The ECOWAS Court of Justice has dismissed, for lack of evidence, a case brought by three Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) against the Republic of Ghana alleging corruption in the management of the country’s gold resources which denied the citizens of their right to the enjoyment of permanent sovereignty over its natural resources.

The NGOs, Transparency International, Ghana Integrity Initiative and Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition filed suit no. ECW/CCJ/APP/55/ in December 2020 containing three claims related to the management of this resource, the mainstay of the country’s economy.

The NGOs had alleged that the government entered an agreement locally known as Agyapa deal under which it would set a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), the Agyapa Royalties Limited to monetize the royalties relating to the various gold mines in Ghana. They alleged acts of corruption and claimed that the deal would deprive Ghanaians of the benefits of their gold resources, contrary to Article 21 (1) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) which stipulates that “All people shall freely dispose of their wealth and natural resources. This right shall be exercised in the exclusive interest of the people…”

Delivering the judgment of the Court, Justice Sengu Mohamed Koroma, held that two of the applicants, Ghana Integrity Initiative and the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition, did not adduce evidence to support their first claim, the alleged misappropriation of the commonwealth of the country.

On the second claim by the Applicants alleging that Article 256(7) of Ghana’s constitution was contrary to the same article of the ACHPR, the Court found that the Respondent State had complied with the provisions of the said article and dismissed the claim.

The Court also rejected the third allegation of the Applicants that personalities involved in politics benefitted from the terms of the deal as they  “failed to show how this has affected the commonwealth for the benefits of the people of Ghana.”

In the suit filed by the NGOs in December 2020, they asked for an order of the Court to halt the Agyapa deal which would have served as a sovereign wealth fund, though not set up as such, and would have received perpetual rights up to 75.6 per cent of Ghana’s royalties from 48 gold mining leases. They also contended that under the deal, the  government would through the Mineral Income Investment Fund, owned 51 per cent of the SPV with Agyapa royalties listed on the London Stock Exchange for  the remaining shares.

The Applicants alleged that the deal was being dominated by ‘politically exposed persons,’ and would amount to a violation of the right of Ghanaians to have permanent sovereignty over the country’s natural resources as provided under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. It also claimed that the transaction violated many international conventions against corruption and if allowed to proceed, would lead to Ghana’s gold resources to be controlled by foreigners.

The Court had earlier expunged the name of the first Applicant, Transparency International, from the list of applicants on the gr0unds that it had not demonstrated its interest in the matter and was not a Member of the Community based on the preliminary objection of the Respondent, the Republic of Ghana.

In its response, the Republic of Ghana denied the claim of the Applicants and said that the transaction was not meant to cede the country’s sovereignty to foreigners as alleged but intended as a “means by which only a portion of the proceeds from the exploitation of natural resources of Ghana is invested to ensure that the people of Ghana obtain the benefit there from.”

The Respondent also argued that the first Applicant- Transparency International was not a proper party before the Court, being a German organization and therefore not a Member of the ECOWAS Community.

Moreover, the State urged the Court to disregard the contention of the Applicants that the deal constituted an interference in the right of Ghanaians to have sovereignty over their natural resources.

The Respondent State also alleged that the applicants failed to provide any evidence to back their allegation that the deal was dominated by ‘politically exposed persons who intend to misappropriate Ghana’s resources.”

The three-member panel of judges also included Justices Dupe Atoki and Ricardo Cláudio Monteiro Gonçalves.