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August 5, 2020
POLITICS

 War Against ‘Galamsey’ should not fail like the Fight Against Corruption

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Ghana was recently scored as 41% and ranked 80th country with the highest Corruption Perception by Transparency International, a body which measures annually the level of corruption in about 180 countries worldwide. After reading portions of the report, I was stuck between smiling or crying, either way, it was not pleasant what I read. A move from the 40% mark of last year as a perception of corruption in Ghana continuous to grow. What this simply means is that the perception we have about corruption and its related activities in Ghana has not changed but getting worse. Now I guess you understand my dilemma.

I kept asking myself, are we doing better as a country or we are perhaps at our ‘saturation’ level when it comes to corruption as a country? Irrespective of how I pondered about these questions, I arrived at a simple answer, probably not the answer I wanted, but it was perhaps the closest truth I could tell my wandering mind- we are not winning the fight against corruption.

I have read about a profound statement by a revered statesman when it comes to corruption. Former President J.A Kufuor is reported to have said ‘‘Corruption is as old as Adam’’. A statement I tend to agree with except the connotation it carries. Perhaps not what he meant to communicate as he will later clarify, but the baggage it conveys leaves me with no option than to steer away from it completely.  Corruption has stayed with us from generations and its impact on our lives have been dire.

Corruption at any level should not be tolerated but that seems not the case in the system we live in. Greasing of palms and handing down cash or kind has gained notoriety in our politics, our public and civil services, our judiciary, our education system and virtually every aspect of our lives. The consequences of widespread corruption have a horrible effect on our country’s development. Ghana’s developmental agenda has delayed partly because of corruption over the years. Imagine monies meant for development syphoned by greedy public and civil servants through contracts and as a result, a community lacking basic social amenity such as water. Consider corruption activities bleeding our country of taxes at our Ministries, Agencies and Departments meant for development?

It is therefore not surprising the premium that is placed on the fight against corruption by the various political parties in their campaigns over the years, except to say that, they have failed abysmally at dealing with the canker. Government after the other since 1992 has promised to deal ruthlessly with corruption but the result after the promises leave much to be desired.

The setting-up of the Office of Special Prosecutor (OSP) by the NPP led Government was considered as a game-changer in the nation’s fight against the menace, but three years into its existence, little has been seen. The man put in charge of that office was an honourable, effective and efficient man, but that perhaps was when he was a private citizen. Maybe we should have left him as a ‘citizen vigilante’, by now we will have recovered the ‘Woyome’ money and many others. This by no means seeks to ridicule the office, maybe we will be reaping the fruits soon, but three years of ‘no show’, leaves me worried.

Perhaps the political chess game we play with the fight against bribery, exploitation and sleaze in our political and public services has not helped. Corruption fight is a non-negotiable matter in the interest of our country.  But this is not an act only politicians and people in high authority engage in, private citizens and individuals are equal culprits when it comes to corruption. Remember, ‘the giver and the taker’ are both guilty? We have perhaps become numb as a people to the corruption that we are willing to pay each time even without request. Our national consciousness about corruption fight seem narrow and therefore need to be deepened. Our understanding of what constitutes corruption is blurred hence our pride in the act.

Lest I deviate, the war against illegal mining is rearing its ugly head again, our water bodies are turning brown, water treatment plants are about shutting down.

The ongoing illegal mining activities, popularly known as ‘galamsey’ affirms my position that maybe we have become numb to corruption or we are willing to be complicit in it. The long-held notion that ‘when the last tree dies, the last man dies’ has perhaps become an over flogged cliché that doesn’t strike to the core anymore. The media coalition against ‘galamsey’ along with government, fought the canker to some extent but the battle is far from over. The fight against ‘galamsey’ is imperative that needs no apathetic approach. We are losing our forest cover and losing our water bodies as well.

A recent publication about water shortage hitting part of the central region, Cape Coast to be specific struck me to the core. The publication suggests that the activities of illegal mining are leaving the water treatment plant in the region with no option than to ration water which in the long run will lead to a total shut-down. According to a report by JoyNews Central regional correspondent, ‘‘the Sekyere-Hermang water treatment plant is chocked with turgid water’’. I ask then, are we losing the fight against ‘galamsey’ too? I hope not. Because, ‘when the last water dries, the last man dies too’. It is perhaps overstretched, but I likened the effect of galamsey on corruption. They are both cancerous tissues that need to be dealt with, but we seem to be losing both fights.

President Akufo-Addo led administration ‘tried’ fighting the menace but it seems ‘galamsey’ is rather fighting it. Bodies such as GalamStop, Inter-Ministerial body, and other operations were launched to fight against corruption but none so far appears to have helped completely. The approach helped to some extent but our water bodies are still at the mercies of the cruel individuals who are bent on making money at the expense of the national good.

Some of the bodies set up to fight ‘galamsey’ have allegedly degenerated into extortion bodies, taking kickbacks and bribes at the expense of our country. While citizens are complicit in these acts as their role in fronting for foreign nationals smacks in the face for good citizenship, these multi-million ventures are sponsored by people in authority and well to do in society- people who have no good intentions for Ghana.

Many other approaches adopted to fight the canker continue to leave me in the dark as they have not been fruitful to the level worthy of praise. The adoption of technology in the fight was announced in 2018 but we seem to have gone to bed after the declaration just like others. While we have good intention is solving our problems, we never follow through to the needed result.

Lands and Natural Resources Minister, Mr Asomah-Cheremeh stated in September 2019 that, the government has achieved 85% success rate in the fight against ‘‘galamsey’’. While no evidence was given to substantiate this claim, I have no reason to doubt except to say, our rivers are still brown, indicating there is ‘galamsey’ still on-going. The Mineral and Mining Law has been amended with 15years minimum and 25years Maximum sentences, as well as 10,000 and 15,000 penalty units to ensure stiffer punishment but the recalcitrant are still doing it, perhaps with a planned cabal.

At the Meet-The-Press by the Lands and Natural resource minister, mining contributed $1.3 billion in 2019 as revenue, creating over 26,425 jobs by the large scale mining firms. The potential at the mining industry remains a viable one which when harnessed properly and through the legal channel will add a substantial amount to our revenue basket. But at no point should ‘galamsey’ be regularized since the result on the nation will be a disaster.

The fight against the twin-canker ‘corruption and galamsey’, that continue to obliterate our nation, need a concerted effort from us all. The importance of water and forest reserve can never be underestimated and thus should be guarded with all our might. Galamsey and Corruption have an awful consequence on our country’s development and the earlier we deal with them with all seriousness, the best it will be for generations yet unborn.

Dealing with corruption should be high on the agenda, teaching and practising integrity with rewards should be promoted and be seen at the fore-front in our education and religious institutions. Appropriate punishment should be encouraged and applied impartially. While the wheel of justice perhaps grinds slowly, fast-tracking cases of illegal mining, prosecuting and securing convictions could serve as a deterrent to the many who may want to engage in the illegal act.

We shouldn’t continue to sit detached and watch our natural resource blessings turn into a curse. Water is life, let’s not sit on the fence about the effect of ‘galamsey.’

God bless our homeland and make her great and strong.

#SayNoToGalamsey

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