The convener of the Media Coalition against Illegal Mining has lauded the new law that pronounces stiffer punishments for culprits.
Kenneth Ashigbey, however, has demanded more action from every player in the justice system if the environmental menace is to be defeated.
Speaking to Joy FM’s Evans Mensah on Top Story Tuesday, Ashigbey said the new law which prescribes a minimum of 15 years imprisonment for illegal miners, otherwise called galamsey “is a step in the right direction.”
Previously, the sentences for illegal mining included paying a fine. According to Ashigbey, that punishment was not punitive enough.
He added that the figures showing about 10% of successful prosecution of illegal miners out of over 900 arrested is not encouraging.
The media advocate is not alone in his sentiments.
Members of the Operation Vanguard, a joint military and police team that has been deployed to fight galamsey have lamented that the illegal miners they apprehend for prosecution do not receive hefty punishments.
The Operation Vanguard team has also lamented, the slow pace of prosecution has led to piled up mining-related cases.
Commander of the task force, Colonel Michael Amoah Ayisi, said in 2018 that if the situation persists, illegal miners and their financiers will be motivated to act with impunity.
There has also been a lot of commentary about political interference in the fight against galamsey.
When Aisha Huang, a Chinese national known in Ghana as galamsey queen was deported, the government faced serious backlash.
Many had demanded the prosecution and imprisonment of the notorious illegal miner but the Attorney General filed a motion to discontinue the case against her and she was duly deported.
Reacting to these circumstances, Ken Ashigbey says more stringent measures must be taken to ensure that everyone caught in galamsey faces due prosecution and is given the deserved punishment.
Addressing the Council of State Tuesday when he signed the new law, President Nana Akufo-Addo noted that some changes had to be made concerning discretion of judges in punishing offenders.
“We had to take away some of the discretionary power of the judges…because they are not cooperating with these matters.”
“People are caught, they take them to court and they are granted bail and then they disappear,” he stated, adding that the passage of the law and its assent “is another important step taken in the fight against galamsey.”
Reacting to this, the Ranking Member on Parliament’s Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee faulted the President’s comments.
Inusah Fuseini said the President should not be heard in a democratic dispensation saying he is curtailing the discretion of judges.
According to Fuseini, what the amendment in the law has done is to make the punishments stiffer and shouldn’t be seen as taking the discretion of judges away.
He said the judges still have the discretion to choose between the 15 to 25-year sentences.