Gangs of illegal small-scale miners operating at Anwia in the Ellembelle District of the Western Region have accused some New Patriotic Party (NPP) executives of failing to protect their “illegal mining operations” after collecting huge sums of monies from them.
They point accusing fingers at the Constituency Chairman, Samuel Atito Kenya, Constituency Secretary John Nwolley and one drone pilot – whose name was only given as Ntiakoh – as persons who have been collecting a bi-weekly amount of GH¢10, 000 from seven separate gangs operating at the site “for protection”.
“I was the first person who came to Anwia and I must admit I started the operations illegally. Some of my gang members were arrested. So, I approached the Constituency Chairman Atito for help. At that time, they were preparing for parliamentary primaries so he asked me to wait. After the primaries we met with him, the Constituency Secretary Mr. Nwolley and others. The agreement was that they will offer us protection from IMCIM, Operation Vanguard and other forms of threats. But they will collect GH¢25, 000 every two weeks. We pleaded and finally settled on GH¢10, 000. So, since last year, we have been paying that amount to them every two weeks,” Kofi Akakpo, leader of the gangs, told a team of journalists at Anwia.
He added that “before I could say jack, other gangs had pitched camp around and were mining. I asked and they told me they are paying GH¢10,000 to the Chairman and his group. In the course of our operations, some of us became headstrong and extend the activities close to the road. We became too exposed. Apparently, the DCE became aware and caused the arrest of some of our members. So, I personally called Chairman Atito about our predicament and he told me to call his Secretary, Nwolley, as he had travelled at that time. But the Secretary called me himself minutes after and told me to come to the party office with GH¢30, 000. He told me that part of the money will be used to bail those arrested. I got confused and told him that already we have been paying for protection so why should we pay again. He snapped and told me that if I don’t pay, they will not help. That was the last I heard from him because I told him we will not pay”.
Mr. Akakpo said after some deliberations among the gang leaders, they decided to approach the DCE for the area, Kwasi Bonzo, for clemency for those arrested.
“The DCE had only one message for us when we met him. He told us to go and fill all the pits we have created at Anwia. We told him we wanted a piece of land for community mining. But he insisted that we backfill the pits before we can start any discussion on community mining. We agreed and went to start the filling. One week into the exercise, Chairman Atito and some people came to the site, accused us of illegal mining and seized the drums of diesel we were using for the reclamation exercise. All of us were surprised because the Chairman and his people were aware of what was going on at Anwia. Our conclusion of what was happening was that the Chairman was peeved because we told him we will not pay any money when his Secretary demanded and also the fact that we were dealing with the DCE to help us formalize our operations here.”
He vehemently denied allegations that the miners were rather paying the DCE the bi-weekly amount of GH¢10, 000.
“Last week Chairman Nwolley was on radio alleging that the DCE has towed the machines here and is collecting GH¢10, 000 from us. That is false. You can ask all the gang leaders here whether some of them have even seen the DCE before. Any money we have ever paid went to the Chairman and his people. The only time the DCE came in was when we approached him after Chairman Atito and his people failed to help us when the DCE came to arrest us. These machines you see here are purely for the reclamation that the DCE told us to do. We are no more mining. We have brought you journalists here to come and witness things for yourselves. You can go to town and talk to the gold buyers if any of the gangs here have sold gold to them recently.”
Some members of the gangs operating in the area vowed to rain curses on the Chairman and his people if he continues to accuse people who know nothing about their earlier arrangement, insisting that “we have never given any money to the DCE or anyone associated to him but rather to Chairman Atito and his people”.
In a telephone conversation, both the constituency chairman and his secretary vehemently denied the claims by the illegal miners.
According to them, after the miners were arrested they were later released without their knowledge.
Those who were arrested later told them that they have the backing of a “higher authority” and so are untouchable.
The two questioned why the same miners who were earlier arrested for illegal mining be the same people who are made to do the reclamation.
When 3news.com went to the mining area, three excavators and one bulldozer were seen busily filling the mined-out area. An area, the size of about 5 football pitches, had already been reclaimed.
Napoleon Arthur, who claimed to have been trained at UMaT for Community Mining, said they have assured the DCE that the reclamation exercise will be completed within one month.
“As you can see, they have been able to cover a large area. They have used GH¢19, 000 out of an initial budget of GH¢25, 000 for this exercise. They are working assiduously to resort this area. Once this work is done, we can then begin the discussion to bring all their activities under government’s Community Mining programme.”
By Eric Yaw Adjei|3news.com|Ghana