Love him or hate him, John Dramani Mahama is our former president, a flagbearer of the largest opposition party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC), and a statesman.
Apparently, Ex-President Mahama is being criticised, whether fairly or unfairly, by the good people of Ghana, on his seemingly controversial pronouncements ever since he declared his intention to stage a presidential comeback.
Take, for example, there are those who do not understand how and why Ex-President Mahama could find it somewhat convenient to criticise Akufo-Addo for allegedly implementing the Free SHS policy at the expense of other developmental projects (see: ‘Free SHS crippling other sectors-Mahama, classfmonline.com/ghanaweb.com, 24/02/2018).
Former President Mahama was reported to have lamented during one of the NDC’s 2018 unity health walks: “The problem this government is facing and it is in their own interest, is that Free Senior High School is absorbing all the fiscal space they have and so almost every money you have, you are having to put it into Free Senior High School. So you can’t pay District Assemblies Common Fund, you can’t pay NHIS (National Health Insurance Scheme), you can’t pay GET Fund (Ghana Education Trust Fund), you can’t pay other salaries and things because all your money is going into Free Senior High School.”
In fact, the seemingly inconsistent remarks have left deserving doubts in the minds of discerning Ghanaians, as to whether if voted into power, Mahama will have the will and commitment to maintain the Akufo-Addo’s Free SHS.
Somehow, Mahama prefers “Progressively Free” (whatever that means) to NPP’s Comprehensively Free SHS.
Unsurprisingly, therefore, the good people of Ghana cannot fathom how and why the NDC’s ‘Progressively’ Free SHS which has a budget of GH48 per student is better than the NPP’s GH1844.27 per student a year.
The former president and the NDC’s 2020 flagbearer, John Dramani Mahama, was at it again during his recent tour of the Western North Region.
Flagbearer Mahama was heard during Peace FM news broadcast a few days ago, bizarrely accusing President Akufo-Addo of depriving the youth of the Western North Region of their livelihoods through the ban on galamsey, while allegedly allowing some members of the NPP to undertake the galamsey in other parts of the country.
For the life of me though, I cannot get my head around how and why the former president can come out with such an unsubstantiated allegation.
It would appear that former President Mahama is not enthused about the ban on galamsey, judging from his numerous pronouncements on the subject matter.
If you may recall, somewhere last year, the former president decided to oppose the Akufo-Addo’s estimable efforts to curb the activities of the conscienceless illegal miners (See: Stop chasing illegal miners with soldiers – Mahama to government; citinewsroom.com/ghanaweb.com, 28/04/2018).
Ex-President Mahama was reported to have grouched somewhat plangently: “…it is true that if we don’t do something about it, it will destroy the environment. But we need to apply wisdom. Because we’ve chased young people involved in illegal small-scale mining with soldiers in the past in this country but it didn’t work.”
With all due respect, what does Ex-President Mahama take discerning Ghanaians for? After all, wasn’t he in government for eight years and what did he do to curb the apparent menace?
If, indeed, Ex-President Mahama and his NDC government deployed the military in their attempt to halt the menace of illegal mining but to no avail, why didn’t they employ alternative solutions?
So does Ex-President Mahama want to tell the good people of Ghana that eight years in government was not enough to halt a canker such as illegal mining?
Why must he then criticise someone who has been in government for only sixteen months but doing everything humanly possible to protect our environment?
Former President Mahama shockingly pontificated: “But if we put a blanket ban and send soldiers after the young people that is not the way to go. As you stop illegal small-scale mining, at the same time you must put in place a livelihood package so that as you are displacing people from illegal mining, they have something to do…. But when there is nothing to do but you are just chasing them, shooting them, it is not the way to go.”
Well, if we are to draw an adverse inference, Ex-President Mahama is suggesting that the security personnel should cease chasing armed robbers with guns and rather offer them alternative livelihoods. How bizarre?
In fact, there is an admissible evidence of some galamseyers quitting their jobs and moving to the rural areas to embark on the illegal mining. A criminal shall remain so regardless.
Ex-President Mahama asseverated: “We [NDC] decided that we will bring a new mining law that will regulate galamsey that persons who do it well will be able to sustain themselves…So immediately, the [Akufo-Addo] government must look at these regulations and come up with good policies so that those who want to do it, will do it within the law.”
I could not agree more with former President Mahama. Indeed, better data and policies are needed to get the sector back on track.
But the all-important question we should be asking former President Mahama and his NDC government is: why did you fail woefully to arrest a quagmire such as illegal mining in eight years in office?
Unfortunately, the licensed Ghanaian small scale miners have been taking advantage of the lapses in the 1989 small-scale mining law (PNDCL 218).
Take, for example, the law states categorically that no licence for small-scale gold mining operation shall be granted to any person who is not a citizen of Ghana.
Strangely though, the same law allows a Ghanaian licence holder to seek logistics assistance from their foreign minions.
As a result, some Ghanaian licence holders would more often than not, go beyond the stated jurisdiction and involve the foreigners in the mining operations.
Let us be honest, the monumental loopholes in the small-scale mining law go to show that the law is not innovative.
It is, however, true that potential economic benefits (employment, tax revenues and development outcomes) can be derived from small-scale mining sector in Ghana.
We cannot also deny the fact that small-scale mining is a significant contributor to the economic and social well-being of many people and households in rural, remote, and poor communities in Ghana.
However, the way small-scale mining sector is being managed in Ghana, it does not look promising. The sector is being managed abysmally.
Somehow, the laws which govern the small-scale mining sector are confused and inconsistent. Suffice it to emphasise that all the attention is basically being focused on the large-scale mining sector, leaving the small-scale mining sector at a substantial disadvantage.
In addition, the effective implementation of regulations and fortifications towards the developmental potential of the sector must be the topmost importance to the regulating authorities.
It must also be emphasised that societies at large has been both positively and negatively affected by small-scale mining.
The positive effects include the extraction of ores from small deposits or from tailings which provide the rural folks and other small scale miners with sustainable incomes.
On the other hand, the negative effects include, among other things, environmental degradation, water pollution, the release of mercury and other toxic and hazardous wastes into the free environment, and unforeseen social tensions that can lead to civil unrest.
However, on the preponderance of probability, the negative effects outweigh the positive effects, and therefore it was prudent for any serious, committed and forward-thinking leader to put tabs on the activities of the unscrupulous illegal miners.
Let us admit they, the scumbags, are well -prepared and they routinely carry out their illegal activities with military precisions, and can strike as lighting, and as deadly and destructive as molten magma.
In addition to stealing our natural resources, the illegal miners are gleefully polluting our sources of drinking water with noxious mercury and cyanide. How bizarre?
As a matter of fact, better data and policies are needed to get the sector back on track. So, going forward, the mining laws have to be looked at again and if possible amended or scrapped altogether.
However liberal we would like to portray ourselves to the whole world, we should not and cannot continue to sit aloof and allow the stubbornly impenitent illegal miners to hijack Ghana’s natural resources and destroy the environment.