President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has asked Ghanaians who disagree with his government’s approach of fighting illegal small-scale mining (galamsey) along river bodies by burning excavators and equipment used in the illegality, to proceed to court for redress.
Some Ghanaians have questioned the rationale for burning the excavators when they could be confiscated and used for other projects for the state or reclamation of the devastated mining sites.
However, the government and its agencies, including the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, as well as the Ministry of Defence, have justified the burning of the excavators.
Speaking for the first time about the matter at a sod-cutting ceremony for the construction of the Law Village Project in Accra on Wednesday, 26 April 2021, Nana Akufo-Addo justified his approach and urged Ghanaians to support his government to put an end to galamsey.
The President said: “I know there are some who believe that the ongoing exercise of ridding our water bodies and forest zones of harmful equipment and machinery is unlawful and, in some cases, harsh”.
“I strongly disagree, and I would advise those who take a contrary view to go to court to vindicate their position if they so wish. That is what the rule of law is all about.”
“The Ghana Law Reports of modern times are littered with cases in which my clients thought it necessary to challenge government action. On the majority of occasions, the courts upheld my contentions, in a few others, they did not.
The rule of law, he said “does not recognise social status, religious persuasion, political affiliation, ethnic origins or regional adherence” but “merely the law and precedent, the ancient common law doctrine of stare decisis”.
President Akufo-Addo noted that any person who, without a valid licence, conveys any equipment onto a piece of land purportedly to conduct activities for the search, reconnaissance, prospecting, exploration or mining of a mineral, commits a grievous crime against the law.
He said: “Indeed, a person in possession of a valid licence but undertakes mining in water bodies or mines unlawfully, in protected forest zones also commits an illegality”.
“Apart from criminal violations of Act 703, the activities of such persons desecrate our environment, pollute our water bodies, and endanger the lives of present and future generations of Ghanaians”.
“They are monumental crimes which should not be condoned in any shape or form.”
He continued that the presence of chanfans in water bodies is illegal, as is the unlawful use of excavators in protected forest zones.
“The devastation caused by these equipment is nothing short of evil, and we should not compromise in our efforts to protect our environment, forest reserves and water bodies,” he said.
Nana Akufo-Addo stressed: “I say with all the emphasis at my command that no rights can accrue to or flow from the criminal venture of galamsey. The equipment, which is being used for an illegal or criminal purpose, cannot confer on the owner or any other person any rights whatsoever.”
He appealed to all Ghanaians, including the opposition, to rally behind his government in its efforts to stamp out far-reaching illegality and criminality, “rather than advocate the protection of non-existent rights of persons caught in this evil activity.”
“I swore an oath on 7 January to be faithful and true to the Republic of Ghana and that is exactly what I am doing in the fight against galamsey,” he added.