The Media Coalition Against Galamsey (MCAG) says the justice delivery system seems to be the weakest link in the fight against illegal mining popularly known as ‘galamsey’ in Ghana.
The Coalition is of the view that the fines that are being imposed on perpetrators of the illegal act by the law courts are not punitive and prohibitive enough to discourage people from engaging in ‘galamsey’.
Kenneth Ashigbey, Convener of MCAG, said this during the 6th Town Hall Meeting of the Coalition and the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) held in Bole in the Northern Region.
He said with the Minerals and Mining Act, Act 900, if a Ghanaian is found to have engaged in ‘galamsey’, he or she would be fined 2000 to 20,000 penalty units, adding that currently, a penalty unit is GHC12 making it ¢2,400.00 to ¢24000.00 fine or up to a prison term of 10 years.
“But we are seeing that the judges are just fining these people ¢2,400.00”, he said.
The former Managing Director (MD) of the Graphic Communications Group Limited said for foreigners, the fine is between 30,000 penalty units and 300,000 or up to 20 years imprisonment.
Mr Ashigbey said when Aisha Wang and four others were arrested by the Immigration authorities and brought to the court, charges preferred against them were only under the Immigration Act while they were suspected to have contravened the Minerals and Mining Act as well.
“It has to take a member of the Coalition, Occupy Ghana to Petition the Attorney-General (A-G) before a change was made”, he said.
In September, Operation Vanguard also arrested some four Chinese nationals who were suspected to have engaged in illegal mining and they were granted bail, then three days later the same four and one other person were found engaging in the same act, he said.
“When they were brought back to the court, the judge fined them ¢2,400.00 but they were actually having ¢60,000.00 with them at the court there, so immediately they asked that they should take the fine out of it and give them, their balance”, he said.
“We were expecting that a fine of ¢360,000 would have been given but the judge fined these Chinese ¢2,400.00 which is definitely against the law”, Mr Ashigbey said.
The Convener of the MCAG said based on this observation, the Coalition has petitioned the A-G and the Chief Justice for them to look into the case so that prohibitive fines are imposed to serve as a deterrent to people wishing to engage in ‘galamsey’.
“We are asking the Chief Justice and the A-G to look into the sentences that are being handed over to these people so that we can have a strong justice delivery system to aid in the fight against galamsey in the country.
The MCAG/NCCE Town Hall Meeting was well attended by traditional rulers, farmers, staff of decentralised departments and agencies, students, the media and other members of the general public.
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