The President of the National House of Chiefs, Ogyeahohoo Yaw Gyebi II, has dared Ghanaians to make available evidence that proves that the Ashanti Regional Chairman of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Bernard Antwi Boasiako nicknamed “Chairman Wontumi” is involved in illegal mining, also known as galamsey.
His call, comes amid demands for the arrest and prosecution of the directors and other executives of Akonta Mining Limited owned by “Chairman Wontumi”.
This, follows the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources’ directive to the Forestry Commission to immediately halt the activities of Akonta Mining Limited’s operation in the Nimri Tano forest reserve in the Amenfi West Municipality of the Western Region.
Government is currently prosecuting a Chinese woman, Aisha Huang and three other Chinese nationals, Johng Li Hua, Huang Jei and Huaid Hai Hun, over a similar matter, but in the view of Ogyeahohoo Yaw Gyebi II, President Nana Akufo-Addo, can only act when there is sufficient evidence that his appointees are involved in illegal mining.
On September 30, 2022, the Minerals Commission, issued a statement asking Akonta Mining, a company owned by Chairman Wontumi, to stop mining operations in the Tano Nimiri Forest Reserve, describing the activities of the company as illegal.
But critics had said that the chiefs in the area, should have rather asked President Nana Akufo-Addo to punish Chairman Wontumi over his involvement in the galamsey activities.
Reacting to the claims, Ogyeahohoo Yaw Gyebi II, argued that traditional authorities do not operate on rumours.
He, however, stated that persons with concrete evidence to back the claims, should make it available for the necessary actions to be taken on them.
“I have heard that Wontumi is doing galamsey. Whether it is true or not, I don’t know and I don’t have any evidence, so how do I tell the president about Wontumi in such a forum or expect me to speak about an issue on national television when I don’t have any facts or direct evidence on Wontumi’s activities?
“So, if you have the evidence or anyone has evidence that Wontumi is into galamsey, make it available to the president and he will act on it,” he told Morning Show host of Kumasi-based Oyerepa TV, Kwesi Parker-Wilson.
Ogyeahohoo Yaw Gyebi II, also cautioned chiefs against engaging in illegal mining.
He insisted that President Akufo-Addo, has their full support in arresting and prosecuting persons involved in the act in spite of their status in the society.
“The chiefs have been warned against the practice because we have asked the President to deal with anyone who is involved, whether a chief, a politician or whoever must be arrested to curb the menace,” he added.
Clement Apaak, Member of Parliament (MP) for Builsa South, had asked the Lands Ministry to go beyond simply ordering Akonta Mining Limited to halt operations in the Tano Nimiri Forest.
Deputy Ranking Member on the Mines and Energy Committee of Parliament, has said that mining company, Akonta Mining Limited, breached the law when they moved their activities into the Tano Nimiri Forest Reserve.
According to John Jinapor, the fact that the company has a prospecting license, does not give it the right to move into forest reserves.
Pressure group OccupyGhana, also told Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Samuel Abu Jinapor, to go beyond merely asking the directors and officers of Akonta Mining Limited to stop all mining activities within the Tano Nimiri forest reserve and arrest them for breaching Act 703.
In OccupyGhana’s view, however, the ministry and state authorities, must go beyond the stop order.
“If the company is engaged in the activities that you have alleged, then it is committing an offence that is punishable by fines and prison terms between 15 and 25 years. Specifically, section 99(2)(a) of Act 703 provides that: ‘A person who, without a licence granted by the Minister, undertakes a mining operation contrary to a provision of this Act, … commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of not less than ten thousand penalty units and not more than fifteen thousand penalty units and to a term of imprisonment of not less than fifteen years and not more than twenty-five years’”, the group said.
A statement from the ministry said, while the mining company has a lease to undertake mining operations in some parts of Samreboi, the company has no mineral right to undertake any mining operations in the Tano Nimiri forest reserve.
“Records available to the Ministry, show that while Akonta Mining Ltd has a mining lease to undertake mining operations in some parts of Samreboi, outside the Forest Reserve, the company has no mineral right to undertake any mining operations in the Tano Nimiri Forest Reserve.”
The Ministry, said its records show that Akonta Mining Ltd, on August 25, 2022, applied for a Mining Lease to undertake mining operations in the said Forest Reserve.
“By a Ministerial Directive, all reconnaissance, prospecting, and/or exploratory activities in Forest Reserves in the country are suspended, except in exceptional circumstances. Although this directive does not affect mining in Forest Reserves, Akonta Mining Limited’s application has not been determined.”
It pronounced all activities being undertaken by the company in the Forest Reserve, as illegal.
The Lands Minister, further directed the Forestry Commission to ensure that the company does not carry out any operation in the forest and to take the necessary action against any person found culpable in the matter.
“The Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources remains committed to the fight against illegal mining, with integrity and transparency, and assures the general public that it will continue to work with the relevant agencies and all stakeholders to come to grips with this age-old galamsey menace,” the statement added.
Deputy Ranking Member on the Mines and Energy Committee of Parliament speaking on Newsfile, explained that mining firms need other permits, including environmental permits aside from their prospecting licenses; adding that forest reserves have been excluded from mining activities.
“So clearly there is some blatant disregard for the law by some people who feel untouchable. Let’s face it, but for the fact that Chairman Wontumi was the Ashanti Regional Chairman of the NPP, could he have moved into the forest and start degrading it the way he was doing?” he quizzed.
Mr Jinapor added that “what Akonta mining was doing there (Tano Miniri Forest Reserve) is illegal so his firm has breached the law. This Akonta Mining has been there for a long time, it is not yesterday. I have seen videos…the chiefs have been complaining but the man feels that he is big, he is above the law, he has some political wit and so he can do what he wants.”
Clement Apaak, believes that the Ministry, should take action to arrest and prosecute Bernard Antwi Bosiako and anyone else involved since the company in question is conducting mining operations in violation of the Mining Act.
As a result, he wants the police and the Attorney-General, to conduct additional investigations and prosecute the company and its directors and officers.
The Lands Ministry’s order came after two people were shot at Samreboi in the Western Region after a group of youth allegedly prevented Akonta Mining Limited personnel from sending more mining equipment into the Tano Nimri Forest reserve.
Dr Apaak stated that the directive was insufficient and that the company’s directors, including an NPP party official, should be prosecuted and punished.
“Wontumi is mining in a forest reserve, arrest and prosecute him, you are directing that his company be made to cease forthwith by the same Forestry Commission which has looked on. Is he above the law? What fight, it’s a hoax, party hia sika!”
OccupyGhana’s noted: “The company’s directors and officers would also be culpable because under section 107(1)(a) of Act 703, ‘Where an offence is committed under this Act or under Regulations made under this Act by a body of persons, in the case of a body corporate …, each director or an officer of the body shall also be considered to have committed the offence’”.
“We, therefore, demand that you forthwith refer the facts and evidence in your possession that show that the said mining company is undertaking mining operations in breach of the Act, to the police and the Attorney General for further investigations and prosecution of the company and its directors and officers”.
OccupyGhana’s letter was copied Attorney-General & Minister of Justice, the Inspector-General of Police, the Chief Executive of the Minerals Commission and the Chief Executive of the Forestry Commission.