A maritime lawyer Stanley Ahorlu has defended Ghana’s decision to initiate arbitration proceedings in the maritime boundary case against Cote D’lvoire.
After years of bilateral talks, both countries were unable to agree on their maritime boundary, forcing Ghana to initiate the arbitration proceedings under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Some industry watchers and lawyers however say Ghana should not have chosen the route of arbitration since most of the boundary disputes were settled through bilateral negotiations.
They argue that the rules governing maritime boundary delimitation are arbitrary, hence it would have been better if the country had stuck to bilateral negotiations.
However speaking on the Citi Breakfast Show, the legal practitioner disagreed with those claims, saying Ghana’s decision to resort to arbitration proceedings was the best option especially when bilateral talks had failed.
“I beg to differ. I think that the circumstances are such that I will in my opinion say Ghana did the right thing.They have been negotiating for months and Ghana stated in its statement of claim that Cote D’lvoire had been confrontational and were almost as if they were not prepared to settle the matter.”
He explained that Ghana was compelled to resort to such proceedings in order not to lose out on the case.
“Ghana is the most likely to lose while the matter continues to remain unresolved, it needs to get the matter settled to repose confidence in the economy.”
“Once the dispute is settled the decision of the court is binding so this is why I think it was right Ghana took this route”
Maritime boundary case crucial
The legal practitioner remarked that the case between Ghana and Cote D’lvoire is very crucial and could impact on the country’s future prospects.
“..It is significant..so much hinges on it… A whole oil exploration and exploitation in the industry could be impacted by the decision one way or the other so it is quite significant in that respect.”
Giving more highlights on why the arbitration process was more convenient, Mr. Ahorlu said unlike the bilateral proceedings, the arbitration proceedings give both parties an opportunity to promote understanding and settle the matter amicably.
“The uniqueness of arbitration is that the third party which the two parties have agreed upon to settle the dispute is more or less decided upon voluntarily and mutually by the two parties so that makes it a unique process. It is an alternative way of settling disputes unlike litigation which has strict rules of evidence applying.”
Requests made by Cote D’lvoire
He listed a series of requests made by Cote D’lvoire in the arbitration process.
- That Ghana should be made to suspend all ongoing exploration and exploitation in the disputed area
- That Ghana restrains from granting any new permit for oil exploration and exploitation in the disputed area
- They requested that Ghana be prevented from circulating data in respect of exploitation and exploration in the area.
- It said Ghana must take every necessary step to preserve the continental shelf.
- It also requested that Ghana be made to desist from any unilateral action that might lead to aggravating the dispute.
He said Ghana in its response, however said the special chamber should deny all of Cote D’lvoire requests since according to the government they are baseless.
According to Mr. Ahorlu, the court finally decided that bearing in mind the balancing of all interests
- Ghana must not drill any new wells. It asked Ghana to ensure that it does not drill any new wells.
- The court also ruled that Ghana must prevent the use of information it has gathered in ways that will be detrimental to Cote D’lvoire.
- It further asked Ghana not to do anything that will affect the marine environment.
- It also held that all the parties that is Cote D’lvoire and Ghana take the necessary steps to prevent serious harm to the marine environment.