It has been six or so months since ‘Operation Vanguard’ was outdoored followed by the deployment of a mix of military and police personnel to the target locations.
The excitement that originated from the deployment was understandable. Ghanaians expected immediate positive results from the operation – expectation which originated from the interest the subject had generated at the Presidency. It was as important as the free SHS and so Ghanaians expected that everything about it would be put in place; the degradation of the environment would be confined to the chapters of history.
Although logistics have been promised, what has not been in place is the appropriate judicial action that would make galamsey unattractive and indeed foolish for those making a living out of it.
The destructive and uncaring extraction of gold-bearing sand and rocks – sometimes on the beds of rivers in some parts of the country, have robbed thousands of persons of potable water and degraded the environment in disturbing dimensions.
When the President eventually made good his promise of taking decisive action against the illegal miners, it was a blow many doubted he could exact on the deviants.
A few days ago, an opportunity of assessing how much has been achieved in halting the illegality cropped up in remarks made by the new Commander of the operation.
He sounded disappointed that in spite of their efforts which recently yielded a thousand arrests, the fines slapped on convicted persons have not been deterring enough to result into a significant withdrawal from the illegality. His worry made sense. Of a thousand arrests, only ninety-nine or so were fined paltry sums of money which they paid without looking back – perhaps with scorn.
The fines are relatively small because those arrested are active members of the galamsey industry, an industry rich in money.
When the morale continues to slump it would definitely reach a level where the urge to go after the galamsey activists would diminish and become insignificant.
It is for government to take a major decision as to whether the galamsey war should be provided with the necessary punitive impetus. There is no doubt about the President’s resolve and Ghanaians, to deal a final blow to the illegality. It is for this reason that we ask that the necessary intervention be prompted so the current fines are replaced with mandatory custodial sentences. That is the only way to stop the illegality.
When the illegal miners pay peanuts to the courts and move their equipment to another place to continue to abuse the environment, it is a major disincentive we must stop immediately.
The President should be disheartened about the score sheet of Operation Vanguard. He damned the consequences and launched the operation so that our rivers and environment would be saved. He must change the template at the other end – which is the courts.
Without that, the job of the troops, the risks et al, would be reduced to a matter of derision.