A constitutional and petroleum law expert, Prof. Raymond Atuguba, has questioned the constitutionality of the Petroleum Exploration and Production Act, 2016 (Act 919) which gave rise to the multi-billion-dollar contract recently signed between government and Exxonmobil.
According to Prof. Atuguba, the 1992 constitution vests the management of the petroleum resources in “a commission” and not the Petroleum Minister as stipulated in the E&P Act.
Article 269 (1) of the 1992 constitution states: “subject to the provisions of this Constitution, Parliament shall, by or under an Act of Parliament, provide for the establishment, within six months after Parliament first meets after the coming into force of this Constitution, of a Minerals Commission, a Forestry Commission, Fisheries Commission and such other Commissions as Parliament may determine, which shall be responsible for the regulation and management of the utilisation of the natural resources concerned and the co-ordination of the policies in relation to them.”
Speaking at a workshop held in Akosombo by the Institute of Financial and Economic Journalists in partnership with GIZ, Prof. Atuguba said, clearly, the Petroleum Commission, and not the Energy Minister, should be responsible for the management of petroleum resources, and not the sweeping discretionary powers given the Energy Minister under the E&P law.
The signatures in the Exxonmobil contract, for example, do not include that of the Petroleum Commission, as the E&P law states in various parts that it is the minister who will carry out most of the functions, “in consultation with the commission.”
But the E&P Act cedes the responsibility of the management of the country’s petroleum resources to the Minister of Petroleum who is responsible for issuing licences for exploration as well as responsible for taking a number of decisions with respect to a number of issues bordering on the country’s petroleum resources.
Prof. Atuguba expressed worry at why Parliament would pass a law (E&P Act) which is in direct contravention of the 1992 constitution.
He said the wisdom of the constitution to vest the management of the country’s resources in various commissions is to reduce the incidence of corruption. However, the E&P Act, he said, not only contravenes the constitution but vests too much power in the Minister which can make him susceptible to corruption.
The Petroleum Minister, he argued, has become too powerful with the E&P Act, providing little room to ensure checks and balances.
He said the contravention of the constitution by the petroleum law is so glaring that if the matter is taken to the Supreme Court, it would quash the portions of the petroleum law that infringe on the constitution.