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ENI Ghana/Vitol $915m suit: Ghana acted wrongly in unitising oil fields – Ben Boakye

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Ben Boakye, Executive Director of the Africa Center for Energy Policy (ACEP), has raised concerns about the government’s handling of the unitisation process for the three oil fields.

The government’s attempt to unitise the ENI Ghana, Vitol, and Springfield oil fields has been met with criticism from Boakye, who argues that the approach is flawed and requires reevaluation.

In July 2021, Ben Boakye wrote to President Akufo-Addo, urging him to reconsider the unitisation directives and seek third-party advice. His warning proved prescient, as the government’s pursuit of unitisation led to a legal challenge at the International Arbitration Tribunal.

Ultimately, the tribunal’s final ruling brought a positive outcome for Ghana, vindicating Boakye’s stance and highlighting the importance of careful consideration in energy policy decisions.

The Tribunal denied the Claimants, Eni and Vitol, their monetary damages, which initially stood at $7 billion but were later reduced to $915 million plus interest by the end of the proceedings.

The Tribunal dismissed all claims against the GNPC entirely. Additionally, the Tribunal rejected the Claimants’ request to declare that Ghana breached the Petroleum Agreement by “refusing to withdraw or prevent reliance by third parties on the Unitisation Directives.”

In an interview with Bernard Avle on The Point of View on Channel One TV, Ben Boakye dismissed the government’s unitisation directive as “wrong-headed”.

Contrary to the Attorney General’s assertion that Ghana emerged victorious in the case, Boakye disagrees, characterising the judgment as a “technical knockout” against the government.

He believes the ruling favours the oil companies, ENI Ghana and Vitol, rather than the state.

The ACEP boss argues that the government failed to present a robust scientific case to support the unitisation of the oil fields, neglecting to demonstrate a compelling need for unitisation.

He believes that the government’s failure to provide sufficient evidence undermined its position, leading to a ruling in favour of the oil companies.

“Significantly, I think that the point about winning points is not what I see from the judgment. It was a knockout, a technical knockout of the case that was before the court. Essentially, the fact of the matter is that ENI didn’t go to court to say that Ghana has stolen its $7 billion, and they want it back.

“They went to court to say that Ghana has acted unlawfully and interpreted its laws wrongly by issuing the unitisation directives, without fulfilling the scientific evidence that will justify unitisation. I think that is essentially before the court.

He added, “For me, the substantive case is what we should be focusing on, what took Ghana, ENI, and Vitol to court to intervene on this matter. It was a simple fact that Ghana acted wrongly in unitising when our laws [are not enforced]. The right to unitise is in our law, but what should activate that right, is what the government failed to understand. What activates that right is the scientific body of evidence that suggests that we need to unitise the fields and that we didn’t do and that is why we lost the case.”

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