The opposition NDC has criticised President Akufo-Addo for “betraying” government’s fight against illegal mining after freeing a Chinese kingpin, Aisha Huang.
National Communications Officer of the party, Sammy Gyamfi said the President has demonstrated that “the interest of the people of Ghana matters little when it comes to instant gratification.”
He was referring to comments made by Senior Minister, Yaw Osafo Maafo, who said last week, the Chinese businesswoman was deported in December 2018 because of business interest.
“…we have a very good relationship with China. Today, the main company that is helping to develop the infrastructure system in Ghana is Sinohydro, a Chinese Company. With these kinds of arrangements, there are other things behind the scenes … putting that lady [Aisha Huang] in jail in Ghana is not going to solve your economic problems. It is not going to make you or me happy, that’s not important.”
The comment has attracted wide condemnation. Hooking on to the comment, the NDC has said it was “honest revelations of the inner thinking of the Akufo-Addo led government.”
Read full statement below:
“Akufo-Addo’s Failed Fight against Galamsey is a monumental betrayal of the trust of Ghanaians.”
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen of the press. I have the singular honor of welcoming you to today’s encounter which forms part of our continuous assessment of the performance of the Akufo-Addo government, through our evidence-based and facts-driven engagements dubbed “Moment of Truth”. Today’s edition, which is the Fourth Edition, will be addressing President Akufo-Addo’s failed and deceptive fight against the illegal mining menace.
Friends from the media, somewhere last week, Ghanaians woke up to damning commentary contained in a video making the rounds in both traditional and social media. In the said video, the Senior Minister of this Republic, Yaw Osafo-Maafo is heard, while addressing a section of Ghanaians abroad, giving flimsy excuses as to why the Akufo-Addo government discontinued the criminal trial of the infamous Chinese Galamsey Queen, Aisha Huang, who has been at the centre of many illegal mining activities in several parts of this country.
Perhaps the worst Easter gift the people of Ghana could have wished from the Akufo-Addo government is this exact quote from our Senior Minister, a man firmly embedded in the kitchen cabinet of President Akufo-Addo:
“…we have a very good relationship with China. Today, the main company that is helping to develop the infrastructure system in Ghana is Sinohydro, a Chinese Company. With these kinds of arrangements, there are other things behind the scenes … putting that lady [Aisha Huang] in jail in Ghana is not going to solve your economic problems. It is not going to make you or me happy, that’s not important”.
Friends from the media, to treat these comments by Yaw Osafo-Maafo as a reckless act of indiscretion as some have suggested, is to miss the critical point the highly placed cabinet minister and senior member of government sought to make. The platform and the context within which the Senior Minister spoke, clearly shows that he was speaking the mind of President Akufo-Addo and his government relative to the discontinuance of the trial of Aisha Huang.
It can be reasonably deduced from the Senior Minister's comments that at the centre of Ghana’s bilateral relations with China is an obscene willingness on the part of the Akufo-Addo government to condone plain criminality and flagrant disregard for the laws of our country in exchange for money. It’s as if to say that the Sinohydro deal, a purely commercial transaction, is a free gift from China.
Ladies and gentlemen, Ghanaians have every reason to be appalled and outraged by these shocking but honest revelations of the inner thinking of the Akufo-Addo led government. These revelations are disgraceful, reprehensible and make a mockery of the foreign policy and the much touted “Ghana beyond aid” mantra of the Akufo-Addo government.
As for the subsequent effort by Mr Osafo-Maafo to rationalize the said disgraceful and insulting confessions, the least said about it the better. The bullet has already gone and it is too late to stop it.
The Akufo-Addo government wants Ghanaians to accept the fact that we let the notorious “Galamsey Queen” Aisha Huang off the hook because we stand to benefit from a so-called barter deal with a Chinese company, Sinohydro. It is therefore clear that, to President Akufo-Addo and his government, the flouting of our laws and the destruction of our environment do not matter.
To them, Ghanaians involved in Galamsey can rot in jail, equipment can be burned, and many can be shot and killed (as was suggested in Parliament by the NPP 1st Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Hon. Joe Osei Owusu sometime ago). However, when it comes to Chinese nationals, they have the freedom and encouragement to engage in brazen impunity and get away with it, all because of the Sinohydro commercial transaction.
Ladies and gentlemen of the press, the decision of the Akufo-Addo government to trade our laws, our environment, our resources and our lives for the $2 billion Sinohydro deal - which by the way is not even a grant but a so-called barter arrangement in exchange of proceeds from our bauxite, is an insult to our sovereignty and dignity as a people.
Ladies and gentlemen, unlike the shameful and irresponsible Akufo-Addo government, another African country, specifically Tanzania, recently prosecuted Yang Fenglan, a Chinese businesswoman nicknamed the “Ivory Queen” and sentenced her to 15 years imprisonment for smuggling hundreds of Elephant tusks. This was despite the fact that she had lived and worked in Tanzania since the 1970s, and had served as Vice-President of the China-Africa Business Council of Tanzania.
Unlike Ghana, Tanzania chose not to sacrifice their laws on the altar of their bilateral trade relations with China. Without any fear or equivocation, they cracked the whip on Yang Fenglan and sent a strong signal to the world that Tanzania is not ready to countenance the flouting of its laws by foreign nationals. We submit that, by discontinuing Aisha Huang’s trial, Ghana lost a golden opportunity to deal decisively with the menace of illegal mining in a way that deters foreign nationals from flouting our Minerals and Mining Laws.
Ladies and gentlemen, it has to be emphasized, that recent remarks by the Chinese Ambassador to Ghana, His Excellency Mr. Shi Ting Wang, on the menace of illegal mining in Ghana, stand in sharp contrast to the condescending and despicable comments of Mr. Yaw Osafo-Marfo. Unlike our Senior Minister, His Excellency the Chinese Ambassador acknowledged the devastating effects of illegal mining activities in our country and pledged China's readiness to help curb this canker.
The Ambassador further bemoaned the institutional failures that often aid some of these Chinese illegal miners into our country in the first place, and the lack of communication between our authorities and the Chinese Embassy in Accra when it comes to repatriation of some of these persons. He, therefore, urged closer collaboration between the two countries in fighting illegal mining in Ghana. Certainly, the government of China will not be enthused with the bad impression that Osafo-Maafo’s disgraceful comments create about them. The ineluctable question is therefore why our Senior Minister would be telling the whole world that Ghana is ready to sell her birthright to China for a pittance. How did we get here?
AKUFO-ADDO’S FAILED “GALAMSEY” FIGHT
Distinguished friends from the media, the revelations by Mr. Osafo-Maafo present us an opportunity to do a post-mortem of President Akufo-Addo’s fight against illegal mining so far. Undoubtedly, the menace of illegal mining is the biggest threat to our environment and water security. This is what led the Media Coalition against Illegal Mining to declare a national war against the canker somewhere in 2017.
President Akufo-Addo supposedly bought into this agenda and assured the nation that he was going to put his Presidency on the line in support of this effort. Pursuant to this pledge, President Akufo-Addo set up the Inter-Ministerial Committee against Illegal Mining and the Operation Vanguard task force to wage a brutal war on illegal mining in all parts of the country so as to preserve our environment from further destruction.
It is worthy of note, that owing to this fight, the Akufo-Addo government banned legal small scale mining for almost two years. In the process, some Ghanaian small-scale miners were shot and killed at their duly licensed mining sites. Several precious lives have been lost in the last two years including the sad and untimely death of a fine soldier, Major Maxwell Mahama. Also, several small-scale miners have lost their lifetime investments and livelihoods, all as a result of this fight.
Many have had their mining equipment destroyed through a selective and wicked application of the ban on small scale mining. Also, many Ghanaian illegal miners (Galamseyers) have been arrested, prosecuted and jailed. The country has expended millions of taxpayers’ money on the activities of Operation Vanguard and the Inter-Ministerial Committee against Illegal Mining.
Sadly, this is where we are today; the fight against illegal mining remains far from being won. In fact, the fight is in the final rounds of glaring defeat. The reason is obvious: the Akufo-Addo government was never committed to it in the first place.
Recently, ace investigative journalist, Anas Aremeyaw Anas released a video documentary entitled “galamsey fraud”, which exposed various corrupt and underhand dealings by leading officials of the Akufo-Addo government associated with the galamsey fight. One of such officials is Mr. Charles Bissue, Secretary to the Inter-Ministerial Committee against Illegal Mining (IMCIM), and a Presidential Staffer.
Mr. Bissue was caught on video receiving bribes and abusing his office to facilitate illegal mining activities. Another NPP operative caught on video was Mr. Andy Owusu, an Aide to the Ashanti Regional Chairman of the NPP, Bernard Antwi Bosiako (a.k.a Chairman Wontumi). From Anas’ “Galamsey Fraud Documentary”, Andy operated as the main “connection man” and basically served as a bribe-taking conduit between Mr. Charles Bissue and prospective illegal miners.
Sadly, in spite of the overwhelming audio-visual evidence of the criminal acts of Charles Bissue and Andy Owusu, no action has been taken by President Akufo-Addo to punish them. Mr. Bissue continues to walk a free man and even has the temerity to appear at state functions much to the chagrin of Ghanaians all over the world. This glaring inertia on the part of the Akufo-Addo government to prosecute Charles Bissue and Andy Owusu for their crime is not only ample testimony of President Akufo-Addo lack of commitment to the fight against Galamsey and corruption but a monumental betrayal of the trust of Ghanaians.
Apart from these damning revelations, several actors within the Akufo-Addo government have in one way or the other compromised the fight against Galamsey, while the President looks on unconcerned. It would be recalled that sometime in 2018, the Minister for Local Government, Hon. Hajia Alima Mahama stated publicly that some MMDCE’s of this government was actively engaged in galamsey and indicated that she was going to publicly disclose their identities and sanction them. However, till date, we still don’t know the identities of the said MMDCE’s the minister talked about and what President Akufo-Addo has done about that.
Again, the former Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, John Peter Amewu also made a startling observation that members of the Operation Vanguard Team had been compromised by illegal miners. His observations were later corroborated by the Eastern Regional Minister, Hon. Eric Daffour.
Also, the Chief Executive Officer of the Forestry Commission, Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie not too long ago stated that certain higher-ups in this government were undermining the Galamsey fight and were actually aiding the return of illegal miners to plunder our forests.
All these pieces of evidence pointed to the fact that the fight against illegal mining was heading in the wrong direction, yet President Akufo-Addo refused to investigate these reports and bring the culprits to book.
Very characteristic of President Akufo-Addo, a man who talks much and does very little, the much-touted fight against Galamsey has turned out to be yet another example of empty rhetoric. Today, the Inter-Ministerial Committee against Illegal mining and Operation Vanguard has been turned into an active vehicle for facilitating and promoting illegal mining. This has increased the spate of illegal mining in the country and has intensified the degradation of our forests and water bodies.
Ladies and gentlemen of the press, the fact that President Akufo-Addo’s fight against galamsey has failed is no longer in dispute. The spectacular failure of the supposed anti-Galamsey fight underscores what we all know to be the truth, that President Akufo-Addo's policies and offerings are publicly instituted for self-aggrandizement but are in reality an avenue for crooked members of his party and government to line their pockets through corrupt means.
In the circumstances, we demand that the President overhauls the Inter-Ministerial Committee against Illegal Mining and urgently reviews his approach to the fight against illegal mining. This is the time for President Akufo-Addo to rise above his sweet but hollow rhetoric and start to walk the talk. He must show genuine commitment and dedication to the fight against illegal mining. We charge him as a matter of urgency, to weed out and bring to book all corrupt officials such as Charles Bissue who have compromised our collective fight against Illegal mining.
With regards to Osafo-Maafo’s disgraceful but honest confessions, it is our view that the Senior Minister only communicated the position of President Akufo-Addo and his government. This is the reason why government has so far not had the courage to denounce or contradict him. The Akufo-Addo government has amply demonstrated that, like the biblical Esau, the interest of the people of Ghana matters little when it comes to instant gratification.
Despite what he said about caring for the next generation more than the next election, all that matters to Akufo-Addo is to obtain money at all cost so as to do some projects that they hope will help them win election 2020. However, we know without a shadow of a doubt that the Ghanaian people will punish President Akufo-Addo for this monumental betrayal of our trust and mandate.
Thank you for your attention and God make our nation great and strong.
National Communication Officer, NDC