By Kenneth Agyei Kuranchie, B.A., LLB.
Since he assumed office as the Minister of Lands the youthful Minister Samuel Abu Jinapor has brought in a lot of energy and verve in the vexed fight illegal mining, known in popular parlance as galamsey.
In this piece the writer suggests further steps that can be taken to ensure that the gains so far are made are sustainable and lasting. So without further ado, here we go.
EMPLOYING THE LEGISLATIVE ANGLE
Arguably the first point of call, in rooting out any societal problem, is to seek out, identify, fine-tune and block any legislative loopholes that allows the occurrence of the offence or problem sought to be addressed. In that vein, the writer suggests that the Attorney-General be immediately charged, in the short term, to study the nation’s laws on environment and to seek, by way of legislative action, to turn all environmental offences into summary offences and into strict liability offences.
Strict liability offences are offences in which the person found to be offending the law would be asked to provide proof, which shall be on him, that what he is doing is not contrary to the law. With such a law, anybody found on land or water body, engaging in illegal mining, would be required to prove that he is engaging in the activity lawfully, and failure to so do can attract a strict punitive punishment to a jail term of a number of years. A sample of a strict liability offence is Section 2 of the Narcotic Drugs (Control, Enforcement and Sanctions) Act, 1990 (P.N.D.C.L. 236), which states;
“(1) A person who, without lawful authority, the proof of which lies on that person, has possession or control of a narcotic drug commits an offence.
“(2) A person found guilty of an offence under subsection (1) is liable on conviction to a term of imprisonment of not less than ten years.”
The current environmental laws should be amended to provide for such and other laws that protect water bodies and enhanced the use of land.
Adequate fines of up to a million Ghana cedis should be proposed and passed, and provisions made for the sequestering of all equipment used in illegal mining as the property of the state.
Once these laws are passed, the judiciary would be empowered to deal drastically with the offenders against the law.
EMPLOYING THE NATIONAL COMMISSION FOR CIVIC EDUCATION
The National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) should be engaged to provide the parameters for a detailed national campaign, particularly in areas affected by galamsey, to engage in mass public education on the proposed laws and its effects. This would ensure that the people who engage in these acts do not acquire the excuse, down the line, that they did not know enough about the law before offending it.
The NCCE would also adequately educate the public on the ill-effects of illegal mining.
EMPLOYING THE JUDICIAL ANGLE
The Chief Justice of Ghana and the Judicial Service should be engaged to place at least one Circuit Court in every district capital. The purpose would be to enable the Attorney-General or his representative to place before court, as speedily as possible, any person found in contravention of the new and tougher laws against illegal mining. The fact that offenders against mining laws receive speedy judicial sanctions would serve as deterrent.
EMPLOYING THE POLICE ANGLE
Illegal mining happens in communities. It can be asserted as a fact that there is not a single district in this country where one cannot find a police office, manned by police officers. This presupposed that every district in Ghana has a police commander and every region has a regional commander. I believe it to be the case that all police officers in regions and districts where illegal mining is taking place is aware of the fact.
The Inspector General of Police should be immediately drafted to deploy the Police Intelligence Unit to report on every community with the illegal mining problem, and the police commanders in these regions and districts should be administrative sanctioned, and either reduced in rank or the proper sanctions placed on them.
It should be made clear to the I.G.P that illegal mining is against the law, and that he and all his officers in whose jurisdiction the activity is found would face administrative and other sanctions.
EMPLOYING THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT STRUCTURE
The Local Government Minister should be brought on board, because illegal mining happens in the districts where he is the administrative head of the local government services. It should be made clear that DCEs in whose jurisdictions these sins happen are liable to face administrative sanctions including being removed from office after a required period if these activities continue to persist.
EMPLOYING THE MINISTRY IN CHARGE OF WATER BODIES
All water bodies should be carefully demarcated. It should be law that all activity, such as building, farming, mining and others, fifty metres from any river body, constitutes a criminal offence and offenders would face jail sentences. Such approaches to water bodies should be demarcated and DCEs should be authorized to prosecute offenders of the law.
EMPLOYING THE IMMIGRATION SERVICE
Illegal migration and the infusion of unsavory foreign elements into the jurisdiction of Ghana is also a causative factor. The Director-General of the Ghana Immigration Service should be administratively sanctioned over the infusion of unsavory foreign elements into the jurisdiction of Ghana. He/she should also be required to put forward a policy paper on how foreigners who engage in improper activities within the jurisdiction would be tracked, found, placed before courts and committed to prison in Ghana before being repatriated to their countries.
EMPLOYING A REPORTING SYSTEM
The nation should institute a public reporting system where people can call in to report activities of illegal mining and other illegal activities. This National Call Centre would receive, and disseminate information to relevant authorities on illegal mining and other crimes.
EMPLOYING A REWARD SYSTEM
It should be law that all public agencies and officers that capture illegal miners and their equipment and report same would be rewarded with 5% of all found equipment, money and other valuables, before the balance is confiscated to the state. However, failure to report a find and capture would lead to immediate dismissal and prosecution of offending officers.
It is the belief of the writer that these nine steps, if scrupulously followed, would lead to a complete annihilation of the scourge we call galamsey.
Written By Kenneth Agyei Kuranchie, B.A., LLB.