– Twenty-nine people have been convicted by the Koforidua Circuit Court B in the Eastern Region for engaging in illegal mining, popularly known as galamsey.
The convicted are 26 Nigerians and three others who claimed to be half Ghanaians.
The court was presided over by Mrs Mercy Addae Kotei.
Three of the 29 convicts, namely, Abdulai Umaru, Zibo Alidu and Haruna Mumuni, who claimed to be half-Ghanaians, were sentenced to a fine of GH¢300,000 each or in default three years imprisonment with hard labour.
The remaining 26 accused persons, who are all foreigners were also sentenced to a fine of GH¢600,000 each or in default five years imprisonment with hard labour.
The 26 foreigners were identified as Mohammed Omar, 30; Mohamad Haruna, 24; Dauda Zenjina, 34; Amar Mahamadu, 24; Kassim Braimah, 35; Mahamudu Abubakari, 32, and Hamidu Amadu, 18.
The rest are Musah Iddrisu, 32; Munkaila Bomboro, 45; Abdulai Omaru, 18; Omaru Sulemana, 39; Abdul Malik Hudu, 22; Abdul Karim Zibo, 38; Musah Ahmed, 24; Salley Aadum, 22; Munkaila Salifu, 36; Yakubu Adamu, 17, and Yao Denay, 38.
The others are Fuseini Amadu, 19; Hanza Godiah, 17; Namah Keitah, 26; Jibril Amidu, 25; Bukari Musah, 35; Mohamudu Abubakari, 32 and Cita Zibo, 18. Also, there were Amadu Basar, 35, a Togolese; Gubar Gyata, 19, a Burkinabe and Karim Sribil, 37, a Guinean.
The court found all the 29 accused persons guilty of two counts of conspiracy to commit crime, to wit mining without licence, after eight months of trial.
The 29 were arrested by a joint anti-galamsey Eastern Regional Task Force comprising the police, the military and the Forestry Commission on January 26, 2017 in the Atiwa Forest Reserve mining with some equipment.
They were subsequently handed over to the Eastern Regional Police Command for investigation. They pleaded not guilty to both charges and the case went to a full trial, which lasted for a period of eight months.
The inability of the accused persons to pay their respective fines has landed them in the Koforidua Prisons to serve the jail term.
Forestry Commission reaction
The Eastern Regional Director of the Forestry Commission, Mr Attah Owusu, described the sentence as a victory for the fight against galamsey and a stern warning to all those who indulged in the illegal activity.
“We have been very unhappy because our laws have not been deterrent but now we are happy because this will deter others,” he stated.
Mr Owusu commended the trial judge and expressed the hope that others would emulate her example to sustain the fight against illegal mining.
According to him, the country could not afford to lose the fight in view of the irreparable damage the activities were doing to the environment.