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06.09.2019 Feature Article

Man-Made Disaster?

Man-Made Disaster?
LISTEN SEP 6, 2019

Reader, let me sound a note of caution before you start reading. In law there is something called “SUB JUDICE” it is a strange offence which means discussing an ongoing case in public!!!

I will try my very best in the words following NOT to discuss any ongoing case, but if anybody should remotely think that I am possibly guilty of SUB JUDICE, then I absolve my publishers from responsibility. I alone should face the punishment.

It started in a very strange curious manner.

Monday 19th August 2019. Time check circa 3:30pm. I was in my law offices at Asylum Down when my secretary burst in, full of laughter: “Captain – you have an interesting visitor. She says she is looking for lawyer Effah-Dartey – I asked her – oh, Captain?…….No, please, I am not looking for any Captain. I want lawyer Effah-Dartey!!!

Let her come.

In brief, her problem was that I should take over as the 11th Lawyer in succession to Chase the gold-mining company compensation Court case for 120 farmers, ongoing at Koforidua High Court.

“But lawyer, you have to come and see the land for yourself otherwise you will not understand!!!

Where is the place?

New Abirem.

Very early in my practice as a lawyer, a senior lawyer advised me: “Effah, if you want to make money as a lawyer, then STAY IN THE OFFICE!! When a desperate client comes and you are not there, he will go elsewhere. Stay in the office. Eat there.

Your routine should be courtroom – office – home. Period.

Thirty years down the line I have followed this advice religiously so much that it is extremely very difficult for me to get out of the office during working hours.

After checking and cross checking and several adjustments, I promised to be at New Abirem at 1pm on Tuesday 3rd September 2019. On that day early in the morning I went to get Court bail pending appeal before vacation criminal court for some rapist but did not succeed.

Straight from the courtroom I told the driver, Evans, “come on, we are going to NEW ABIREM, west of Nkawkaw. Move!!”

I slept all the way and woke up at Anyinam. We got to Nkawkaw, turned left, and reader, the road!!!! It took us 2 hours to cover a small stretch of 30 kilometers, then we got to New Abirem.

We turned right to ADANUSEI and my client was waiting for me. The briefing began:

“Lawyer, formerly, this wells area was rich cocoa farms with all manner of village cottages with farm hands – from all over the country. Then a gold mining company came to mine gold. They sunk strange wells into the ground, and dumped chemicals and salt into them to arrest the gold underground.

“The Result is that the ground is now POISONOUS – the water is TOXIC and several inhabitants of the villages have all DIED. Terrible. When the High Court Judge trying the compensation case came here to look at the terrible plight of the villagers, their skin peeling off, children emaciated, he was so touched that he gave a deadline that everybody should leave this poisonous death chamber”.

How long ago was this?

“Oh, less than TWO YEARS ago…….”

Reader, I could not believe my eyes. The land looked normal, very green vegetation, palm trees, shrubs – but as we walked, deeply enmeshed in the forest, and saw old abandoned huts and dilapidating buildings…. I felt so numbed.

“When lawyer Obiri Boahen came here, he was so touched that he dipped his hands into his pocket and gave money to a dying villager who passed on shortly after…….”

Reader, imagine me, in black suit as a court going lawyer, walking deep in the forest, reminding me of my elementary school days, following my mother to the farm in Jinjini… some five decades long ago……….

“So what is preventing the gold mining company from paying the compensation? “I asked with incredulity.

“Oh, lawyer, ask again………………….”

As we walked back to the ADANUSEN village, I was so touched by emotion that I did not say a word. If this were Europe or America, the law would have forced the gold mining company to pay minimum of ONE BILLION dollars in compensation to the farmers……

I saw two communities – HWEAKWAE and ADANUSEN – most unlike communities where they produce gold – the ordinary people walking about just like any ordinary community in Ghana – kiosks here and there, potholes on their dirty streets, open culverts.

I saw an ultra modern state of the art community center built in ADANUSEN, but not commissioned for use, because, reader, hold your breath – allegedly the river god says the people should not use the facility!!!!

In the Army, there is a principle that, for security sake don't use the same route in going to return – for once I regretted following the principle. We left New Abirem at 4:30pm, and instead of passing through Nkawkaw, we feared the bad road so we decided to use AKIM ODA road!!!

It was from frying pan to fire!!

We got back to Accra long after 9pm.

By Nkrabeah Effah-Dartey

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