A private citizen and four chiefs of Ada have filed two separate lawsuits seeking an injunction to stop Electrochem Ghana Limited from mining salt at Ada in the Greater Accra Region.
Noble Wadzah, a former Chairman of the Public Interest and Accountability Committee (PIAC) and Nene Amartey Korley, Chief of Aminapah and three other chiefs, also want the High Court to, among other reliefs, declare the lease granted Electrochem illegal.
Joined to the legal action are the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, State Interest and Governance Authority (SIGA), Minerals Commission and the Ada East District Assembly.
The plaintiffs’ case is anchored on the grounds that the Electrochem deal was in gross violation of PNDC Law 287 and the Master Plan for the development of the salt industry in the Ada area. They are also claiming that the lease is an affront to the rights of indigenes who have lived within the Songhor Salt enclave for centuries.
They also accused Electrochem of violating some terms of the lease agreement.
PIAC former Chairman’s case
In his suit filed before an Accra High Court, Mr Wadzah said the legal action was prompted by a letter from the district assembly directing salt miners on the Ada Songhor Lagoon site to vacate by December 31, 2023.
He wants a judicial review of the lease agreement and a declaration by the court that the Electrochem lease is illegal, particularly when the company’s obligations in the lease do not conform with PNDCL 287 and the Master Plan.
Mr Wadzah argues that Electrochem was required by the lease agreement to pay GHS2.3 million, which is 10% of the offer price of the lease as a deposit by August 31, 2021.
Court documents show that it was not until September 7, 2021, that Mr Daniel McKorley, Executive Chairman of the McDan Group wrote to the branch manager of ADB Head Office, to request the transfer of the said amount to SIGA to make the deposit on behalf of Electrochem, which is a subsidiary of the McDan Group.
Mr Wadzah also argues in his lawsuit, failure to make the deposit by the agreed date meant that Electrochem was in breach of the lease agreement.
Further, Mr Wadzah stated that President Nana Akufo-Addo, who holds the Songhor Lagoon salt deposits in trust for the owners, must ensure that the salt is mined, and the salt industry developed in compliance with PNDC Law 287.
He said a cursory look at Electrochem’s business plan showed that it had no plans to operate with the master plan for the area but rather to completely marginalise and eliminate small-scale mining at the lagoon site.
“The Interested Party’s [Electrochem] acts of impunity have been fueled by the failure of the second and third respondents [Minerals Commission and SIGA] to ensure that the lease granted to the Interested Party and the divestiture respectively were granted in accordance with the law,” he added.
The case of the four chiefs is that they and their community stand to suffer greater hardship and irreparable damage if the Minerals Commission, the Ada East Assembly and Electrochem are not restrained from their lands until the final determination of the case.
In their case filed before the Tema High Court on January 17, 2024, the chiefs claim that the government knew that the Terkpebiawe clan owned the Songhor Lagoon.
According to the chiefs, although they had responded to a notice published by the Minerals Commission, indicating that their lives could be affected by the lease, the government failed to consult the principal members of the Terkpebiawe Clan but went ahead to grant the lease to Electrochem on October 29, 2020.
Our villages fall within the concession area and the indigenes of the villages have put up properties in the said areas. The properties in these villages include houses, schools, churches and other structures put up by the indigenes for the commercial activities, they said.
The chiefs noted that although the Ada East District Assembly knew of the concession granted Electrochem, it kept issuing business permits to indigenes to win salt. The permits gave the indigenes the green-light to put up structures and buy machines to facilitate their salt-winning activities.
“The defendants are aware of the fact that Parliament is re-examining the agreement between the State and the third defendant [Electrochem] but the defendants continue to intimidate and oppress the indigenes with the sole purpose of getting them out of their land even though they have not put in place any plan of resettling them,” the plaintiffs said.
Citing an example of the harassment their communities were suffering, the chiefs said on December 14, 2023, the district assembly “ordered all persons occupying the lands within concession area to vacate the land for the third defendant [Electrochem].”
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