The President of the National House of Chiefs, Togbe Afede XIV, has joined the national debate on the Agyapa Royalties deal by questioning the decision of the Akufo-Addo government to set up the company in a tax haven of Jersey.
According to the Agbogbomefia of the Asogli State, who was once a bosom friend and business partner of the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, Tax havens typically serve two purposes, helping you to avoid tax or ensure secrecy, adding "I don't see why a national transaction should be shrouded in secrecy in the first place."
Addressing the Volta Regional House of Chiefs at which meeting he took strong exception to attempts to associate him with the deal, saying "if we are trying to avoid tax or minimize tax, whom are we denying tax payments to."
"If it is incorporated in Ghana, tax will accrue to Ghana, which will be paid by this company, that is owned, supposedly, majority by Ghana, so I do not see why we should do an investment but more important for me is the attempt to use my name and the National House of Chiefs to grant legitimacy to this transaction," Togbe Afede said.
Togbe Afede XIV, also called on the public to disregard publications purported to have emanated from the House of Chiefs, condemning comments made by the National Democratic Congress' flagbearer, John Dramani Mahama, on the Agyapa Royalties controversy.
He said, the publication which made rounds on Tuesday is extremely mischievous, untrue and must be disregarded.
At the meeting, he took strong exception to attempts to associate him personally as well as the National House of Chiefs to the controversial minerals monetization deal.
Togbe Afede XIV said: "I, in particular, I'm very much hurt by the attempt to use my name to grant legitimacy to a transaction that has been widely condemned for its secrecy and for the fact that the company involved was incorporated in a tax haven".
"I do not see why desperation would lead anybody associated with that transaction to want to use the name of the innocent Togbe Afede XIV. I have never commented on this transaction and I have decided not to comment for good reasons," he stated.
The Agbogbomefia of the Asogli State added: "Even the Attorney General has issued a statement that showed disapproval on this transaction".
In his view, "tax havens basically serve two purposes: helping you to avoid tax or ensure secrecy", noting: "I don't see why a national transaction should become a secrecy in the first place".
"But more important for me", Togbe Afede XIV said, "is the attempt to use my name and the national house of chiefs to grant legitimacy to this transaction".
He revealed that the National House of Chiefs "would issue a statement promptly to deny that this ever emanated from the house".
He told the Volta House of Chiefs on Wednesday, September 2, 2020 that: "I want to use the opportunity to condemn, without reservation and in no uncertain terms, three fake publications – two of which were in the name of the Volta House of Chiefs and the third one in the name of the National House of Chiefs".
"In the first publication, the Volta House of Chiefs was alleged to have blasted the NDC and alleged that we have said that we are tired of the NDC. The second one was labelled: 'Announcement to all Voltarians', which was supposedly from Volta chiefs to the effect that since 1992, the Volta Region has supported the NDC party because of former President Jerry John Rawlings and that we have nothing from our support."
"I have issued a press statement in the name of the Asogli State to disassociate myself from those publications because some of them came with my picture, so, we have written to deny that any such statement was issued by chiefs of the Volta region," he said.
"But only yesterday, a third one made the rounds and was carried by various channels: Ghanaweb, Myjoyonline, Graphic Online et cetera; some of them probably found out later that it was fake and they promptly removed same. It was titled: 'House of Chiefs condemned ethnocentric comments shared by John DramaniMahama'. Again, this publication came with my name but this one went further to forge the letterhead of House of Chiefs. This is extremely mischievous and needs to be condemned without any reservations and in no uncertain terms," he said.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, has agreed to do further consultation on the agreement with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs).
This came about after some 16 CSOs that earlier kicked against the deal, met with the minister on the matter at the Finance Ministry on Wednesday, 2 September 2020.The almost two-hour closed-door meeting sought to find common ground between the minister and the CSOs in connection with the deal.
"The challenge now is the timing and the 'how' to go about these further consultations.I've already indicated that we are principally not against the attempt to optimise or maximise benefits from our mineral royalties, no", he noted.
He added: "I think the challenge has to do with some weaknesses we see, which may require that we make some modification to the law itself and also to the whole project implementation approach and I think the minister seems to adopt such a pragmatic response and, so, we are hoping the group will be meeting, reconvening tomorrow to map out the next steps in terms of how we support the ministry to do additional consultations and tweaking to make sure that Ghana comes out the winner".
Last week, the Alliance of CSOs Working on Extractive, Anti-Corruption and Good Governance called for the immediate suspension of the deal.
The CSOs said the beneficial ownership of the special purpose vehicle and Agyapa Minerals Royalties should be made public or the implementation of the deal be deferred.
Parliament, a few weeks ago, in line with the Minerals Income Investment Fund (MIIF) Act, 2018 (Act 978), approved agreements to allow the country to derive maximum value from its mineral resources and monetise its mineral income accruing to the country in a sustainable and responsible manner.
The move gives Agyapa Royalties Limited the right to secure about $1 billion to enable government finance large infrastructural projects.
But the Chairman of the Alliance of CSOs Working on Extractive, Anti-Corruption and Good Governance, Dr. Manteaw, at a press conference on Tuesday, 25 August 2020, said the deal is not transparent 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 leave a special purpose vehicle, Agyapa Royalties, above Ghanaian tax laws, outweighs Ghana's immunity, and by that, exposes Ghana to the risk of damaging lawsuits should any future government seek to reverse this transaction," he said.
"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 criticised by the National Democratic Congress, which accused the government of mortgaging the country's mineral resources.