Despite growing condemnation of President Akufo-Addo’s endorsement of the burning of excavators and other equipment allegedly used for illegal mining in water bodies and forest reserves, private legal practitioner, Yaw Oppong, says the President’s position is legitimate.
The President has been criticized for calling on affected persons whose excavators have been burnt to go to court, particularly because the country’s Minerals and Mining Act, clearly spells out what ought to be done with seized equipment, which does not including burning.
But speaking on Citi FM/Citi TV’s weekend current affairs programme, The Big Issue on Saturday, Yaw Oppong said the President’s advice for people to seek legal remedy is legitimate.
“I sometimes get surprised at lawyers who tell colleague lawyers they are wrong on the law. Yes, you can disagree with their argument. But these things are settled in court. Why should you have a problem with him saying you should go to court? Where else should we go? The moment two people do not agree on an issue, there is the need for determination.”
“One of the fundamental duties of the President is the maintenance of the law. The person who is to enforce and maintain the law is saying that this is my understanding of the law, but people seem to disagree with me. He has therefore asked those who disagree with him to go to court. Then others come up and disagree with his statement that no right passes for people who flout the law. The final judgement on these things lies with the court. The call to go to court is thus a right call. How can you disagree with this call while you urge him to go to Parliament for amendment?”
The Ghana Armed Forces has deployed soldiers to various parts of the country to fight illegal small-scale mining affecting water bodies and forest reserves.
As part of its operations, the ‘Operation Halt’ taskforce has supervised the burning of various mining equipment including excavators and generators.
This activity has been widely condemned by some persons who believe the seized equipment could serve other useful purposes.
What did Akufo-Addo say?
President Akufo-Addo, on Wednesday, May 26, 2021, asked persons who are dissatisfied with the government’s approach in dealing with the ‘galamsey’ menace, particularly the burning of excavators and other mining equipment, to “go to court to vindicate their position.”
The President said he remains strongly opposed to the activity of illegal mining and the destruction of the country’s land, water, and forest resources, and will ensure that everything possible is done to stop such activities.
Speaking at a sod-cutting ceremony for the construction of a new school complex for the Ghana School of Law in Accra, Nana Akufo-Addo said the government will deal decisively with the menace of illegal mining without political, ethnic, or religious considerations.
“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 will 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,” Akufo-Addo said.
Some affected small-scale miners also claim they have documents backing their operations, and that they have been unfairly targeted; a situation that some fear could lead to the payment of judgement debts, should such persons choose to go to court.