The setting is the Law Court complex, a room with Charles Ekow Baiden as presiding Judge. Five Chinese Nationals take turns to respond to their names as the clerk calls out the case. She informs the court that all 5 including En Huang are present. In a matter of minutes, the case ends and hours after news breaks that the 5 are en route to China, their country of birth.
She was described as the “Galamsey Queen”, a ruthless “Galamseyer” who not only eroded land in search of precious minerals but dug deep into the hearts of men of power, finding and satisfying their desires, documenting and blackmailing with them when she needs fresh favours. She was going to be a tough nut to be cracked and as is usual, well-meaning Ghanaians argued the only way the state could prove it was committed to ending the fight against illegal mining was to secure her conviction.
The security agencies arrested Aisha and her associates, transferred them to Accra to stand trial. The excitement on the part of those who had called for justice will be short-lived as the AG filed the charges in court. These are individuals who had allegedly been arrested engaged in illegal mining but guess what, minor charges will be levelled against them as pressure group occupy Ghana will put it. The group’s pressure and a petition filed at the AG’s office will ruffle feathers and result in changes, charge sheet amended to have offences relating to Ghana’s mining laws levelled.
And so once again, the state assumed the position of seemingly showing that the state will enforce its laws.
Those who remained dissatisfied hit at the Judiciary despite being aware of the age-long slow pace of trials. Justice Baiden who was hearing the case responded in open court on July 9, 2018
“The judicial system is working. The legal system works. The people within are ready to work. Nobody should be taking the court round. I want to expedite action on the matter.”
He added that he hoped the trial will end by July 31, 2018.
This assurance will not be met, as at December 2018 the trial was still on with a State Attorney Ms Mercy Arthur informing the court of the decision to discontinue the case. The AG’s power to truncate trials in such a manner is not in doubt, the same with the often trumpeted view she is not required to justify same. But we have seen and heard the A-G go on record to explain the exercise of such power. At least in the case of alleged killers of MP J.B Danquah Adu, Ms Gloria Akuffo did grant Joyf FM an interview clarifying why it was necessary for the state to end the case.
And so the response from the Secretary of the Inter-Ministerial committee came in handy. Charles Bissiw said prosecution was simply expensive.
AG Silence and Senior Minister Explanation
The AG remained silent, the matter died till the “De-facto Prime Minister” Yaw Osafo Maafo was asked to speak. Let’s critically look at the question he was asked and the response provided
“…why did you repatriate Aisha Huang without prosecuting her or forcing her to restore degraded lands and polluted water bodies”.
The questioner makes no reference to any Sinohydro deal, neither does he suggest that Ghana fears China, he simply wants to understand why this prosecution was truncated. Aisha is not the first Chinese national to be deported. In fact, the previous government (NDC administration) deported many Chinese nationals. I therefore equally find it strange that the NDC will even want to hit at government for this deportation. (I will return to this shortly).
The Senior Minister is handed the microphone and he first touts government’s good relationship with China. He proceeds to say the company executing government’s flagship infrastructure project, Sinohydro is a Chinese company. He reveals more deals involving the Chinese are at the negotiation stage and concludes
“Putting [Aisha Huang] in jail in Ghana is not going to solve your money problem. It is not going to make you happy or me happy”,
Mr Maafo it must be stated knows this Sinohydro deal arguably better than anyone in government. After Vice President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia had announced the deal in early 2017, concerns were raised about the possible destruction of water bodies due to the location of the bauxite. It was the Senior Minister who defended Government and explained how the two areas with the deposits; Nyinahin and Atiwa, varied in terms of relation to water supply. He argued Atiwa could be mined with minimum impact in that interview with the BBC.
Another point worth noting is that at no point does the Senior Minister say she was let go specifically because of the deal. It is obvious from his preamble that it was more of a friendly gesture to a country in anticipation of further good deals. And the context remains that from the onset of the Aisha debacle it was stated that she wielded greater influence on men in authority, with many fearing she wouldn’t face justice.
This context really makes the explanation offered by the Lands and Natural Resources’ minister Kwaku Asomah-Cheremeh quite off the mark.
“So, it is not only Chinese that have been deported, neither is it only Aisha Huang that has been deported for purposes of Sinohydro loan or purposes of Sinohydro agreement that the government of Ghana has with the Chinese government. And we did not sacrifice her or exchange her for the loan”, the minister stated.
He also made reference to other deportations that had taken place
“With respect to the 194 foreigners that have been deported, the exact figures dealing with them as per particular nationals cannot be given now, but the nationals that have been deported include Chinese, Indians, Nigerians, Malians, and Burkinabes”
This reveals or better confirms there is some form of government decision to deport foreigners who commit a crime. What makes this deportation problematic is that it took government a long time to act. What was the relevance of charging her and dragging the matter for so long if the state had no intention of seeing the case through? The prosecution has been said to be expensive but why waste money attempting one?
Her deportation in light of the initial charges levelled against is enough basis for one to conclude that deportation was always the ultimate aim. She was first charged with illegal employment of foreign nationals contrary to Section 24 of the Immigration Act, 2000 (Act 573) and Regulation 18(1) of the Immigration Regulation, 2001 (L.I. 1691) and disobedience of a directive given by or under the Immigration Act, 2000 (Act 573) contrary to Section 52 (1) of the Immigration Act, 2000 (Act 573).
The Sector minister also made reference to the AG’s unquestionable power to discontinue prosecutions. This power has not been in doubt. The cry has been about a missed opportunity to drum home Ghana’s commitment to punishing all persons including foreigners who degrade our environment. This cannot be achieved by jailing any other person, Aisha was the low hanging fruit. Unless of course, she wasn’t.
The NDC Pledge
Must we be hopeful of possible extradition of Aisha should the NDC return to power? Certainly not! The announcement by the Minority Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa should be taken with a pinch of salt. His government under the leadership of John Dramani Mahama deported more than 4,500 Chinese nationals.
And so this government like the previous believed in deportations and one cannot help but wonder whether they will be bold enough to attempt to make a case for extradition for an individual the state on its own accord decided to deport. Will one of Ghana’s largest trading partners want to hand its citizen to us?