Paramount Chief and President of the Somé Traditional Council, Torgbiga Adamah III, says, the council does not have the power to allocate mineral concessions to any prospective investor as is widely being speculated by a section of the public and some media outlets.
Torgbiga Adamah was speaking during a press briefing at Agbozume.
According to him, it has become necessary to clarify certain issues and also respond to some falsehood being intentionally perpetrated in an attempt to tarnish his image and reputation as the Paramount Chief of Somè and also incite the general public, especially Somè citizens against him and his elders.
He said, contrary to assertions that, the Traditional Council, headed by the Paramount Chief spearheaded the allocation of concessions to Seven Seas Salt Company Ltd, including the Adafienu concession which has become a bone of contention in the area, the Council had nothing to do with that process as it was in the domain of the Minerals Commission and the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, two state institutions mandated with that responsibility.
“We want to make it clear to everyone including all local media outlets that Torgbiga Adamah III, and the Chiefs of Somè, have no power or legal right to lease mineral concessions to an investor and so the Chiefs of Somè did not lease any concessions to Seven Seas Salt Company Ltd, as the public is being made to believe.
To put it into proper perspective, the issues regarding the role played by Chiefs who own the land on behalf of their communities and myself as Torgbiga of Somè, was to make sure that the company followed due process in the payment of compensations to the Chiefs on behalf of their communities and
compensation agreements reached with the company regarding operations at the Adafienu and Agavedzi-Blekusu concessions,” Torgbiga Adamah said.
He clarified that, what is now being referred to as the Adafienu concession was first allocated to Messrs White D’or Company but was abrogated due to the company’s inability to develop the land and re-allocated to Seven Seas Salt Company Ltd, adding that the Somé side of the Lagoon was split and allocated to a salt mining company as far back as the early 1950s but unfortunately this company could not develop the lagoon until 2011, when Kensington Industries Ltd which is now known as Seven Seas Salt Ltd appeared on the scene and took over the Adina and Agavedzi-Blekusu concessions from the West Africa Goldfields Company.
Torgbiga Adamah indicated that, in 2011, his predecessor, Torgbi Hor II, had information that the Lagoon had been allocated to an investor for development into a modern salt mining industry.
He said Torgbi Hor at the time tried his best to foster a peaceful co-existence between the communities and the company but as with every society, it took time for everyone to accept change.
“This mistrust existed between the communities and the company until I was enstooled as the Paramount Chief in 2015.
On my enstoolment as the Paramount Chief and Leader of the Traditional Area, my first priority was to build a bridge between the company and my communities and to achieve this, I needed to identify the causes of the mistrust which often resulted into riots,” he said.
The Paranormal Chief said, after painstaking investigations, he came to the realization that the first contributing factor was the compensation being paid to some families in Adina as grounds rent or Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) by the company which was supposed to be shared among the communities in the catchment area of the concession.
These back and forth according to him, led to a petition to the Ketu South Municipal Security Council (MUSEC) by five Somé Chiefs calling for a halt to the payment of these monies to the families at Adina.
“As a matter of fact, it is these petitions that have resulted in the payment of the much talked about compensation which was paid to the land owners and families on the 19th and 20th of January, 2021, which led to the insults and vilifications on my person and position,” the Paramount Chief said.
He said many people argued that the Somé Traditional Council erred in receiving compensations on behalf of affected families at the Adafienu concession as Seven Seas lacked the necessary documents to operate in the said concession, but clarified that the Council only negotiated and took the compensations on behalf of the people, after Seven Seas furnished it with the relevant documents pertaining to the said concession, which included a letter from the Minerals Commission recommending the company’s application letter to the Minister of Lands & Natural Resources for approval, a letter from the Minister of Lands & Natural Resources approving recommendation of the company’s application and a letter dated 11th January, 2021 from the Minerals Commission granting the concession to the company.
“All these documents indicated to us that the company was rightfully granted the Adafienu concession hence our acceptance of the compensation and consequently entering into an agreement with the company,” he explained.
Torgbiga Adamah also mentioned the drowning incident which led to the death of a family of three, in the company’s concession at Laklivikope on September 17, 2022, describing it as unfortunate.
However, he said the Somé Traditional Council did not come out with any statements or expression of concerns on the incident because “even though Seven Seas Salt Company Ltd operates within the jurisdiction of Somè, that portion of the Adafienu concession falls under the jurisdiction of the Aflao Traditional Council.
We therefore deem it necessary to allow the Aflao Traditional Council deal with it and we appreciate what has been done so far,” he said.
The Paramount Chief said, following the unfortunate incident of the drowning, the Seven Seas Salt Company concession issue had become the topic of discussion across all the media outlets including on social media, since September, 2022.
He said the Somè Traditional Council has been monitoring the discussions and the trading of insults from some of the local media outlets during their call-in sessions directed at his person and the generality of Somè for that matter and called for a ceasefire in the interest of peace, unity and the security of the area.
Torgbiga Adamah said, the Traditional Council had been informed that the Adafienu concession had been reallocated to another company for the same purpose, contrary to the agreement the Council reached with Seven Seas Salt Company Ltd, adding that the Council saw this development as a slap in the face and a direct infringement on its rights as the alodial owners of the land who needed to be consulted by the state agencies before taking such a vital decision.
Torgbiga Adamah continued: “The reason assigned for the reallocation is that “two applications submitted by Seven Seas Salt Company Ltd in respect of the Adafienu concession have been thrown out. However, documentary evidence in the possession of the Council do not support the Minister’s assertion.”
He said the Council viewed the Minister’s move as a calculated attempt to deny the area the needed development projects Seven Seas Salt Company intended to initiate for the benefit of the people of Somé.
He appealed to government and other relevant institutions to fully support Seven Seas Salt Company in its quest to embark on developmental projects in the area, including the construction of a jetty (mini harbour) within the Ketu South Municipality to enhance its operations within the ECOWAS sub region, in addition to the salt winning works.