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24.08.2019 Feature Article

Now The Ball Is In The Court Of All Our Institutions

Now The Ball Is In The Court Of All Our Institutions

By amending the Minerals and Mining Act in such a way that: 1. Anyone caught engaging in galamsey will face imprisonment of not less than 15 years and not more than 25 years; 2. Anyone caught aiding and abetting galamsey operators will also face stiff penalties and (3) Removing the discretion that had hitherto empowered judges to sentence galamseyers to only “a slap on the wrist” (very mild sentences such as fines) and now forcing judges to pronounce on galamseyers, only the sentences provided by the law, the government of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has demonstrated tremendous courage.

The government had been threatened in all manner of ways by galamseyers, who boasted openly that they could mobilize voters against the NPP in the 2010 elections. The President had told them, on several occasions, that he would not flinch in his duty of trying to save Ghana's rivers, streams and water-bodies, for generations of Ghanaians not yet born. But they continued with their threats. Now, the government has dared them to do their worst. The people of Ghana will have the last laugh, for they will show, on election day 2020, that they are not so foolish as to obey the dictates of people who want the children of Ghanaians and the offspring of those children, to grow up in a country where the Ankobra flows no longer; neither does the Pra; the Off, the Birem, the Oti and Densu.

But elections apart, the people of Ghana must know that the passing of the new law is the easy part in the government's effort to stop galamsey from destroying our nation's water bodies. The more difficult part is how to ENFORCE the new law. The Task Force of the Inter-Ministerial Committee of Illegal Mining (IMCIM) as well as OPERATION VANGUARD, have been risking life and limb daily to go into the deep forest—sometimes in the darkness of the night — to arrest galamseyers. But once the galamseyers are taken to police stations, that is usually the end of the matter.

Ghanaians in influential positions lean on the police to grant bail to the galamseyers. Usually money changes hands in this operation. Where the police resist the efforts of the “influence-peddlers”, the scene of corruption moves to the offices of the prosecuting authorities. The police have not “produced enough evidence”, it is usually claimed. People have been caught using excavators, bulldozers and changfangs, either in rivers and streams and water-bodies; people have been caught with sophisticated weapons (including pump-action shotguns and rifles) which they use to threaten government officials who interfere with galamsey operations, and there is not “enough evidence” against them?

Again, even if the police and the prosecuting authorities are able to resist the threats and monetary offerings of the influence-peddlers, and take galamseyers to court, there are magistrates and judges to reckon with. One Task Force commander told a meeting of the Regional |Security Council in Cape Coast, to my hearing, that his Force had been disheartened enormously to find that one galamsey offender, from whom some money had been seized, was fined “such a puny sum of money by the court that the police had to give him back the “balance” from the money they had seized from him, at the end of the case!”

The government was not unaware of these attempts to make nonsense of the anti-galamsey campaign. Nevertheless, it pumped money into OPERATION GALAMSTOP, equipping IMCIM officials with drones, sophisticated communications systems, including equipment that can track excavators and bulldozers. The government also set in motion, a training programme through which mining experts would teach “small-scale” miners the difference between safe and unsafe mining. The government took the trouble of paying allowances to the “small-scale miners” who took advantage of the educational programme.

Yet, galamsey did not stop. Now, it is said that “if you frequently force open the eyes of the dead, you see a ghost!”

The new law is the “ghost”. The galamseyers pried the eyes of the government open and now they have seen the ghost that lies therein. But it is up to the people of Ghana to act like ONE PERSON to render the destruction of the galamseyers no longer effective. They have to (1) provide accurate information to the Task Force(s) and other law enforcement agencies about places where galamseyers are operating. Every town and village should constitute “intelligence units” that pass information from one another to the authorities, about galamsey operations.

If they pass on the information and it is not acted upon, they have to seek higher authority and report to that authority. And higher and higher they must go. They must also use the media. Not all the media are in sympathy with the galamseyers (although some ARE!) AND IT IS UP TO THE PEOPLE TO DISTINGUISH BETWEEN MEDIA THAT ARE PATRIOTIC ENOUGH TO SUPPOPRT THE ANTI-GALAMSEY CAMPAIGN, AND THOSE THAT ARE NOT.

Furthermore, the people must exercise their common sense and denounce those politicians and lawyers who are claiming that by denying judges and magistrates the discretion of fining, instead of imprisoning galamseyers (for instance), the government is DICTATING to the judiciary. What kind of nonsense is that? Every law DICTATES to the police, the DUTY to arrest people who disobey that law, and DICTATES to judges and magistrates, what SORT OF punishment should be dished out to those who break the law. All that the new law has done is to remove the discretion of judges to impose either a fine or imprisonment for an offence, and if the punishment is to be imprisonment, how long it should last for.

Now, if a [person is caught doing galamsey, he will face a minimum sentence of FIFTEEN YEARS and a maximum sentence of TWENTY-FIVE YEARS. IF THE MINIMUM SENTENCE HAD BEEN A MANDATORY GH¢5 fine and a maximum GH¢20 fine would the galamsey-comforting lawyers be talking about the Executive dictating to the Judiciary?

BY CAMERON DUODU

Cameron Duodu
Cameron Duodu, © 2019

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. Author column: CameronDuodu

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