Oda Police Under Pressure To ‘Free’ Chief, Yemeni Galamsey Suspects
The police in Akyem Oda in the Eastern Region are said to have come under intense pressure to free four suspects, including a chief, who were arrested for allegedly engaging in illegal mining, notoriously called “galamsey.”
Nana Baffour Akyeampem, who is a chief of Asomdwe, and three Yemeni nationals, namely Hussein Ali, Muhammed Omar and Salleh Ali, were arrested by a Minerals Commission and Artisanal Small-Scale Miners (ASM) taskforce on Monday, May 1, 2023,at Asomdwe, a suburb of Akyem Oda.
But The Anchor reliably learnt that, after more than a week following their arrest, the suspects are yet to be arraigned in court, after they were granted police enquiry bail.
Claim is that there is no available court to handle the case, because the Koforidua circuit court, which is supposed to take up the matter, had its judge transferred, even though the high court is also handling illegal mining cases.
But, according to this paper’s information, there are machinations to prevail on the police to drop the case and allow the suspects to go “scot-free,” with claim that the Yemeni nationals are engineers, who were only installing Macon SD-400 gold Wash Plant and other equipment for a yet-to-be commissioned Oda Community Mining.
Interestingly, The Anchor’s checks at the Minerals Commission revealed no records of the site where the suspects were briskly mining at the time of the arrest.
One Kwabena Kankam, believed to be the Abontidonhene of Akyem Kotoku, whose name came up during interrogation as the owner of the mining concession where the suspects were arrested, is alleged to be one of those pulling the strings behind the scene to halt prosecution.
Though he is said to have been invited by the police, he has refused to show up. Efforts to speak to the Oda police have been unsuccessful.
At the moment, mining equipment, such as excavators and pill loaders, belonging to the suspects, which were impounded, is in the custody of the Oda police station.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Minerals Commission, Martin Kwaku Ayisi, who confirmed the arrest, after a briefing from his officers on the taskforce, said other Ghanaian accomplices managed to flee into the bush, upon seeing the taskforce.
According to Mr.Ayisi, the chief, who surfaced as the owner of the land on which the suspects were mining, insisted he owned the land and that he gave it to the foreigners.
But in the heat of the moment, the traditional ruler was whisked away, together with the Yemeni accomplices, who are said to have financed the purchase of the two excavators and other heavy equipment, including a tipper truck, front-end loader, commonly called pill-loader, which were found at the scene as exhibits.
The Minerals Commission boss, who spoke on Accra-based television station, said, “Now I believe the Yemenis could not flee because there were Ghanaians who fled, but the Yemenis were emboldened and I don’t know what they have told them. Apparently, the excavators…we even found a tipper truck there. They [Yemenese] financed them so they have arrested them. Then a chief appeared and he said he owns the land so he was arrested too. So, they took them to the Police station.”
Speaking on a segment on Metro TV’s Good Morning Ghana program, Mr. Ayisi added that, “So when we say some of the chiefs are involved in galamsey, this is it. You know how chiefs are respected in our villages. These are some of the challenges, it is not that easy to deal with.”
Mr.Ayisi told the host of the show, Dr. Randy Abbey, that he has seen the charge sheet by the police, adding “my officers and the small-scale taskforce will serve as prosecution witnesses.”
Eyes On Prosecution
In order to ensure that the case travels the long haul, Mr.Ayisi said aside from himself keeping an eye on the case, he has informed the Eastern Regional Minister, Seth Acheampong, to also keep a close eye on the case so that the suspects, including the chief, are not left off the hook.
The CEO said a lot could be achieved if such cases are followed through by ensuring the persons involved are punished, if found to have offended the law, to deter others who may be harbouring the intention of going into illegal mining.
He said that, even though some chiefs are complicit in the fight against illegal mining, there are some patriotic ones who abhor the act and are doing everything within their means to curb it from happening in their communities.
“There are particular chiefs: one in the Eastern Region, one in the Western Region, and I think in the Upper East. They have made it that anybody that comes with documentation or now we send them gazette notice, they will call me.
For instance, Okyehene, he will never allow anybody to work there until he has spoken to me. He will call me, Ayisi, I have seen this please come over I want to understand.”
An impressed Mr.Ayisi continued, “Lovely chiefs. Some of them are doing well. Even there are chiefs who send us intelligence that some of them are even afraid to talk to them [illegal miners] or confront them.
“They will even come to the office [tell me] this is the area, so I have told you then he goes back. We then pass on to the appropriate security institution to pick the intelligence and then they will strike. So, a lot of the chiefs are against illegal mining and they have been helping the government.”
The Minerals Commission CEO, who doubles as a chief at Warawara in the Oti Region, said, chiefs can play very important roles in the fight against illegal mining, but it becomes devastating when in the cause of clamping down on illegal miners, some of these chiefs who are supposed to be revered and know better are caught in the thick of affairs, both in the past and present.
He argued that if these chiefs, district chief executives and other stakeholders work hand-in-hand, a lot can be achieved.
But regrettably, he said, the illegal mining is now akin to the illicit drug trade, apparently because it is very attractive and involves very influential kingpins who finance their activities.
“You see, I want you to see things like the drug trade. I don’t work at the Narcotic Control Authority but the little we have read, the situation in Mexico and the Colombia and then the billions the US government has pumped into that area, it shows that it is a whole network,” he explained.
He said in the fight against illegal mining, “It involves the judges, the security a whole lot. So for things like this to thrive, clearly people who matter, may be to use the word kingpins one way or the other, some chief, some big man somewhere in the villages it is difficult for people to speak up unless they speak to journalists.
“There is a particular chief in somewhere in the Western Region, a former soldier, he says no galamsey. The place is very rich. You dare not. He has told everybody if you come I will gun you down or whatever he is in control, he said no I will not allow you people here!”
“So, some chiefs are wonderful, they are doing the work on their own and they are getting the support from the assemblies and co. Some DCEs lovely, they are doing their work; they will not allow you, but some chiefs, some big men, some influential people, some elders are involved.”
Mr.Ayisi said the presence of these Yemenis is not even safe for Ghana, considering the fact that they come from a war-torn country.
He argued that the suspects can easily invite other country men or others from other countries in a similar state and before you know, “they have struck,” even though he said he is yet to know if the suspects had guns as at the time of their arrest.
He apportioned some blame on the police for making the fight of illegal mining a little bit difficult.
According to him, in rather regrettable circumstances, when public-spirited persons find the need to report people indulging in illegal mining to the police, the officers leak the information to these arrested persons and then later when they are released they go about threatening these informants.
In a similar interview on Joy FM’s news analysis show, News File, on Saturday May 6, Mr.Ayisi called on all stakeholders, especially the media, the judiciary, as well as the security agencies, to play their individual roles so that suspects are prosecuted to the letter to serve as a deterrent to others.
He implored the media to follow through the Oda-Asomdwe case. He said the punishment for illegal mining is punitive enough, adding all that needs to be done is for the law to be applied.