Government should be bracing itself for a legal tussle with Aker ASA, a leading global provider of engineering, technology and construction services, over its invalidation of the latter’s exploration and development licence ratified by Parliament on November 5, 2008.
Maria Moraeus Hanssen, Aker’s investment manager and representative in Ghana, who gave the hint, said the company has over the past six months been sensing signals from Government that suggested it wants the company’s licence withdrawn but waited patiently till an offic0ial correspondence to that effect was confirmed.
“These signals have now been confirmed in a letter dated December 30, 2009, from Dr Joe Oteng Adjei, Energy Minister, that states that the agreement is considered invalid. The reason given is that the agreement does not meet legal requirements that a Ghanaian company must be party to the agreement,” she said.
Addressed to the President & CEO of Aker ASA Group, Simen Lieungh, Dr Oteng Ajei’s letter indicated that the November 5, 2008 Petroleum Agreement (PA) was flawed to the extent that it (PA) allegedly failed to meet the requirements demanded by PNDCL 84, and therefore ruled that the assigned the Norwegians have requested was legally impossible since it has failed to comply with the afore-mentioned law.
Aker’s representative stated that she saw no basis in law or fact for the withdrawal, since Aker was officially awarded an ownership interested in the operatorship of a petroleum offshore exploration and development licence at a deepwater field off Ghana’s coast. The petroleum agreement, she said, was negotiated with the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) and the former administration, presented to Parliament and duly ratified.
“Naturally, we have regarded the agreement as valid, and we have, with the understanding of other Ghanaian authorities, gathered and processed seismic survey data to an extent that exceeds our obligations under the petroleum agreement.”
Aker has formally responded to the letter in a correspondence dated January 18, 2010 and also publicly issued an official statement on it to the international media. The Minister of Energy is said to have indicated a possible solution to the matter under which Aker will have the expenses it incurred on its seismic survey covered. Aker comprises several industries, including oil & gas, refining and chemicals, mining and metals and power generation.
Aker solutions, a subsidiary, has aggregated annual revenues of approximately 58 billion. Norwegian Kroner has approximately 22 500 employees and 9500 contract staff in about 30 countries.
When contacted, a source at the Energy Ministry stated that the issue is a technical one and that Business Guide ought to contact the GNPC for clarification; but when the paper called a prominent official at GNPC, he also tossed the responsibility back to the ministry noting, “it is Government who grants licences and revokes them. GNPC is only a partner.”