Cameron Duodu: Is Occupyghana Too Preoccupied With Legal Niceties?

I must admit that I have the greatest respect for the social pressure group OccupyGhana.

Therefore, I do not find it unpalatable that OccupyGhana is currently attracting headlines by preaching that “Galamsey is illegal and it must not be fought with illegal means”!

But wait a minute: what “illegal means” is the Government using to fight galamsey?

According to OccupyGhana, “there are clear laws stipulated in the Constitution, laying down sanctions and punishments for people engaged in the illegal act.” Therefore the Government should “enforce those laws.”

OccupyGhana was reacting to photos and videos circulating in the media, showing military personnel setting mining equipment and excavators ablaze on site. OccupyGhana says that that act is “an illegality and the Government should desist from it immediately.”

The pressure group added: “OccupyGhana is shocked to see pictures and films in which equipment being used in galamsey operations and seized by security officials, have been set on fire.”OccupyGhana maintains that “these dramatic optics” are a “brazen illegality that will only exacerbate the situation and not help in the fight against galamsey.”

Read More: The Galamsey Menace: Soldiers and Guns Alone NOT the Answer!

OccupyGhana also pointed out that “the law in the Minerals and Mining Act is clear: there is a fine and imprisonment between 15 and 25 years, for each of the following crimes: buying or selling minerals without a licence or authority; mining in breach of the law; abetting any breach of the mining law; contracting a non-Ghanaian to provide mining support services; abetting the breach of the mining laws by a foreigner; fabricating or manufacturing floating platforms or other equipment to be used for mining in our water bodies; and providing an excavator for an illegal mining operation.”

OccupyGhana said that in its view, “the legal provision that equipment used in any of these offences is required to be first seized and kept in police custody. Then, when the person using the equipment for the illegal mining activity is convicted, the court will order the forfeiture of the equipment to the state.

“Then the Minister has 60 days within which to allocate the equipment to a state institution. There is absolutely no legal room for simply torching the equipment. It is illegal and must stop immediately.”

I am afraid OccupyGhana, in this case, has closed its eyes to one aspect of our social situation, in particular, the demonstrated inability of the state legal apparatus to resist the use of influence and money by well-connected individuals, to make it impossible to enforce the law against those well-connected individuals and their networks.

OccupyGhana itself cites the case of the Chinese woman, Aisha Yuang, who was allowed to be quietly deported after being caught organising a huge galamsey operation in Ghana. How did that happen?

It is to be hoped that the recent action by the armed forces indicates that the Government has learnt, from the operational experience gained through the erstwhile Operation Vanguard, that it is useless to capture equipment and hand it over to the police and/or local authorities for safe-keeping.

As OccupyGhana knows very well, quite often, when the erstwhile Operation Vanguard had gone to the police stations or official installations to enquire about the seized equipment left with them, Operation Vanguard had been told that “some influential people” had ordered the police and local officials to hand over the equipment to those who claimed to be their owners! And the stories by the local officials had checked out!

To pretend, as OccupyGhana is doing now, that this is a country in which, like some others, gate-fenced legal processes exist by which seized galamsey equipment can be taken through the “genteel” legal processes, is unrealistic. In this country, “learned friends” can collude to incur judgement debts for the state. How much more the police?

In any case, if OccupyGhana is so concerned about the niceties of applying the law regarding seized galamsey equipment, surely the patriotic thing to do is to call on the Government to amend the Mining and Minerals Act to allow for the destruction, on site, of equipment seized whilst being used to commit the illegal act of galamsey?

The law is not applied in a vacuum anywhere in the world. In some countries, normal jury selection does not take place because of social prejudice, and a lot of time is taken by the courts vetting juries. That doesn’t everywhere. But in some countries, it is a vital arm of the judicial system, as without it, justice would only be enjoyed by only those who do not have to face racial or social prejudice from their fellow citizens.

The reality that OccupyGhana is not admitting is that this is a corrupt country and the armed forces, having been ordered to drive excavator, bulldozers and changfans from our rivers and water-bodies for a very good reason, are entitled to pursue their lawful objective with measures force.

Certainly, the Government could have first declared a “state of emergency” giving the armed forces special powers to burn excavators on site. But I think the psychological element in the struggle against galamsey, having regard to how excavators had tarnished the reputation of Ministers and party officials forced by party influence to close their eyes to illegalities, the Government was right to choose to err on the side of the public interest, in this instance.

Ha, now I throw this challenge to OccupyGhana: will you please advise members of the Ghanaian public whose excavators, bulldozers and changfans have been burnt on site by the armed forces, to go to court and SUE the Government, or the armed forces, for illegally destroying their property? That’s how to apply the “rule of law”, isn’t it?

By Cameron Duodu


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