Ibrahim Mahama and Simon Osei-Mensah
The Human Rights High Court in Kumasi has dismissed the case brought against the Ashanti Regional Minister, Mr Simon Osei-Mensah and the District Chief Executive (DCE) for Atwima Mponua, Mr William Darko, by Exton Cubic for compensation for the seizure of its mining equipment. The court, presided over by Mr Justice George Addai Kwofa, Thursday held that the minister did nothing wrong by seizing the equipment and that his action was rather to restore calm and protect lives and property in the district.
Early this year, the Exton Cubic Group sued the regional minister and the DCE for illegally seizing its mining equipment when the company went to mine bauxite in the Tano-Offin Forest Reserve in the Atwima Mponua District in the Ashanti Region.
The company prayed the court in Kumasi to order the return of its equipment and also prayed for compensation for ‘wear and tear’ of the equipment.
However, in its ruling Thursday June 14, 2018, the court held that as the political head of the region, the minister acted in good faith, as the presence of the equipment in the forest was causing unrest among the population.
According to the court, since the lease that allowed the company access into the forest was subject to review and withdrawal, the minister acted within the law.
It held that by the act of the minister, the equipment of the company was protected, as the youth of the town could have vandalised it.
He, therefore, dismissed the application for compensation against the respondents.
Counsel for the Exton Group, Mr Edwin Tamakloe, said the company would study the ruling, after which it would decide on its next line of action.
The state was represented by a Principal State Attorney, Ms Gyamfuah Sarpong.
In September 2017, Mr Osei-Mensah ordered the police to seize eight trucks, one caterpillar generating set and two container offices belonging to Engineers and Planners that had been contracted by the Exton Cubic Group for bauxite prospecting in the Tano-Offin Forest Reserve.
During the seizure, the company insisted that it had the legal authorisation from the government to work in the forest reserve.
However, the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr John Peter Amewu, explained later that the company failed to meet the legal requirements and, therefore, its lease was not valid.
He argued that the failure to obtain environmental and operational permits, as well as the various statutory infractions leading to the purported grant of the three mining leases to the company, rendered the purported leases invalid and of no effect.
Exton Cubic was granted a long lease concession by the Mahama government on December 29, 2016, a few days before it handed over power to the NPP government.
Not satisfied with the development, the company filed an application for certiorari to quash Mr Amewu’s decision to revoke the mining leases to the company on September 4, 2017.