The leader of the Media Coalition Against Illegal Mining, Ken Ashigbey has slammed the government for failing to devise stringent measures to ensure the safety of excavators that were seized by operatives of Operation Vanguard.
Speaking to Citi News‘ Umaru Sanda Amadu on Wednesday, Mr. Ashigbey wondered whether these seized excavators which were reportedly carted to designated areas for safekeeping were monitored by police officers.
His comments come in the wake of the arrest of some individuals over some missing excavators and other seized equipment from illegal miners in the country.
Mr. Ashigbey indicated that these excavators would not have gone missing if the government had put in place the necessary measures to ensure their safety.
He further questioned whether the remaining excavators were being closely monitored by police officers.
“The challenge is that, are they [excavators] under the control of the Police. If they are not under the control of the Police then it is flouting the 2006 Minerals and Mining Act because it is very specific and as a country of Rule and Law we should not allow people to do things anyhow. And I am pretty sure the framers of the law recognise the fact that under the Police care, the security of it will be more guaranteed than currently the way we are doing it. How secure is this location and who is controlling the space?”
“The interesting thing is that if you look at the road map that the interministerial [committee] brought to bring back small scale mining, it talked about registering these excavators. It talked about tagging them and tracking them and the question you want to ask is is that if that were happening then definitely we would not have had the incident where the Minister agrees that some of the excavators are lost.”
How did the excavators get missing
It will be recalled that, at the peak of the fight against illegal mining between 2017 and 2018, about five hundred earth-moving machines were seized by the Lands and Natural Resources Ministry.
The then sector Minister, John Peter Amewu who sanctioned the seizure directed them to be parked at the premises of the various Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs).
Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, the Minister for Environment, Science, Technology & Innovation and also Chairperson for the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Illegal Mining (IMCIM), disclosed recently that most of the excavators that were seized from illegal miners had vanished.
The Concerned Small Scale Miners Association subsequently told the Minister that they knew where the missing excavators were.
A former First Vice Chairman of the governing New Patriotic Party in the Central Region, Horace Ekow Ewusi and five others were subsequently arrested over the missing excavators.
Ekow Ewusi was contracted by the government to cart excavators and other vehicles and pieces of equipment seized by Operation Vanguard to designated areas for safekeeping.
Horace’s involvement and arrest
The Minister for Environment, Science, Technology & Innovation and also the Chairperson for the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Illegal Mining (IMCIM), Prof. Frimpong-Boateng had earlier wrote a letter to the Police CID to investigate Horace Ekow Ewusi over his alleged involvement in the missing earth-moving equipment.
“We have received information that he sent an unknown number of equipment to unauthorised locations, including one in Tema. This one was confirmed by the caretaker of the depot in Tema,” the Minister added in the letter addressed to the CID.
This comes on the back of the exposé by investigative journalist, Anas Aremeyaw Anas on Charles Bissue, a former Secretary to the IMCIM.
Charles Bissue stepped down from the position after he was seen in a video documentary allegedly collecting bribes to facilitate the issuance of mining licences.
Although he has been cleared of any wrongdoing by the police, he is still being investigated by the Office of the Special Prosecutor.