- In April this year, the Senior Minister, Mr Yaw Osafo-Maafo, told some Ghanaians abroad that jailing the Chinese illegal mining ‘queen’ for engaging in illegal mining was not important as it was not going to solve Ghana's economic problems.
Mr President, I greet you from my neighbourhood where the roads look more like egg crates than routes for cars.
I send you warm regards from my neighbours who are worried about when the whirlwind of dust and its accompanying cold and cough will end.
But sir, that’s a subject for another day. I have something else on my busy mind today.
Sir, I should be applauding you for assenting to the law which would severely punish people who wreak our environment and compromise the future of our children, but I’m doing so with a lot of hesitation.
The reason is simple. I wonder what difference this law would make when our legal system isn’t willing to prosecute foreigners, particularly Chinese, who are destroying our forests and water bodies.
On two occasions, we nicodemously deported two Chinese who were deeply involved in illegal activities—rosewood export and illegal mining.
The most recent was the deportation in July of a Chinese woman, Huang Yanfeng, aka Helena Huang, who was standing trial for allegedly transporting a large quantity of Rosewood to Tema for export to China illegally.
According to the Ghana Immigration Service, Huang was deported for engaging in illicit business while in the country and subsequently her resident permit was revoked.
But the most infamous one was on May 9, 2017, when a Chinese woman who was appropriately tagged by the Ghanaian media as galamsey queen and her gang of four other Chinese nationals were arrested for engaging in galamsey activities at Bepotenten in the Amansie Central District in the Ashanti Region and put before court.
Aisha was charged with three counts of undertaking small-scale mining operations, contrary to Section 99 (1) of the Minerals and Mining Act, 2006 (Act 703); providing mining support services without valid registration with the Minerals Commission, contrary to the Minerals and Mining Act, 2006 (Act 703), and the illegal employment of foreign nationals, contrary to the Immigration Act, 2000 (Act 573).
The other four accused persons were charged with disobedience of the directives given by or under the Immigration Act, 2000 (Act 573).
This was two months into the heat of the campaign against illegal mining led by the Media Coalition Against Galamsey.
It was at a time public anger had swelled against the blatant disregard for the country’s environment, particularly its water bodies and forests.
So we applauded the security services for grabbing someone who was regarded as notoriously powerful in the illegal mining circles.
But to our surprise, on December 19, last year, the Attorney General filed a nolle prosequi to discontinue the trial.
Aisha and her gang of destructive criminals immediately after the court proceedings were processed and airlifted out of the shores of Ghana.
Ministerial faux pas
The Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr Kwaku Asuma Cheremeh, provided an irritating response to why Aisha was deported.
“Our discretion was to the effect that the trial of Aisha Huang should be truncated to afford her the opportunity to go to her country. That was in line with the laws of our country. The Attorney General is clothed with the capacity to enter nolle prosequi in respect of this matter,” Asomah-Cheremeh told Joy News.
In April this year, the Senior Minister, Mr Yaw Osafo-Maafo, told some Ghanaians abroad that jailing the Chinese illegal mining ‘queen’ for engaging in illegal mining was not important as it was not going to solve Ghana's economic problems.
I know you’re familiar with what he said but let me quote him again, sir.
“We have a very good relationship with China. Today, the main company that is helping develop the infrastructure system in Ghana is Sinohydro, a Chinese Company. It is the one that is going to help process our bauxite and provide about two billion dollars to us."
“So when there are these kinds of arrangements, there are other things behind the scenes. Putting that lady (Aisha) in jail in Ghana is not going to solve your economic problems. It is not going to make you happy or me happy, that's not important; the most important thing is that she has been deported from Ghana..." he said in a video that went viral.
Sir, in your meeting with the Council of State, you stated that it was important to take away the discretion of judges because they were not helping the cause of the fight against galamsey as they granted bails to accused persons who then disappeared. I agree.
But respectfully sir, in the case of the two Chinese women who were deported, it was not the decision of judges but that of your chief legal advisor—the Attorney General.
With the aforementioned, therefore, I’m left wondering who exactly would be prosecuted when caught in the web of illegal mining? Is it the poor Ghanaian who wants his share of the national cake through galamsey pits, water bodies and forest or the foreigners who will disappear through the cloak of diplomacy?
Our laws must bite but they must bite irrespective of which corner of the globe you are coming from or how much your country is investing in our country.
Written By Seth J. Bokpe.