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09.08.2005 General News

Tsatsu Broke Gov't Policy

Chronicle

An Accra Fast Track High Court presided over by His Lordship Justice G.A. Aryeetey, has quashed a unilateral decision taken by legal guru Mr Tsatsu Tsikata - when he was Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) - to sell a GNPC houses to Westel for the continued use of Dr Josiah Cobblah.

In fact, His Lordship Justice Aryeetey actually stopped short of stating categorically that Mr Tsatsu Tsikata broke public policy when he decided to sell a GNPC House No. 32A at Cantonments to Dr Josiah Cobblah, then Deputy Managing Director of Westel, before he (Tsatsu) tried to take steps to have that policy changed.

A lease agreement between Government of Ghana and GNPC dated April 8, 1998 - which was presented in court as Exhibit "A" - states in clause 2(1): "Not without the previous consent in writing of the Government to change or mortgage at law or in equity assign, underlet or part with the possession of the demised premises or any part thereof or any building or buildings thereon or any interest therein."

In his ruling Justice Aryeetey referred to the above clause and then went on to state: "It is therefore clear from the terms of the original lease to GNPC that GNPC could not on its own assign its interests in the property to Westel for its equity share without the prior consent in writing of the Government."

"It will therefore be against public policy if Plaintiff (GNPC) goes ahead with the negotiations for sale," Justice Aryeetey also stated. During the taking of evidence in court, it emerged that when Mr Tsatsu Tsikata originally gave GNPC's word to sell the property, he did it orally and, in fact, GNPC committed to sell. It was when GNPC applied to the Land Valuation Board (LVB) for an independent Valuation report on the house that the LVB informed the corporation of the requirements in another document - brought in into court as Exhibit "E" and dated September 6, 1999-that the Government of Ghana be notified in writing anytime the GNPC wants to dispose of its (GNPC) properties.

It was not readily clear from the document, if Mr Tsatsu Tsikata's decision to offer the house as part of GNPC's equity stake in Westel-a stake that totaled 33 1/3% at the time was occasioned by an attempt to circumvent the state's requirement for selling the house.

In an interesting twist where Mr Tsikata came to court as a witness for Westel rather than for his own former employer, GNPC, he admitted knowledge of both the requirement that the Lands Commission be given the first buy option and, clause 2 (1) of the Lease Agreement.

Justice Aryeetey states in his judgement: "[Mr. Tsikata] said even though the allocation letter [gave the lands commission the first option to buy the house], after extensive negotiations with the Lands Commission there was a subsequent lease Exhibit "A" and that under the lease there was a condition that (GNPC) should not, without the previous consent of Government in writing transfer the house.

"In continuation (Mr Tsikata) said he is not aware whether the consent was granted," the ruling states. Both parties adduced evidence to show what brought them to court. GNPC has normal business dealings with Westel. On the basis of that the former in 1998 offered one of its residential premises - House No. 32A Cantonments - to Westel for the occupation of its Deputy Managing Director, Dr Josiah Cobblah.

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