Mahama to investigate Songhor Salt Electrochem deal if elected

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The flagbearer of the National Democratic Congress, John Dramani Mahama, has empathised with the chiefs and people of Ada who are livid over the lease agreement granted Electrochem Ghana Limited (EGL) by the Government of Ghana to mine salt at Ada.

If elected, Mr Mahama says it is a matter that he will assess to evaluate what amelioration is possible.

The controversial agreement includes the allocation of the entire 41,000 acres Songhor Lagoon to a single private investor to mine salt on a commercial scale at Ada in the Greater Accra Region.

The flagbearer was speaking on July 7, 2024, at the Kempinski Gold Coast Hotel during a media engagement as part of his “Mahama Conversation” series ahead of the 2024 elections.

Responding to a question from The Fourth Estate’s senior reporter, Rebekah Awuah, Mr Mahama said “it is something we should look at. What processes were used? What is the effect on the livelihood of the people? Because that has been a very controversial issue,” he said of the lease agreement.

He added that if elected his government would address the issue and seek possible amendments.

“Of course, if we come, we will, we will take a look at this and see what amelioration is possible in that regard,” he assured.

The former president expressed concern over the death of a journalist who worked for Radio Ada, Ghana’s premier community radio station. The journalist extensively covered the controversy surrounding the lease agreement.

“I think it [the Songhor Lagoon lease] is something worth looking at. I know there was resistance from the people and a journalist in the local media station was brutalised and harassed and I hear he eventually died,” he said.

The station’s journalists were banned from covering the Asafotufiam Festival of the people of Ada in 2022, and the Deputy Station Coordinator, late Noah Dameh, faced persecution for his critical reporting on the lease.

Noah Dameh’s health deteriorated following series of incidents linked to his relentless reporting on the controversial lease, including arbitrary arrests, detentions, and alleged police brutality against residents of Ada, especially those along the Songhor Lagoon basin.

Noah-Dameh-of radio-Ada
Noah Dameh posed for a picture after an interview with the Media Foundation for West Africa in April 2023. Photo Credit: Clement Edward Kumsah/The Fourth Estate

EGL, the company holding the lease, sued Mr Dameh for defamation against its group chairman, Daniel McKorley, known in business circles as McDan.

Mr Dameh was detained multiple times and struggled with poor health after his release from police custody in April 2023, according to close sources. He passed away under circumstances yet to be fully explained.

Mr Mahama criticised the government for not implementing the recommendations in the “Master Plan for Salt Production in Ghana,” derived from PNDC Law 287.

The plan, approved in 1991, aimed to manage the complex interrelatedness in the Songhor lagoon usage and promote peaceful coexistence between companies and the people of Ada.

“In order to avoid what could give cause for conflict which could again seriously hamper salt production, it is necessary to establish control for the interrelationship in the lagoon usage and the pacific coexistence of the companies and the Ada people. None of the interested parties alone can assume management of so complex a matter,” the master plan stated in 1991.

The flagbearer lamented that the current lease agreement ignored these recommendations, leading to the same conflicts addressed in the past.

“So, I don’t really know what has happened in this case,” he said.

Background

Since the government granted the lease to EGL in 2020, there has been ongoing conflict between the company and the people in the local communities around the Songhor Lagoon.

While EGL claims absolute rights to the lagoon, the local people assert that they have had stewardship over the resource and its environs for centuries. Some clashes have resulted in violence and fatalities.

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