Feature Article of Friday, 17 July 2015
Columnist: Krugu, John Kingsley
UNDER BAWKU WEST DISTRICT
30TH MAY 2015
PETITION TO UPPER EAST REGIONAL MINISTER TO ORDER MINING COMPANIES AND AGENCIES TO SUSPEND OPERATIONS TO SAVE LIVES AND PROPERTY
Historically, Zongoire is an area rich in natural resources which include gold. The major potential in the area is agriculture and over 90% of the people are agrarian. Over the years, the Zongoire area has been noted as the food basket of the Bawku West District. The people are able to make their livelihood from the farming activities.
Since 2013, the whole of Zongoire Chiefdom has been experiencing some robberies, deaths, confusions and eruptions of violence as a result of some mining activities involving, a Mining Company known to the community as Rich Power, and Galamseys activities. Several efforts made by some good thinking people in the area to calm tensions and restore trust and peace is met with mixed feelings and disagreements. These happenings continue to receive mixed feelings, reactions and questions, which are not good signals for the people and their future.
In view of the current negative developments, a meeting of community members and opinion leaders on the 30th of May 2015, deliberated over the matter. The meeting afforded community members the opportunity to air their views. Some members of the petitioners took turns to explain issues to the community members and assured them of taking the issues forward for the attention of the relevant authorities. Accordingly, we wish to draw the attention of your good office to a subtle potential social, economic and environmental confusion and conflict.
CURRENT ISSUES IN THE AREA AS DISCUSSED IN THE MEETING OF 30TH MAY 2015:
1. No proper community sensitization and awareness creation was conducted by the Mining Company. The company’s community entry activities had been limited to meetings with selected community leaders and there has been no effort to verify whether those leaders had sensitized all community members on the operations of the mining company. This has led to a complete misunderstanding of the activities of the mining company in the community. As a result of the misunderstanding, there has been community resistance to the mining company entering into the settlement areas of the community to do mining activities. In response, the company’s staff has constantly threatened the people with the use of the police services to deal with them. There is an urgent need for all stakeholders to act in a manner that will protect life and property, restore confidence in the police service and secure food and income security in the area.
2. These threats of use of police to deal with the people have been confirmed by a series of unprecedented police arrest in the community. Since the mining company began in about two years ago, community members can count as many as twenty (20) arrests of individuals and groups by the police. When the arrests are made, the suspects are often quickly brought before court and remanded into prison custody, making it difficult for them to be granted bail until the next court hearing.
The continual language of using police to deal with the people has led to fear and panic in the area. It has reached a point where any vehicle entering the community for any reason (be it government officials attending to the different statutory activities or even community members residing elsewhere) are suspected as police personnel coming to effect arrest and a traditional call to war is made. This situation presents a serious security problem in the community because the police can no longer visit the community to protect life and property as and when necessary.
3. The Company workers who are natives of the community and can speak the local language continue to use words and kusaal idioms to convey a message that anybody who resist the mining company will end up in Bawku prisons. As the arrest and remanding of people in prison custody continued, the people have come to belief that any form of disagreement with the company means police arrest and a visit to Bawku prison.
4. Commendable attempts by the District Chief Executive and the District Police Commander to address the problem between the mining company and the community members have failed because of the company’s staff earlier and continual threats of using police and state authorities to deal with the people. There is a complete lack of trust between the community members and the company workers because of the language and posture of the company’s front-line workers. This loss of trust has been extended to the police service.
5. The community is a farming community and traditionally the food basket of the Bawku West District. The recent series of arrest and inciting of the community members against the police has led to unprecedented fear and panic situation in the community. In the state of such fear and panic, farming activities have been affected. This could lead, not only to food and income insecurity in the area, but in the whole district as well.
6. For the first time in the history of the community, almost everybody is fully armed and prepared for war. The situation is such that all workers of the mining company and anybody who is dress like police personnel have become targets of conflict/war.
7. Besides these problems with the mining company, there is also an unprecedented death of livestock in the community. Community members are attributing the upsurge of death of livestock to the mining activities, which are currently not under the surveillance of the Environmental Protection Agency. It is a matter of urgency for both the Environmental Protection Agency and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture to visit the community and investigate causes of the high rate of livestock mortality in the community.
8. In view of the above, the entire Zongoire people, represented by the attached petitioners, hereby petitioned the Upper East Regional Minister to address the following:
1. The mining company must, with immediate effect, suspend all mining activities from the community. This call is meant to restore law and order in the community and to restore confidence in the police service, a necessary element in the protection of life and property in the community. The immediate suspension of mining activities at this very time of the year will also enable the community’s members to do their core livelihood farming activities in peace and not in fear.
2. All mining activities, including galamsay activities must cease with immediate effect since it is not clear the cause of the high rate of livestock mortality in the community.
3. When such law and order is restored in the community, we can all get back to the drawing board to anaylse the problem between the company and the community and find lasting solution to the problem.
4. The police should stop arresting community members on false complaints related to the mining activities. This will help defuse the perception that the police are acting in the interest of the mining company and not in the interest of the community members. This is necessary to restore confidence in the police service.
5. There is an urgent need for personnel of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture to visit the community to assess the impact of the mining activities on the environment and take the necessary steps to protect life, property and the environment. A report of such nature is necessary before any assumption of mining activities in the community.
Based on the above issues and many others, we the undersigned are calling on the Upper East Regional Minister to take immediate action to prevent the destruction of life and property. This action is to ensure that Government does not promote or sanction any internal conflicts and mare the good reputation it has built in the area. We are law abiding citizens and therefore, we are mindful of the legal implication of the Minerals and Mining Act, 2006 and also the 1992 Constitutional provisions for the management of Stool/Skin lands.
The District Chief Executive, Bawku West District,
The District Commander of Police, Bawku West District,
The Overlord of Bawku (Bawku Naaba)
The Chief Executive Officer, Rich Power mining company
The Divisional Chief, Zongoire Traditional Area
The Upper East regional Officer, Mineral Commission
The Regional Director, Environmental Protect Agency
The District Director, Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Bawku West District
The Member of Parliament, Zebilla Constituency
The Regional Director, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
WACAM – Association of Communities Affected by Mining
Thomas Akugre – 0206519050
Ahmmed Issahaku – 0246487286
Mezob Adongo – 0200314346
Adams Tahiru – 0200874613
Simon Ayariga – 0245989057
Apambilla Ayipalla – 0245689821
LIST OF PETITIONERS
Close to 300 petitioners. All in hardcopies were attached to the petition.