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Opinion | Mar 11, 2017

The Delibrate Cofusion Surrounnding Galamsey

The Delibrate Cofusion Surrounnding Galamsey

Ghanaians are masters at the art of practising hypocrisy.

And nowhere is this hypocrisy more rampant than in our national politics. Listen, for instance, to what one of the men who, until recently, was charged with ending the horrendous issue of galamsey, had to say about the subject:

QUOTE: “The former Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Inusah Abdulai Fuseini, wants that ministry scrapped because it has not lived up to expectations (!) Mr Fuseini said “there is no need to create the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resource but rather, give the [local] assemblies the power to protect their jurisdictional area”.

“The Tamale Central Member of Parliament was sharing his thoughts on Onua FM's [programme] that was discussing the need to legalize and regularize illegal mining. “If they [assemblies] fail to protect their lands, it means they have failed in their core mandates”.

“The former minister noted that “no one can enter into a land without the permission of the chiefs, so if they [illegal miners] are operating at a place, we should ask the chiefs”. He said “the chiefs are to protect the lands on behalf of the people, but the chiefs are sitting and illegal miners, who are mostly Chinese, are taking over the place. They [chiefs] are there when people use mercury to pollute the environment. Whoever is doing illegal mining is stealing our natural resources because they are here to steal the gold away to China so we should use the law to ensure that the mining sites are clean”.

One only has to ask: did Fuseini have these reservations about the functions of the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources while he held that portfolio? Did he ever communicate his ideas to the former President Mr John Mahama, who appointed him to head the ministry?

Did his ministry ever include expenditure for curbing galamsey when it was drawing up its budget? If so, what happened to the money (if approved)?

In any case, how does the former minister expect the district and municipal assemblies to obtain the expertise and finance to deal with such massive instances of environmental devastation as has occurred on large rivers like Oti, Offin, Prah, Birem, Densu and others? Did Fuseini, in fact, believe any of the things he earnestly stated in the very good video his own ministry put out to demonstrate the evils committed against the environment by the galamsey operators?

I hope President Akufo-Addo takes note of the confusion in official quarters when it comes to galamsey. For it is not axiomatic that highly-placed officials of the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, do not share the former minister’s views, or indeed, did not advise him to adopt that position.

Unless the government debates the issue and comes to a firm conclusion which all members of the Cabinet can pledge full commitment, we shall be treading water, as it were, when we try to end galamsey.

Indeed, some Members of Parliament of the ruling NPP are equally unrealistic about how to end galamsey. For instance:

QUOTE: “The [NPP] Member of Parliament for Tarkwa-Nsuaem Constituency in the Western Region, George Mireku Duker, has called on state actors and other stakeholders to legalise the activities of illegal mining, popularly known as 'galamsey.' According to the Tarkwa-Nsuaem lawmaker, legalising galamsey operations will create more employment opportunities for the youth…. Speaking in an exclusive interview….. Duker, who is a member of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Mines and Energy, claimed that the current approach in fighting the galamsey menace has not helped matters. …[The] surest way to deal with the galamsey menace is to “first legalise their operations, put them into groups and licence them, then we can assign people to monitor them to ensure that they conform to all the laid down rules…. Even the current approach, where assets of operators are seized, amidst shooting and killing by security agencies, has compounded the situation because these people (galamseyers) go about their operations in a rush, for fear of being caught; so there is little time left for them to plan,” he said. UNQUOTE

Does this MP walk on the same ground as the rest of us? What evidence is there that if galamsey operators had the freedom to act without fear of the authorities, they would have spared the rivers, streams and farmlands they have destroyed? Is that not standing logic on its head? Surely, the question the MP should ask is this: If, in spite of the dangers entailed in galamsey, the operators have managed to deploy excavators and dredging machines, some of which are quite enormous, to their areas of operation, and have consequently managed to cause so much damage, what would they do if they were given the freedom to operate? Where does greed stop and law enforcement begin?

Fortunately, the NPP minister who has replaced Fuseini has a different view. He says:

QUOTE: [The Minister of Lands and Natural Resources,] Mr John Peter Amewu, is amazed [at the] upsurge rate of galamsey activities in gold rich communities in Ghana.

He disclosed that 60 to 70 percent of excavators in Ghana are used for illegal mining activities.

The sector minister said the excavators do not go into the construction of roads, as intended, but are used for such illegal activities.

“With the use of technology, he said, the country could be able to determine where the excavators and other equipment were going and for what purposes….The difficulty with the current rampant nature of illegal mining activities [is]… the fact that we are not applying the rule of the game; that is the law.

As I mentioned earlier, President Akufo-Addo raised grave concern about the destruction of water bodies, farm lands and forest reserves by illegal miners during his independence anniversary speech on 6 March 2017.

Expressing concern over the alarming rate at which the country's natural resources were being depleted, the president stated that he was confident that “we will continue to make ourselves worthy inheritors of this land.”

“We are endangering the very survival of the beautiful and blessed land that our forebears bequeathed to us. The dense forests that were home to varied trees, plants and fauna, have largely disappeared. Today, we import timber for our use, and the description of our land as a tropical forest no longer fits the reality. Our rivers and lakes are disappearing, and those that still exist are all polluted.”

The president stated that inasmuch as “we have a right to exploit the bounties of the earth and extract the minerals and even redirect the path of the rivers, … we do not have the right to denude the land of the plants and fauna nor poison the rivers and lakes.”

“There is nothing we can do better to pay homage to those who fought to free us from bondage than to dedicate this 60th independence anniversary to protecting our environment and regenerating the lands and water bodies,” the president added

I think the president must put his foot down, confront all in his party’s decision-making apparatus who believe that galamsey will stop if handled with kid gloves, and give them an ultimatum to tow the president’s line, or else …. for instance, they could be asked to give up the NPP whip (if they are NPP parliamentarians).

By Cameron Duodu

Cameron Duodu
Cameron Duodu, © 2017

Martin Cameron Duodu is a United Kingdom-based Ghanaian novelist, journalist, editor and broadcaster. After publishing a novel, The Gab Boys, in 1967, Duodu went on to a career as a journalist and editorialist.

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