The National Commander of the government’s anti-galamsey taskforce, Operation Vanguard, has expressed frustration with what he says is the slow pace of prosecution of illegal miners arrested by the task-force.
According to him, over a thousand illegal miners have been arrested since the task-force started its work, but less than hundred of them have so far been convicted.He believes that their efforts are being undermined by the fact that many of the suspects have been released on bail and have returned to galamsey sites.
“We have been able to arrest 1009 people as at Monday January 29, 2018. Out of these 1009 people who are at various stages of prosecution, we have 95 of them convicted. Most of them are out on bail, while others have had their cases adjourned. It’s quite slow and it’s quite a challenge to us because we think that the faster they are prosecuted and results are made public, it will serve as a disincentive for prospective illegal miners and even those who are already in the field,” he said.
“Only God knows what those on bail are doing now. If we are not careful we enter a vicious cycle where people are granted bail and they go back to the bush to look for more money so that if they are fined they can pay.”
He also expressed his dissatisfaction with the sentences handed to the illegal miners who have been convicted.
According to him, most of them were fined by the courts, a punishment he said was not “heavy” enough to deter other illegal miners from engaging in the act.
“We get worried over the level of sanctions that are applied to those who are convicted. The fines and other things are not heavy enough to serve as a deterrent that we all want. If the person has the ability to pay, he’ll do that and you’ll find him in a different area. We think that a lot more should be done,” he added.
‘Sanctions too weak’
His comments are similar to those made by the former head of the task-force Colonel William Agyapong, who expressed worry about the weight of punishment meted out to illegal miners.
“Government has done a lot but we will need more. The kind of sentences and fines that come out of the arrest are not helpful. We know that the onus is on the prosecution to prove somebody guilty, but if you know what we go through and after everything the sentencing and the fines are not so deterrent…. If you fine somebody who is involved in small-scale illegal mining and you fine him GH¢1,000 or GH¢2,000, I think that it will not be deterrent enough. He will not see why he should not go back to the land. These are worrying issues that I hope that in due course, they are tackled by the appropriate authority,” he said.
In spite of the challenges that have been reported, President Nana Akufo-Addo described the operations of the task-force as successful back in December.
Speaking at the Commissioning of a Secretariat for the Inter-Ministerial team on Illegal Mining in Accra, President Akufo-Addo said government will not relent on the war against illegal mining.
By: Edwin Kwakofi/citifmonline.com/Ghana