The Deputy Minister-designate for Lands and Natural Resources, Benito Owusu-Bio, has justified the burning of excavators by members of the illegal mining taskforce commissioned to remove all persons and logistics involved in destroying the country’s water bodies and forest reserves.
According to him, the government’s responsibility to take appropriate measures to protect and safeguard the environment for posterity includes the right to destroy equipment and machinery from which future utilisation can be launched.
Recently, President Akufo-Addo asked any individual or groups who feel the government’s clampdown on the activities of illegal small scale miners (galamseyers) is unlawful, to go to court for redress.
His comment stemmed from criticism by a section of Ghanaians against the action of soldiers chasing the illegal miners and setting fire on equipment the recalcitrant miners are using to destroy the water bodies and forest reserves.
“I know there are some who believe that the ongoing exercise of ridding our water bodies and forest zones of harmful equipment and machinery is unlawful and in some cases harsh but I strongly disagree and I would advise those who take a contrary view to go to court to vindicate their position if they so wish,” the President had said at a sod cutting ceremony for the commencement of the $55million Law Village project in Accra.
Asked during his vetting by the Appointments Committee of Parliament on Wednesday, whether it is lawful to burn excavators seized from illegal mining operators, Mr. Owusu-Bio who doubles as MP for Atwima Nwabiagya North in the Ashanti Region, said the government is clothed with the power as captured under Article 36 (9) of the1992 Constitution to take the appropriate actions to protect the environment.
“Appropriate measures can include, in such circumstances, the burning of excavators. We are in extraordinary circumstances and extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary measures,” the nominee insisted.
“Mr. Chairman, the law says when you come across an excavator being used illegally you must confiscate it and take it to the nearest police station; there are processes. But in the current circumstances, the Operation Halt gets close to a river body and forest reserve to find these machines there but immobilized by the perpetrators of the galamsey activities with no one on the site,” he said.
“Members of the Operation Halt illegal mining impound an excavator, but the excavator cannot be moved (put on a load bed and transport away) and so they de-commissioned it so as not to be used to commit further illegality,” he explained further.
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