“The activities that they (illegal miners) are involved in are jeopardising the very survival of our nation. I took the decision that that would be a betrayal of the trust the Ghanaian people put in me. I am prepared to put my presidency on the line on this matter,”…

This profound and bold declaration by the President, Nana Akufo Addo, gave me the impetus to push harder and further in taking a frontline position to report on the highly sophisticated illegal mining activities, and the damage it continues to wreck on the environment. In fact, given that the administration that preceded his first term as president had started an aggressive fight against the illegal mining menace, President Akufo Addo’s affirmation gave real meaning to the cliché; government is a continuum. At least at the time, he made it.

The appointment of John Peter Amewu as a Minister in Charge of Lands and Natural Resources also inspired a lot of hope and belief in the so-called fight. This was mainly because JPA with the slightest tipoff will be on the move to illegal mine sites to order arrests of illegal miners, summon mine officers in the districts, and rarely pardon those he found pitiful enough. A case in point was when he pardoned a sole miner at Tonto Krom in the Western region during one of those unannounced working visits.

The combination of a new President who had publicly declared to put the highest office, one that he has toiled so much for, on the line to fight galamsey, a no-nonsense, tough-talking, action-oriented Minister, and the Military cum Police deployment, was such a dreadful architecture that forced faint-hearted galamseyers to flee mine sites and pits in order to avoid potential wrath.

It is, however, worth mentioning that advocacy by the Media Coalition against Galamsey, under the leadership of its Convener Ken Ashigbey, elevated the galamsey conversation to the front burner, and eventually pricked the conscience of the political elite to act. Months after the bold presidential declaration of war on illegal mining, news reports and documentary films about the menace gained momentum.

Local and national media outlets owned the subject and consequently assigned and deployed strong hands with a firm grip on the subject, and dedicated logistics/resources to the course. Clara Mlano, Timothy Ngenge, Kweku Stephen, Kwabena Adu, Catherine Frimpoma, Julius, Kojo Agyemang, Godwill Arthur, Kweku Owusu Peprah, Erastus Asare Donkor, Obrempong Yaw Ampofo, Edem Srem and yours truly were deployed by respective media outlets as frontline reporters on the network of illegal mining activities and its ramification on the environment.

After years of dedication, and hard work, some of the above-listed reporters went on to win awards at the annual GJA awards ceremony, with yours truly adding another feather in the cup at the Ghana Mining Industry awards for excellence in reporting about the subject. Unfortunately, excellence can’t be said about how the political actors responded, particularly after John Peter Amewu exited the frontline as sector Minister.

It was during one of the many assignments on this illegal mining phenomenon that the name Aisha Huang first popped up. I heard it on the radio while following a lead in the Western Region town of Samraboi. At the time, it was about a dossier of sex tapes the beautiful Chinese lady had on some ‘big men’ in Ghana. Following the speculations, some videos circulated on a number of platforms, but it turned out not to be as explosive as the tabloids had anticipated.

Following that disappointment, many went to sleep thinking they’d had the first and last of Aisha Huang. Little did we know that it was only the precursor to prepare us for an explosive limelight on a foreigner who at the blind side of the ‘fearful’ architecture put together to fight galamsey, was directly infiltrating, dictating, and calling the shots in a network of illegal mining empire that was plundering forest reserves and in some cases water sources, and panning for high value, small, easily transportable, easily hidden, and easily sold gold outside Ghana.

It was, therefore, a foregone conclusion for many when news broke about the arrest of the ‘galamsey queen’ Aisha Huang, and the charge of undertaking illegal mining in Ghana in May 2017. The Ghanaian people were convinced in their minds that Aisha Huang will be sentenced. Largely because prior to her arrest, and as mentioned earlier, a number of Ghanaians and their counterparts from other West African countries who were arrested for undertaking illegal mining just like Aisha Huang, had been swiftly sentenced and were doing time in penitentiaries across the country.

Worryingly and to the shock of the nation, excluding a few who also want to be counted as patriots, state actors told the Ghanaian people that the beautiful Chinese lady had been deported to her home country. The least said about the defence put forth by the senior minister to justify the so-called deportation, the better. The said deportation signaled how Aisha Huang was riding Ghana’s galamsey rollercoaster. If I were a gambler, I’ll bet my last weak Ghana cedi that on the same day Aisha Huang was deported, a number of locals and their black skin counterparts were picked up and bundled into police cells or remanded into prisons across the country.

The spontaneous and unanimous criticism of the so-called miscarriage deportation was deafening, and the presidency couldn’t turn a deaf ear. ‘Mistake’ was how the president described the so-called deportation and said that that shouldn’t have happened.

Whoever committed the ‘mistake’ in that instance, is either incompetent or feigned incompetence. Whichever way you look at it, and considering the gravity of the ‘mistake’, heads should have rolled in the voice of Koku Anyidoho.

Curiously though, there were no consequences for those who deliberately or otherwise orchestrated and committed the ‘mistake’ in the full glare of the Ghanaian people, making nonsense of the applauded declaration of the Commander in Chief of the Ghana Armed Forces.

Four years after the so-called deportation which should either be indefinite or clearly and strictly stated period of restriction from entering Ghana, not only did the galamsey queen resurface, she makes a joke out of Ghana’s sovereign system, by reconnecting with her network of illegal mining empire to continue with the unfinished business of destroying our environment for dirty gold. One can hazard a guess and say that the brazen impunity demonstrated by Aisha Huang can only happen in, and to a jurisdiction of unserious people.

More worrying are the comments that have followed the re-arrest of the woman who has been riding Ghana’s galamsey rollercoaster over the years. “I’m not sure she was deported,” “She was repatriated,” “She sneaked out”. The inconsistent and confusing rhetoric right from the Executive to the State Prosecutor as captured in the charge sheet sums up how the so-called war on illegal mining has been fought since 2017.

The collapse of an accomplice of the galamsey queen Aisha Huang appears to have introduced another piece to what appears to be a well-oiled network of a jigsaw called galamsey, melodrama. That said, illegal mining and the fight against the same has gone full circle with very little to show after administrative interventions and other deployments. Stakeholders in the fight against illegal mining including Security Operatives, the Minerals Commission, Ministries and other stakeholders must put their shoulders to the wheel in the fight against the illegality.

Government and those charged with the responsibility of fighting this illegality must as a matter of urgency move from the desks, roll up their sleeves, and give meaning to the resoundingly applauded declaration and commitment exhibited by the president which appears to have waned with time, real tests, and pressure.

That said, if the political class sits on the fence to allow Aisha Huang and the many powerful people to enjoy the current steep slope trajectory of the galamsey rollercoaster, the grim reality will catch up with us sooner rather than later, and the generation that will come after us will lament, blame, and curse the political elite of our time for doing next to nothing whiles foreigners plundered our sovereign treasures to leave behind a depleted and messy environment that will be at the messy of the climate change emergency and its cascading effects.

Perhaps the time has come for us as a people to change the approach and declare a state of emergency over the illegal mining menace.

*****

Disclaimer: The view espoused here is the opinion of Latif Iddrisu and is not endorsed by The Multimedia Group.