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17.09.2019 Feature Article

Laws Are Just Words Written On Paper!

Laws Are Just Words Written On Paper!
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In his speech to the Council of State on 19 August 2019, the President, Nana Dankwa Akufo-Addo, accused some of the institutions of the state of being “delinquent”.

Announcing to the Council that he had given assent tothe Minerals and Mining (Amendment) Act, 2019, which prescribes mandatory minimum prison sentences to persons who engage in illegal mining, the President said: “We are talking about minimum sentences of 15 years; maximum 25 years. We have [also] increased the punishment for foreigners who intervene illegally in this industry [mining]. We felt that we have to take away some of the discretion of the judges. It’s unfortunate that it should be so, because all of us should be able to trust them to do their bit in stamping out crime and its consequences in our society. But that doesn’t turn out to be the case. So, this is another important step that we’ve taken in this fight against illegal mining....

“My own belief is that, apart from exhortations, we need also to strengthen the institutional arrangements, because many of these things that happen are the result of delinquency on the part of the state itself.” UNQUOTE

It is refreshing to see the President denouncing the shortcomings of some of our institutions in this candid manner. Indeed, it is evident that laws are just words written on paper and that it is ACTION taken in ENFORCING the law that protects any society from criminal activity.

With regard to galamsey in particular, the Government has spent a lot if money on setting up and equipping task forces to chase the galamseyers and seizing the machinery with which they wantonly murder our rivers, streams and water-bodies, and turn our farmlands into what has been described as “moon craters.”

Yet when the galamseyers are arrested by our task forces and handed over to the police for prosecution, that seems usually to be the end of the matter. Prosecutions are delayed and delayed and delayed. There have even been cases where galamseyers caught by the task forces have been allowed to escape from police stations. In other instances, galamseyers have been given bail, pending “investigations.” That basically means they have permanently escaped from justice. The police and the task forces don't always see eye to eye on what's to be done at the scene of a galamsey operation, especially if “influential persons” intervene to secure freedom for the arrested galamseyers – both Ghanaians and foreigners.

Quite often, a task force that has gathered reliable information through drone or human intelligence, arrives at a galamsey site to find that the site has been deserted. How does that happen? Informers – no-one knows from where! – would have used their mobile phones to alert the galamseyers that a task force team is on its way to the area! Specially-stationed “scouts” are also hired by the galamseyers and stationed at strategic points near the galamsey sites, to tip off the galamseyers by mobile phone, as soon as unusual vehicles and/or uniformed personnel are sighted.

Despite the clever chicanery of the galamseyers and their “influential” supporters, however the Akufo-Addo Government has not hesitated to bend over backwards to try and provide financial relief to those who might be collaborating with the galamseyers out of sheer poverty. At his “Meet The Press” presentation at the Ministry of Information on 11 September 2019, the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr Kwaku Asomah-Chereme, revealed that QUOTE:

“...The Government, through mining sector agencies, is undertaking alternative livelihood programmes within 25 mining communities in the Eastern, Central and Western Regions. The aim of the programme is to generate economically viable non-mining jobs in mining communities as a way of stemming the menace of Illegal mining....

To date, a total of over 5,301 jobs … have been created in mining communities, made up of

3,860 males and 1,441 females”.UNQUOTE

This testifies to the fact that the Government has its ears to the ground. For you can preach and preach all you like about patriotism to people, but if they see that your stomach is full whilst theirs is empty, they will seek ways – fair or foul – to end their own hunger.

The Government has thus provided the social policy template, for ending the galamsey menace. With the assistance of the World Bank and the IMF, it will manage to pump even more resources into programmes that can persuade honest rural dwellers that they do not need to collaborate with the river-murderers in order to survive.

The only question left to be answered, then, is this: how can the Government end the “delinquency” by state institutions which the President denounced in his address to the Council of State?

The late American President, Ronald Reagan, left the world with one sentence that makes a lot of sense: “Trust but verify!”

Nana Akufo-Addo and his Government can ensure that their carefully-planned anti-galamsey programme is not defeated by “delinquent” state institutions if they:

1. Strenuously monitor what happens to arrested galamseyers. This monitoring must not be left to any single state institution but must be carried out and cross-checked by different investigatory bodies, some of them appointed ad hoc for the single purpose of ascertaining the situation at any particular time. Yes, the state institutions must be trusted, of course. But there is nothing wrong in asking a second or third institution to VERIFY the reports any one body submits.

2. Make sure that the prosecution of galamseyers is reserved for high-level, proficient legal personnel. Legal proceedings can serve as an exercise to educate the public, but if the prosecutors are bumbling personnel who have no expertise or interest in presenting cases in such a way as to be able to persuade both judicial officers and the public, then they would be wasting both the time and the money of the public. Yes, the Government must trust its police and professional prosecutors. But it must VERIFY that they are actually up to the job when they get to the courts.

3. Both the President and the relevant committees of Parliament must insist on receiving up-to-date reports on convicted, arrested and prosecuted galamseyers – at weekly fortnightly intervals. Are convicted galamseyers punished in accordance with the new sentences laid down by the new Act? The Government must trust that our conscientious judiciary will act according to the new law. But the Government must VERIFY that they are indeed doing so!

In other words, the Government must have no expectation whatsoever that the new law will, by itself, not become – “mere words written on paper.”

    No – the Government must VERIFY that the institutions are no longer acting in a “delinquent” way. It must are its fangs and show these institutions that it will use those fangs to end galamsey.

    On behalf of our grand-children and their grand-children, who must, of necessity, rely on us to ensure that our rivers and streams and water-bodies, will be left intact by us, so that they can inherit the prosperous land that we ourselves inherited from our wise ancestors. Land with a good water supply that satisfies both man and his fellow children of Nature.

    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.Column: CameronDuodu

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