the state's mineral resources. They identified weak public oversight and lack of transparency, as causing this deal to pass unchecked.
They argued, the controversial agreement would not have passed in Parliament, if it had gone under a very credible law such as the Petroleum Revenue Management (PRM) Act.
The aggrieved civil society groups, said what government was seeking to do is a direct opposite of what the (PRM) Act says.
"Ghanaians would probably not have lost grip over this Agyapa Mineral Income Investment transaction, if it had been orchestrated under an open and transparent regime, such as the Petroleum Revenue Management Act provides.
Indeed, what the government is intending to do with our mineral royalties would not have been permissible under the Petroleum Revenue Management Act.
For instance, section (5) of the Act prohibits the use of petroleum holding fund which includes royalties as collateral, for borrowing and this is what exactly we are trying to do with our mineral royalty", the CSOs have said.
Yesterday, Charles Adu Boahen, accused critics of the Agyapa Royalties mineral agreements of lacking understanding of the current deal hence their opposition.
His claim, follows misgivings from some stakeholders about various aspects of the deal including the amount being targeted to be raised, the incorporation of the lead company in a tax haven among others.
But speaking on the issues surrounding the agreement on the Citi Breakfast show, Charles Adu Boahen, explained that the agreement would eventually lead to government getting much needed funds to invest in a myriad of developmental projects.
"The other thing they seem to raise was the fact that we are only raising five hundred million cedis today. The royalties flows we get are in excess of over a hundred and twenty million dollars. Essentially, what they are saying is that, for the five hundred million, we would have to be paid in four years to invest it. So, essentially, we are raising money in exchange for four years of flows whereas they are signing these flows for the lifetime of the mines. That shows that they didn't really understand the transaction. Of the total royalties we receive every year, twenty percent goes to mineral development fund which is a statutory requirement," he said.
But, the Vice President of Policy think tank IMANI-Africa, Bright Simon, has lashed out at elements within government and Parliament, who facilitated the smooth passage of the controversial Agyapa Mineral Royalty Limited agreement.
Mr Simon is livid over the sheer impudence and arrogation of power by some select few in government to mortgage future revenues from gold royalties for lump sum money today.
He said the deal for Agyapa Mineral Royalties Limited, should have been put in the public space for proper policy debate on whether or not, it was in the best interest of Ghanaians and generation yet unborn.
"Such a deal, however, needs the scrutiny of a full public policy debate. Not backroom dealing & a Parliamentary rubberstamp" Mr Simon said in a series of tweets on Twitter.
Questioning the opaqueness of the deal, Mr Simon, said knowing the resources involved; government should have been transparent and involved the chiefs and people who have possessed these royalties for years.
"If a political class wants to take a decision as monumentous as privatizing the last remnants of Government's fiscal control over gold resources, it should do so in a transparent manner that involves, consultations with the chiefs & people who have owned this treasure for millennia".
Mr Simon faulted government for parading a few so calledlawyers, consultants and dealmakers abroad to trade the country's resources and pass it without the needed consultations from the true owners.
He chidedappointees behind the deal reminding them the many wars that were fought by forbearers to have these gold deposits today.
"The Government should not find a few lawyers at home & abroad, backroom dealmakers & 160 pliant politicians in Parliament to bulldoze such a decision through. Wars were fought for the Royal mines of Akyem, Wassaw and Asante. Latter-day coat and tie big shots should show some respect".