Let’s censure the unpatriotic chiefs, politicians and regulators in galamsey!

Birim River Destroyed By Galamsey Birim river destroyed by galamsey

Fri, 17 Mar 2017 Source: Badu, K

By: Badu K

It is extremely difficult to end my arousing disgust when I ruminate over the heart-breaking news on the mass destruction going on in our countryside. Indeed, I cannot remit my fury in condemnation of the illegal mining being carried out by the illegal Chinese and their Ghanaian counterparts.

It is indeed heartrending to hear that some Ghanaians, including Chiefs, are allocating mining lands to the illegal miners, notwithstanding the fact that it is the prerogative of the Minerals Commission and therefore it is illegal for any individual to sanction small-scale mining.

Let us however remind ourselves that in Ghana, chieftaincy remains an important institution, and has relevant role in the nation building.

Yes, chieftaincy is a contested tradition in Ghana. However, it has its appeal: “for the country, it is a way to define our identity as a nation; for the people it is the only institution left to look up to when the national bureaucratic structures have let them down; and for the elite, chieftaincy legitimizes their social positions by establishing or widening their access to the state while the ‘modern’ power holders attempt to utilize what is perceived as traditional legitimacy for their own ends.

“Despite all the odds, chieftaincy will remain a very important part of Ghanaian governance for a long time to come” (We are the People: Ghanaian Chiefs and the Politics of Contestation).

Apparently, in Ghana, Chieftaincy is guaranteed under the Fourth Republican Constitution (1992). And, more importantly, Article 270 (1) of the 1992 constitution states: “The institution of chieftaincy, together with its traditional councils as established by customary law and usage, is hereby guaranteed.”

Who is a chief?

Article 277 of the 1992 Constitution defines a chief as: “a person, who, hailing from the appropriate family and lineage, has been validly nominated, elected or selected and enstooled, enskinned or installed as a chief or queen mother in accordance with the relevant customary law and usage.”

A chief’s responsibilities

“A Chief is responsible for the daily administration of the traditional area for its advancement and the growth of its inhabitants. A chief’s ultimate function is the maintenance of law and order as a prerequisite for the growth of the community and the advancement of the people in all spheres of life” (Odotei, 2010).

Who owns lands in Ghana?

“In Ghana, land ownership is complicated. By and large, there are (a) stool lands invested in chiefs; (b) family lands belonging to clans or maximal lineages; (c) private lands belonging to individuals; and (d) state lands usually expropriated from any or all of the above through an executive instrument.

It is also worth noting that compensation may be paid when such lands are acquired. In theory, however, the state has no land in Ghana. The ‘landlessness’ of the state makes it vulnerable to the dictates of chiefs.

It is, however, worth emphasising that Government often pleads with chiefs to release lands for development. “Although this is often done, the feeling that the state must depend on chiefs for land for developmental projects gives the latter some leverage.”

In so far as the chiefs and other individuals own the lands in Ghana, “every mineral in its natural state in, under or upon land in Ghana, rivers, streams, water-courses throughout the country, the exclusive economic zone and an area covered by the territorial sea or continental shelf is the property of the Republic and is vested in the President in trust for the people of Ghana” (Minerals Act 2006).

In practice, however, the 2006 Minerals Act is categorical on the ownership of the natural resources. While the Chiefs and individuals own the lands, the government of Ghana has the absolute ownership of all the mineral resources therein.

In that regard, The Chiefs do not have any audacity to allocate mining lands to individuals who are not in receipt of mining concessions. Nevertheless, some Chiefs are in the habit of colluding with illegal miners from China and other countries to steal our precious minerals.

Somehow, the uncaring Chiefs are colluding with the criminals to steal our natural resources. Thus, going forward, it would only be fair to Ghanaians if such offending Chiefs are prosecuted accordingly.

We cannot and must not allow some greedy Chiefs who do not have the nation at heart, but only harbour ulterior motives to enrich themselves at the expense of the rest of Ghanaians.

Now, let us turn our attention to the mining sector regulators and other law enforcement bodies.

As a matter of fact, they have been carrying out their mandated duties with a stark perfunctory. Indeed, they have not shown true leadership in the fight against illegal mining.

The fact of the matter is that there are laws which govern the small- scale mining sector in Ghana. So, the crucial question is: why are the authorities hesitating to enforce such laws?

I will however step forward and asseverate that a number of organisations are complicit with the chaos in the small-scale mining sector.

For if anything at all, we have Ghana Minerals Commission who has been tasked to enforce the rules and regulations—the 1989 small-scale mining law (PNDC L218) and the Minerals and Mining Act, 2006 (Act 703).

Interestingly, both Acts “require any person wanting to engage in any form of mining to obtain the requisite licence from the Minister responsible for Mines.”

In addition, the holders of mineral rights and licences are by law required to obtain the necessary approvals and permits from the appropriate quarters, such as Environmental Protection Agency; Forestry Commission, where forests are involved; and Water Resources Commission, where water is involved before the Miners can commence operation.

More importantly, the Minerals and Mining Act, 2006(Act 703), places a duty on the aforesaid organisations to work collaboratively to ensure that the existing miners’ and the prospective Miners adhere to various regulations.

Disappointingly, however, despite such advantageous policies at the disposal of the regulators, they have woefully failed to regulate the small scale mining sector.

Now is the turn of the derelict politicians who have failed time and time again to see to it that the wayward regulators and the various enforcement bodies are hitting the ground running.

I am afraid; politicians over the years have not shown concrete commitment in the fight against the illegal mining.

I would like to believe that either some of our politicians do not care about the plight of our rural folks or have personal interests in the galamsey. For, if that was not the case, why no serious efforts have been made so far to halt the menace of galamsey?

K. Badu, UK.

Columnist: Badu, K