Ghana: Alleged bribery in parliament, illegal mining reported in Ghana

Accra, Ghana (PANA) – The report of an alleged bribery scandal in Ghana’s parliament and an ultimatum to illegal miners in efforts to end the debilitating effects of their activities on the environment, economy and water bodies were some of the stories reported by the Ghanaian media this week.

A member of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), former Environment minister Mahama Ayariga claimed that Energy minister Boakye Agyarko gave money to Joe Osei-Owusu, chairman of the appointments committee, to be distributed to members with a view to bribe them during his vetting in parliament.

Osei-Owusu, who is also the first deputy speaker, vehemently denied the allegation. Parliament set up a committee under the chairmanship of Joe Ghartey, Minister of Railways, to investigate the allegation, which report was presented on Thursday night.

The state-owned Graphic in a story on Friday with the headline “Mahama Ayariga guilty of contempt; asked to apologise to Parliament” reported that the Committee recommended that Ayariga should be sanctioned after establishing a case of contempt against him.

The newspaper reported that the committee concluded that Ayariga failed to provide evidence to support his allegations of bribery against Osei-Owusu and recommended that he should be made to render an unqualified apology to Parliament.

In addition, he is to be reprimanded by the Speaker of Parliament.

The committee said in recommending the sanctions for the MP, it took notice of the fact that Ayariga is not known to have engaged in acts that tend to disrupt the smooth proceedings of Parliament. Neither does he have a penchant nor reputation of engaging in activity which can bring the image and dignity of Parliament into disrepute.

“Accordingly, we view the recommendations relating to the sanctions adequate in the circumstances,” the report said.

The Graphic in another story with the headline “Chaos in Parliament over Ayariga's bribery report” said it was a near brawl between the Majority and Minority members in Parliament on Thursday evening following the release of the report of the Joe Ghartey committee that investigated a bribery allegation made against the chairman and some members of the Appointments Committee of Parliament.

The newspaper said it took the intervention of some senior MPs to separate the two sides from attacking each other.

The story said the confusion followed an apology that Ayariga, MP for Bawku Central, rendered per the recommendation of the committee, that the MPs on the majority side felt was not appropriate.

It said the Speaker of Parliament, Professor Aaron Mike Oquaye, earlier asked Ayariga to come to the bar to render an unqualified apology but that decision was changed for him to apologise from his seat after the intervention of the Minority Leader, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, and the Second Deputy Speaker, Mr Alban Bagbin.

“Stop ‘galamsey’ in 3 weeks or face the law – Amewu,” was the headline of the Graphic on the ultimatum given by the minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Peter Amewu, which asked all illegal miners to stop their activities in three weeks or face the full rigours of the law.

The government, he said, was also coming up with a strategy to implement drastic punitive measures to deal with people who connived to fund the activities of illegal mining called “galamsey”.

“This time round, we will not take things lightly because we believe that China and India are the sources of funding for these illegal miners; so we are dealing with the root cause of the menace,” Amewu said.

The minister said the road map to dealing with the illegal mining menace included the use of dialogue and other cordial mechanisms, for which reason he met a Chinese delegation last Monday to discuss the way forward.

Pressure group OccupyGhana on its part has observed that there is no “conceivable justification” for illegal mining (galamsey) to persist in Ghana.

To that end, the group has called on the government to “stop, prevent and then regulate all currently unlicensed and unregulated mining, explore the provision of gainful, alternative employment to persons engaged in ‘galamsey’, support mass education on the ‘galamsey’ menace, particularly through local civil society, and be mindful of the potential national security threat that ‘galamsey’ poses”.

OccupyGhana, in a statement dated 30 March, predicted doom for the country if illegal mining is not brought under control.

However, an Accra-based radio station reporting on its website under the “Stopping galamsey will create a bigger problem - Baba Jamal” quoted Baba Jamal, a former Member of Parliament for Akwatia, a constituency notorious for illegal mining, as saying the chorus against illegal mining is not well informed and warned that if care is not taken, stopping illegal mining could create more problems for the country.

Jamal, who is also a former Deputy Minister for Employment and Labour Relations, says stopping ‘galamsey’ without a detailed plan on how to cater for the needs of the teeming youth could create bigger problems for the country.

He said the problems caused by illegal mining are serious adding, “I am against galamsey.”

“We need to regularise illegal mining and protect the environment,” Baba Jamal said. The use of gun-toting security men to chase illegal miners as part of efforts to stop galamsey, he believes, is simply unworkable and unsustainable. Licensing of small-scale mining should be decentralised to remove the tired bureaucratic inertia which forces miners to mine without licences.

There is a groundswell of anger against illegal mining in the wake of a bleak projection that Ghana could be importing water in the not too distant future.

Already, some river bodies that served as the sources of water for treatment plants have either dried up or been badly polluted.
-0- PANA MA 1April2017

01 april 2017 07:13:36

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