A former Member of Parliament for Tamale Central, Inusah Fuseini, finds the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Godfred Dame’s justification of the government’s approach in fighting the illegal mining menace, particularly the burning of excavators untenable.
Mr. Dame mounted a strong defence of the government’s strategy, saying its foremost principle in the fight is that “a person engaged in an illegality has no right [to do so].”
“The principle we are operating with is that no right accrues to a person who is engaged in an illegality, and that is a principle recognised by the laws of Ghana,” Mr. Dame told the host of Citi TV’s Point of View, Bernard Avle.
Responding to the Attorney General’s comments, Mr. Fuseini on Eyewitness News said there is no justification for such harsh measures.
“I find the explanation of Godfred Dama quite disingenuous. I think that either Nana Akufo-Addo’s Ministers are clearly incompetent, complacent, or not simply up to the task because if you think that the law that is presently in existence is incapable of dealing with the menace, you do not act with impunity.”
“Nations develop at the back of the rule of law and so if you think the law is not adequate, what you do is to sponsor an amendment, but you do not take the law into your own hands and use common law maxim to justify your actions,” Mr. Fuseini said.
He also bemoaned the lack of a clear distinction between a person mining with licence and those mining without same, saying the government was applying the same sanctions to miners in both categories.
“On the mining field, you have not educated the soldiers enough on persons who have the licence to mine and persons who do not have the licence to mine. If a person has a licence to mine and is mining in a way that contravenes the permit, there is a procedure. There is a punishment regime prescribed by the law. You cannot treat that person as if he is a person who has no licence to mine.”
He suggested that the soldiers deployed to stop illegal mining activities across the regions should endeavour to distinguish between miners in the different categories in order to apply the appropriate sanctions.
“They need to employ due process. We all know as a matter of fact that in a situation where a person has a licence to mine or carry out any activity, the burden of proof shifts from the enforcement authority to the person who has the licence, so when soldiers go on the field, what they need to enquire is whether you have the licence and then the next action follows. If he contravenes the licence, you take him to court.”
Inusah Fuseini’s comment comes in the wake of Mr. Dame’s revelation that a $15 million judgment debt had been awarded against the Government of Ghana in its fight against illegal mining.
Although the Minister failed to extensively explain what led to this new judgment debt, he clarified that it came about during the work of the now-defunct Inter-Ministerial Committee tasked by President Akufo-Addo, in his first term, to fight illegal mining.