One of the two international law firms that slept on the job and caused Ghana to incur a US$170 million judgment debt this week is owned by the wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
The law firm Omnia Strategy is owned by Cherie Blair CBE, who founded the company focusing on international arbitration, strategic international legal and advisory work.
The other international law firm is Volterra Fietta founder by Robert Volterra said to be one of London’s leading international arbitration lawyers.
On June 8, 2021, the London-based United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Tribunal awarded US$170 million in damages to the energy company, Ghana Power Generation Company (GPGC).
When the case blew off on their faces, the AG claimed they could not show up because they were preoccupied with Ghana country’s 2020 presidential and parliamentary as well as another dubious excuse that some key officials in the AG’s office contracted COVID-19.
This avoidable debt was because the Godfred Dame and his lieutenants refused to show up to apply and set aside a January 26, 2021 decision
The Akufo Addo administration had in 2018 cancelled an energy contract awarded to GPGC leading to the protracted arbitration process which forced UNCITRAL to slap the damages on Ghana after Attorney General Godfred Yeboah Dame and his team of international law firms failed to show up.
The UNCITRA Tribunal pronounced its final verdict saying it had no sympathies and that the excuses proffered by AG Dame and his team were unreasonable and “intrinsically weak.”
The presiding judge, Justice Butcher said the Akufo Addo government’s delay was “significant and substantial”.
A peeved Professor Kwaku Asare, a US-based Ghanaian law professor quizzed: “We have an Attorney-General Department. We have hired and paid two foreign firms, Omnia Strategy and Volterra Fietta. Yet, we fell asleep and did not take advantage of the 28-day window afforded us to challenge the arbitration panel’s decision that we should pay $170 million to GPGC for terminating a contract.”
Apparently, Mrs. Blair’s law firm appeared at the UNCITRAL on Day 25 of the 28-day window and asked for an extension of 56 days. The court granted part of the days asked in the extension and set March 8, 2021, as the new deadline for final submission by the lawyers of the Republic of Ghana.
However, on the deadline, the Attorney-General of Ghana and his expensive team of international lawyers refused to show up. They rather showed up on April Fool’s Day, citing COVID-19 as their excuse.
The judge in the case did not find this amusing and shut the door on the faces of the team of lawyers for Ghana, describing their delay tactics as “significant and substantial” and that their excuse for failing to meet the deadline was “unreasonable and intrinsically weak”.
“I just do not understand why we do these things to ourselves,” Professor Asare lamented.
Meanwhile, the incompetence of the Godfred Dame-led lawyers has cost Ghana a staggering US$170 million in judgment debt, adding up to some us$ 350 million potential judgment debts being contested against Ghana by two foreign companies whose contracts were also abrogated in a similar fashion.
One of the companies is a Chinese company contracted to provide intelligent street lights and a Portuguese and French consortium that were given a contract to construct part of the Accra-Tema Motorway.
As of February 2021, Ghana became a candidate for some US$ 55 million brewing judgment debt to be paid to a Chinese company, Beijing Everyday whose US$ 100 million “intelligent street light” reportedly cancelled arbitrarily.
Again, in late 2020, the Portuguese construction giant Mota-Engil and French engineering company Egis decided they will be dragging Ghana to court for arbitrarily cancelling a US$ 250 million Accra-Tema Highways contract won by the consortium.
Ghana would be paying all these avoidable judgment debts amidst the government’s lamentation of bad finances supposedly caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. The government had also asked for austerity measures before it can find its footings, but the wasteful expenditure of the Akufo Addo administration tells an entirely different story.
The dispute between Ghana and the GPGC involves an alleged wrongful cancellation of a contract for a “fast-track power generation solution” in 2018.
GPGC had been contracted under the erstwhile John Dramani Mahama administration to provide two huge aero-derivative gas turbine power plants to mitigate the raging power crisis at the time.
However, the new Administration of Nana Akufo Addo simply cancelled the contract when it assumed power in 2017, thereby saddling Ghana with the current judgment debt.