“As electoral competition has become more intense, the galamsey discourse has become increasingly partisan in nature; opposition parties often bolster the position of illegal miners in order to make those in power unpopular and gain partisan political advantage (Dr Abdul-Gafaru Abdulai,
In May 2013, President Mahama inaugurated a five-member inter-ministerial taskforce to fight the menace of illegal mining in which the members included then Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, Alhaji Inusah Fuseini, as Chairman, former Minister for Defence, Mr Mark Woyongo, former Minister for Interior, Mr Kwesi Ahwoi, Dr Joe Oteng Adjei, and Ms Hannah Tetteh.
The taskforce was tasked to seize all the equipment the illegal miners were using to steal our mineral resources and destroy the environment.
In effect, the inter-ministerial taskforce was given executive powers to arrest and prosecute both Ghanaians and foreigners who were engaging in small scale illegal mining.
The inter-ministerial taskforce was also to deport foreign illegal miners and revoke licenses of Ghanaians who have sub-leased their concessions to foreigners.
However, after a little over three years of the NDC government setting up the anti-galamsey taskforce to circumscribe the activities of the recalcitrant illegal miners, The then Environment Minister, Mahama Ayariga admitted in 2016 that it was time for government to regularize illegal small scale mining (galamsey) activities as a more proactive way to stop pollution of water bodies (see: Minister gives up on fight against illegal mining; myjoyonline.com, 15/09/2016).
The Honourable Mahama Ayariga however admitted that the efforts to halt illegal mining activities failed miserably because “wherever there is mineral resources people will do everything and whatever it takes to be able to extract those resources (myjoyonline.com, 15/09/2016).”
“I called Minerals Commission, I called the EPA, I called all the stakeholders and I said look, it looks as if we cannot stop them from mining so why don’t we help them to mine properly so that we avoid the pollution”.
“They have a way of covering it and you won’t know that there is a pit there...you just won’t know”.
“Mahama Ayariga said the menace of galamsey cannot be blamed entirely on central government noting that the responsibility to stop it is a shared one.”
“It extends to traditional authorities and local government authorities. Many of these institutions are failing (myjoyonline.com, 15/09/2016).
In the grand scheme of things, the illegal miners have been bribing their way through and taking advantage of the absence of monitoring and enforcement of the existing laws and regulations.
If that was not the case, how on earth would foreigners seize our countryside, steal our gold and destroy the environment and go scot free?
It was, therefore, extremely commendable when the forward-thinking, serious and committed President Akufo-Addo prudently placed an interim ban on small-scale mining activities.
Despite the small scale miners protestations over the temporary ban on their poorly regulated activities, it was, indeed, a pragmatic step to put better data and policies in place to get the sector back on track.
It was against such backdrop that some of us were struggling to get our heads around how and why former President Mahama could oppose 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 halt the apparent menace?
If, indeed, Ex-President Mahama and his NDC government ever deployed the military in their attempts to halt the menace of illegal mining but to no avail, why didn’t they stick to alternative solutions?
So Ex-President Mahama wants 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 such a short period of time but doing everything humanly possible to protect our environment?
Former President Mahama was recorded moaning bizarrely: “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.”
In fact, if we were to draw an adverse inference, we can dare state that Ex-President Mahama was suggesting that the security personnel should cease chasing armed robbers with guns and rather offer them alternative livelihoods. How bizarre?
Honestly stating, there is unobjectionable 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 declared: “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 every discerning Ghanaian should be asking former President Mahama and his NDC government is: why did you fail woefully to halt the menace of illegal mining in eight years in office?