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General News Fri, 23 Jul 2010

Kosmos/ExxonMobil Deal Cracks Government Apart

…Martey Newman, Kofi Annan, Ishmael Yamson, Cadman Mills join Kosmos lobbying team?

Ghana's president, Prof. John Atta Mills, after a marathon meeting with all interested parties in the castle has requested ExxonMobil to submit a proposal of its interest to buy the shares of Kosmos energy in Ghana's jubilee fileds. The sudden change in the government's stance is seen as a significant softening of the Government's position; after it had insisted Kosmos' attempt to sell its shares directly to ExxonMobil will not be entertained by the government.

The previous position had been that any sale of share to a third party will be considered only after Ghana National Petroleum Company had acquired the Kosmos shares in the Jubilee fields at fair market value.

Authoritative sources within government revealed to The Talk that President Mills is close to allowing the Kosmos impunity to hold sway over national interest and laid down procedure, while GNPC on the other hand would like to stick to the law.

This situation could be as a result of pressure upon government from Kosmos and the powerful lobbying team they are said to have assembled, coupled with pressure from western powers forcing government to go ahead and give its blessing to the ExxonMobil deal.

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This change in government position is rumoured to be the work of some key Ghanaian personalities including Kofi Annan, former UN secretary General, Ishmael Yamson, former chairman of Unilever, and some members of the Mills government including, Henry Martey Newman, Chief of Staff and Cadman Mills the brother of the President, were part of Kosmos' lobbying team.

The current position, apart from its apparent lack of national interest, also signals cracks in government front in terms of their dealing with the Kosmos impunity. While the presidency seems to be developing a soft spot for f Kosmos , the Ghana National Petroleum Company(GNPC) sees Ghana's acquisition of the share of strategic national interest and claims they would not yield to Kosmos bullying tactics.

It will be remembered that the US embassy denied Mr. Atto Ahwoi, the chairman of the board of GNPC, a visa to travel to the United States. The perception was that the denial was linked to his opposition to Kosmos offloading its shares directly to ExxonMobil.

The president's directive to ExxonMobil in itself is problematic because in the first place ExxonMobil is not buying anything from government.

What they seek to buy are the shares of Kosmos, and so for the president to be asking for a proposal for those shares cannot be supported by any legal means. “You cannot give what you don't have,” is the way lawyers put it.

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It was based on this assertion that Kosmos could behave the way they were behaving, and this directive by the president seems to have played into the hands of Kosmos.

GNPC's position is that Kosmos broke Ghana's law by selling Ghana petroleum data. They make references to the Petroleum exploration and production law, PNDC Law 84,section 8 which states that “ A petroleum agreement entered into under this Law shall not directly or indirectly be assigned in whole or in part , by the holder of such agreement to another person without the prior consent in writing of the secretary.”

Meanwhile the Corporate Affairs Director of the Ministry of Energy, Edward Bawa has told this paper that publications in sections of the media that GNPC was not interested in buying the Kosmos shares was a complete lie.

According to him, he had listened to the full text of the Deputy Minister. Hon. Inussah Fusseini's presentation on radio which the papers were quoting from and there was nothing in the statement to suggest what the newspapers were alluding to. “GNPC position has not changed,” he declared.

Article 23(16) of PNDC Law 23 also states that,” A contractor or sub-contractor shall not transfer any share or shares in its incorporated company in Ghana to a third party either directly or indirectly without the written approval of the secretary if the effect of such transfer would be either to give such third party control of such company or to enable such third party take over the interests of a shareholder who owns five percent or more of the shares in such company.”

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The last statement by the Minister of Energy on the issue indicated that the government will not discuss Kosmos' attempt to sell its share until the data issue is resolved. Authoritative sources in the US indicate that both Kosmos and the Ghana government are “being cagy” about what is going on between them.

The most worrying part of this current development is the records of government on similar issues which clearly provide a guide as to what the outcome of this latest directive of President Mills is likely going to be.

In the Vodafone issue, where government set up a committee to review the sale, government came out to rubbish the work of the committee, and promised Ghanaians it was going to re-engage Vodafone.

Source: The Talk