A former Brong Ahafo Regional Minister, Mr. Eric Opoku has outlined some reasons why he believes the Akufo-Addo government will fail the fight against illegal mining in the country.
Speaking on Dwaboase on Power 97.9 FM Tuesday morning, the Member (MP) for Asunafo South said the government’s approach was questionable and not efficient to clamp down on the canker which is known in local parlance as ‘Galamsey’.
The galamsey activities have destroyed arable lands and heavily polluted several river bodies in the middle and southern belt of the country, thereby prompting the Akufo-Addo government to wage war against the illegal activities.
The Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, Mr. Samuel Abu Jinapor, recently launched ‘Operation Halt II’ to clamp down on illegal miners whose activities are depleting forest reserves in the Ashanti, Central, Western and Eastern Regions.
The Operation Halt II is aimed at removing all persons and logistics involved in mining on water bodies.
Information Minister, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, said “the new phase of the operation focuses on the tributaries of the Pra river which have also been significantly affected by the activities of illegal miners” and added armed men from the Ghana Armed Forces had commenced patrol of the Pra river.
So far over seven (700) hundred excavators have been seized whilst over two hundred (200) changfan machines (washing machines) have also been destroyed in the past weeks as part of the measures to prevent the miners from further damaging the environment.
Mr. Eric Opoku says he is skeptical about the government’s approach to ending galamsey activities in the country because the task force is in the wrong direction.
He referred to the first fight in 2017 as a flop despite President Akufo-Addo’s promise to fight the canker head-on, even if it would cost him the next election.
He recalled that after the promise and about 30 million cedis spent on the deployment of Operation Vanguard, a joint military and police team to mining communities to crack down on the activities of illegal miners, galamsey was rampant under the NPP government’s first term.
These are the three reasons he gave for his doubts in the fight;
The former minister said the government is likely to fail in the fight against galamsey because the political actors involved in the fight are being shielded.
He told host Kwame Minkah that “the galamsey is rampant because politics has crept into its fight..It is because of politics we can’t fight galamsey.”
He continued, ” In our part of the world, when a politician commits a crime, we seem to paint them with their party colours…when a police officer or military man goes to meet a politician being involved in galamsey, they refuse to be unwavering and deal with them because they are also thinking about the future and how they won’t lose their jobs.”
2.Burning of Excavators
Adding his voice to the concerns raised by some Ghanaians about the burning of excavators as a way of fighting the canker, Mr. Opoku suggested that the earth-moving equipment be rather seized and later used in the reclamation of the lands destroyed.
“Even with this burning of excavators, why can’t we seize them and use them to reclaim the land? Today the soldiers are complaining because they say when they leave the site, the illegal miners return to continue the galamsey because you destroyed the equipment and did not arrest the culprits.”
3. Refusal to arrest culprits
Although some over 30 persons suspected to be National Security operatives have been arrested in the Eastern Region in connection with illegal mining, Mr. Opoku believes much is not done to save the lands and water bodies.
To him, the culprits must be arrested, prosecuted, and fined heavily to help in the restoration of the river bodies.
“Why are we burning excavators and not arresting the owners?,” he quizzed ”
“…Can you imagine that people go to do galamsey to destroy water bodies that are endangering the lives of Ghanaians who depend on the water, including you and I and then Government says it is clamping down on them and they run leaving their heavy equipment behind, its just a matter of checks. The machines are registered, they have owners. Check the excavators and you’ll know the owners to arrest them and fine them,” Mr. Opoku observed.
Meanwhile, the government has reiterated the fight against illegal mining activities continues unabated.