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Minerals Commission, Ellembelle Assembly dispute Magistrate’s insecurity claims

BY: Dotsey Koblah Aklorbortu, SEKONDI
Ellembelle District Chief Executive, Kwasi Bonzoh
Ellembelle District Chief Executive, Kwasi Bonzoh

A report by the Minerals Commission, and the Ellembelle District Assembly have discounted claims of insecurity and health risks by the Magistrate of the Nkroful District Court, for which she has relocated out of her official residence.

While the Minerals Commission says its investigation into the claims showed there was no ongoing mining activities that posed a threat to the life of the Magistrate, the Ellembelle District Assembly alleges that the Magistrate’s excuse can only be self-serving.

Last month, the Western Regional Office of the Judicial Service wrote to the Ellembelle District Assembly to inform it of the relocation of the Magistrate out her official bungalow, which also houses the Divisional Police Commander, citing ongoing galamsey in a portion of a river behind the residence, and the insecurity and health hazards resulting from chemicals used in mining, as well as noisemaking both day and night, denying her sleep or rest.

A report by the Minerals Commission, which instituted an investigation into the allegation of threat to life and associated inconveniences emanating from the illegal mining activities, said the alleged illegal mining, which occurred about 130 metres away from the Magistrate’s residence, had already been stopped.

The Commission’s team of investigators concluded that the “effects of illegal mining, if any at all, on the residence would be minimal”, given the distance from the illegal mining site and location of the bungalow.

The report further recommended closer collaboration between the district assembly, the police and judiciary to clamp down on all forms of illegal mining activities in the district and mete out stiffer punishment to miners offending the law in accordance with Section 99(2) of Act 900, 2015.

The industry regulator’s report indicated that the illegal mining activities had resulted from the construction of a bridge across the Broma river to link the new and old Teleku Bokazo communities, during which the illegal miners under the guise of desilting the river at the construction site, mined for gold.

But it said all forms of desilting/illegal mining activities within the area had ceased since Jun 9, 2022, and that the area in question looked abandoned, with no mining equipment on site.

The report, which was signed by the Minerals Commission’s regional head, Mr Isaac Mwinbelle, also cites the Divisional Police Commander as saying the activities of illegal mining did not have any impact on the residence.

The Ellembelle District Assembly on the other hand, accused the Magistrate of frustrating the assembly’s fight against galamsey by treating those arrested for engaging in illegal mining activities with kid gloves and yet turning round to cite galamsey as a threat to her life.

“We wish to state that information available to us indicate that the decision by the Magistrate of the Nkroful District Court to relocate out of her official residence has nothing to do with the purported threat to her safety, security and health as a result of alleged illegal mining activity at the back of her bungalow stated in the letter. We are reliably informed that she is only using that as a ploy to move out of her official residence so she can continue enjoying her personal benefit of accommodation/rent allowance from the Judicial Service which she has been directed to forfeit as long as she continues to live in a government bungalow. It is therefore not surprising to us that the Magistrate did not even deem it necessary to inform us of her decision to relocate until the District Chief Executive (DCE) called her personally on Wednesday July 27th around 6:30 pm after receiving the letter from the Regional Administrative Officer of the Judiciary Service of Ghana.

“We wish to state categorically that, before her decision to relocate, there was absolutely no threat to the life and safety of the Magistrate in any way. As Chairman of the Ellembelle District Security Council (DISEC), I know for a fact that the Magistrate has been provided with two police guards, one personal bodyguard and another residence guard detailed to provide her with security. It is therefore deceptive for the Magistrate to cite her personal safety and security as reasons for relocating.

“Paragraph two (2) of the letter from the Judicial Service of Ghana alleges that there is an “ongoing mining at the back of the bungalow (which) is affecting her health as the galamsey takes place during day and night depriving her of the needed rest/sleep. It also states that “the chemicals used in the mining activities and the noise from the area are having impact on her health.’ It goes further to claim that “the galamsey activities ongoing poses a great threat to her life as there have been series of clashes involving the galamsey operators within the area”.

“We find the attempt by the Magistrate to link her decision to move out of her bungalow to the purported ongoing galamsey activities as very disingenuous. This is because currently there is no ongoing illegal mining activity behind her residence as she wants the world to believe.

“We believe that if there is any institution within the Ellembelle District which can attest to our relentless efforts in the fight against galamsey in the last three (3) years it should be the Nkroful District Court. We say so because the Court is very much aware of the numerous arrests that has been made during galamsey operations led the DCE in his capacity as Chairman of DISEC after which the suspects have been arraigned before various courts either in Nkroful, Axim or even Takoradi for prosecution.”