A leading member of the governing New Patriotic Party, Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko, says he did no wrong in defending a company cited in the bombshell report authored by a former Minister of Science and Technology, Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng.
Prof. Frimpong-Boateng in a report accused Mr. Otchere-Darko of interfering in the work of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Illegal Mining (IMCIM).
The former Minister argued that, at the time, there was a suspension on the issuance of licenses for operation in forest reserves, but Mr. Otchere-Darko jumped to the defence of a company that was said to be actively destroying the environment.
Professor Frimpong-Boateng said he was ‘saddened’ by the actions of Mr. Otchere-Darko who is close to the presidency.
“Despite the fact that Cabinet directed the Minister for Lands and Natural Resources “to suspend the issuance of all new licences/permits by the Forestry Commission” and also to “suspend the licences already issued for operation in forty-seven (47) forests reserves”, the directives were ignored and the destruction continued. Worse still, soldiers had officially been withdrawn from mining sites, but in many areas, regular Ghana Army personnel were seen providing security at illegal mining sites. What saddened me most was when Mr. Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko called to defend a company that was actively destroying the environment, especially the forests and River Offin in the Apaprama and Kobro Forests,” Professor Frimpong-Boateng narrated.
Responding to this in an exclusive interview with Citi New’s Vivian Kai Lokko, the private legal private practitioner insisted that the state engaged in an illegitimate action against his client after it had issued permits and licenses to the company to operate.
Mr. Otchere-Darko explained that, “When I called him [former Minister] he said they [clients] shouldn’t have been given the permit to enter the forest. I asked him if he was challenging the permit issued as fake. And he said they shouldn’t have been issued. He gave me his side of the story which he believed that they were doing mining and not prospecting. My intervention was to understand why a legitimate company with all the licenses and permits required to do prospecting was stopped from doing its work. And that is what we lawyers do. It’s my job to protect the interest of my clients”.
“There was no issue about halting operation, it was an issue of being issued a forest entry permit. And they entered the mining concession after they were issued all the permits. So even if there was an issue, it was an issue between the regulatory bodies”.
He narrated that his clients were being frustrated hence his intervention.
“Their jobs were being frustrated, and I had before me all the documents they were required to have. They were doing legitimate mining, and they were being frustrated. That is why I placed the call to understand why that was happening to them. I’m very disappointed in the former Minister deliberately twisting an enquiry by a lawyer of a client’s issue to be an interference,” he indicated.
He slammed Professor Frimpong-Boateng for tarnishing his image in his report describing him as unprofessional.
Mr. Otchere-Darko insisted that his client engaged in prospecting and not illegal mining as reported by the former Minister.
“For me, it’s very unprofessional of a former [Minister] to personalise an issue such as this. Very unprofessional to drop a name on a matter that was purely about a lawyer asking questions about his client. Heritage had the prospecting license issued on October 25, 2018. They had all the licenses and permits, but soldiers seized their equipment. I called the soldiers to enquire, and they said they were acting on the minister’s order,” he explained.
He denied ever instructing the former minister to do anything against his will.
“Let the [former] Minister come and say that when I called him, I instructed him to do what was not right. Let him come and say that when I called him, I was pushing an illegitimate point, let him come and say so. I based my intervention on the legality of what my clients were doing and what I saw to be an illegitimate action of the state against a company that the same state had issued permits and licenses to operate its business,” he said.
Some other NPP bigwigs were also indicted in the report.