A RAPTUROUS WELCOME was given to the flag-bearer of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) at a grand durbar to round off the Odwiratuo festival of the Abuakwa state at Kyebi in the Eastern region on Saturday.
Government officials, led by Vice President John Dramani Mahama, who were invited to grace the occasion, were given a bit of a ‘cold’ reception at the durbar.
Nana Akufo-Addo, who was accompanied by some NPP members of parliament including the MP for Abuakwa South, Samuel Atta Akyea; MP for Atiwa, Kwasi Amoako-Atta; MP for Lower West Akim, Gifty Klenam; MP for Abuakwa North, Prof Samuel Amoako, and former MP for Mfantseman West, Stephen Asamoah Boateng, was ‘hailed’ while government officials who arrived an hour later went quietly to exchange greetings with the Okyenhene, without much fanfare and public acknowledgement.
At the durbar, illegal mining, otherwise known as ‘galamsey’, which has become rampant in the Kyebi area, became a highly contentious issue, with the Okyenhene, Osagyefuo Amoatia Ofori Panin, blaming government officials for doing little to stamp out the canker which he said had the potential to “destroy the environment and the ecosystem”.
The Okyenhene said government had the ultimate power to deal with any person or group of persons who undertook these illegal activities because any mineral in Ghana was held in trust of the people by the government; therefore the government which owned it had to take all measures to protect such minerals from individuals who were bent on “stealing them”.
“We chiefs have become the whipping boys and everybody is blaming us for these galamsey operations but we do not have the coercive power to curb these things and I want to plead with the government to help Nananom to decapitate these criminal activities which could destroy the environment,” he said, adding that the government could use security agents to enforce the laws.
“People are saying it is chiefs who have been selling lands to these illegal miners for them to mine but I want to urge the government to arrest chiefs who give lands illegally to these galamsey people,” he said.
He also used the occasion to deny recent allegations that he was behind illegal mining activities in and around Kyebi, saying that such allegations were coming from people who were jealous of his achievements as Okyenhene and an environmentalist in his 10-year reign.
“Mr vice president, in recent times, you have been hearing news all over that I am behind galamsey operations here. I have been vilified as someone who preaches virtue and practises vice as an environmentalist and I can assure you that all these allegations are false because when I was installed as the Okyenhene in 1999, I gave my word as someone who would help preserve the our environment, especially in my traditional area but it is unfortunate that some people want to destroy that integrity I have built for myself,” he pointed out.
He added that to prove that he was committed to fighting environmental degradation, he had established the University College of Agriculture and Environment at Bonsu, which is the first if its kind to be established by a traditional ruler.
The vice president, for his part, pointed out that the same chiefs or traditional leaders had been frustrating government efforts to stamp out these criminal activities.
“We have instances where sheep have been slaughtered by some traditional leaders to invoke curses on soldiers and policemen who go to arrest these illegal miners,” he noted.
He said the rate at which these galamsey operations were taking place was alarming and that very soon, Abuakwa, which boasted of virgin forest, would become a savannah plain land.
“As government, we are prepared to halt these criminal activities and if as chiefs you would resolve to co-operate with, us we can get somewhere,” he indicated.
Mr Mahama said the chieftaincy institution could help bring negative or positive development; therefore chiefs should use their positions to bring positive change in their traditional areas.
The vice president used the occasion to assure the gathering that the government would do everything to ensure that there was free and fair general elections next December and called on all political leaders to eschew message of violence in their campaigns because Ghana was regarded as the beacon of democracy in Africa.
Source: Thomas Fosu Jnr, Kyebi
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