Opinion: Prosecute Tarkwa small-scale mining assailants to ensure citizen protection – Dr. Solomon Owusu tells Govt

I write to draw the attention of the Ghana government and some heads of the law enforcement institutions, including the Attorney-General, the Chief Justice, the National Security Minister and the Interior Minister to ensure that justice is served in the recent riot in Tarkwa area among two small-scale mining groups that led to the death of one person and recorded degrees of injuries. The unfortunate deadly incident happened when some assailants and murderers bushwhacked a businessman-cum-licensed small-scale miner, Mr. Emmanuel Kutubebi and his security team on the Bonsaso-Tarkwa road in the Western Region. In my view, considering the seriousness of the matter, it should be expeditiously probed and all the perpetrators subsequently prosecuted with a long term of imprisonment to calm down nerves as well as avoiding any potential civil disorder.

This despicable crime gives cause for concern, especially as it relates to the safety and security of the citizens. As a mining consultant and a researcher, I am well informed that injustices in dealing with natural resources minor conflicts have triggered into devastating civil wars in some countries. Studies have shown that such heightened unrests have been difficult to resolve within a short time, as they sometimes take years. Notable among the countries where natural resources linked to their civil wars include DR Congo, 1996 (gold, diamond, copper, coltan); Angola, 1975 (diamond, oil); Liberia, 1989 (gold, diamond, iron); Sierra Leone, 1991 (diamond); Sudan, 1953 (oil); Cambodia, 1978 (gems); Morocco, 1975 (oil, phosphate); Colombia, 1984 (gold, oil); Indonesia, 1969 (gold, copper); Papua New Guinea, 1988 (gold, copper); Afghanistan, 1978 (gems, opium) and Burma, 1949 (gems, tin, opium).

I developed interest in following up on this case, after listening to the Tarkwa Police Commander’s briefing on Adom FM. According to Superintendent George Andrew Kumah, guys from one mining group crossed the other on the Tarkwa-Bonsaso highway to cause the attack and the riot began in the process. During the radio interview, the police officer said dangerous weapons that were retrieved from the assailants included 2 foreign pistols, 10 machetes, 2 jackknives and a pump action gun. The gunmen were led by Mr. Mohammed Awal, popularly known as Apakaloo, who was severely injured during the riot and currently receiving treatment at Korle-bu Teaching Hospital in Accra under police guard. It should be noted that a natural resource is a blessing to a nation but it can equally be a curse if not properly managed.

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Narrating his ordeal on the matter during a press conference held in Takoradi on Monday March 28, 2022, Mr. Emmanuel Kutubebi emphasized that the gunmen numbering about five (5) and led by Apakaloo attacked his team on the highway. In the attempt by his men to defend themselves, the security head of his group called Alhassan Ali, died in the struggle and the rest sustained various degrees of injuries. According to him, Apakaloo who was mentioned by the police officer is a known security team leader for a galamsey kingpin in Western Region called Nana Amponsah, popularly known as Okobeng. Emmanuel said the assailants who targeted him and his team were driving a white Toyota Corolla saloon car with registration number GM 8700-13. They used their car to cross his Toyota Landcruiser first but he managed to swerve them, escaped their trap and drove off to save his life, although they tried to chase him.

Unfortunately, as the assailants missed Emmanuel who was their target, they turned to attack his private security men who were driving behind him in a white pick-up truck. He further stated that he was surprised that people are trying to link the barbaric act with the Deputy Lands and Natural Resources Minister in Charge of Mining, Hon. George Mireku Duker, who doubles as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Tarkwa-Nsuem Constituency in the Western Region. According to him, his small-scale mining business had no connectivity with the work of the Minister. Emmanuel added that he formed a security team for protection, after Okobeng himself and some assailants earlier threatened to kill him with evidence of their purported voices presently at the police custody in Tarkwa.

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Ghanaians can recall that in December 2021, the police in Tarkwa and Takoradi arrested alleged assassination plotters who attempted to kill Mr. Emmanuel Kutubebi and another person called Mr. Adjei Ben. During the police interrogations, the attempted murderers mentioned that Okobeng truly contracted them to cause the planned murder. In the investigative process, the police intercepted the phone conversation between Okobeng and the gunmen. During their conversations, Okobeng categorically stated that he had given them the killing assignment to execute and he promised to provide the assailants with an additional pump action gun to help speed up the killing job. Furthermore, Okobeng instructed the gunmen to monitor Emmanuel’s locations and kill him.

In the tape, Okobeng mentioned that upon killing either Emmanuel Kutubebi or Adjei Ben, he believed nobody could compete with him concerning a mining concession that they were battling for. He could envisage that the rest of the small-scale miners would be terrified to enter the site. The police upon receiving the purported voice arraigned Okobeng and the assailants before the Takoradi Circuit Court “A” on Tuesday, January 11, 2022 and charged them with conspiracy to commit murder. Surprisingly, the Judge granted all of them bail which came as a shock to lots of Tarkwa residents. Some people in the Tarkwa areas had earlier predicted that the court might discharge them because of Okobeng’s wealth and his strong political connections in the NPP government.

After listening to the tape on the attempted assassination, Emmanuel petitioned the Tarkwa police for protection but his request was denied, as the police responded that they could not assign a police officer to him because of unavailability of adequate personnel. Based on the police response, Emmanuel organized private men to protect him and his family. Now the big questions are as follows:

  1. On what basis did the court grant bail to persons involved in attempted murder case, after the voice captured on a tape showed that there was truly a planned assassination attempt?
  2. Why did the Judge grant them bail in the first place, knowing that the assailants and their sponsor, Okobeng were dangerous individuals who could cause murder?
  3. Is Okobeng above the law, such that he could be allowed to kill people because of his political affiliation?
  4. If Okobeng and his allied assailants were not granted bail, would this unfortunate riot that led to death, injuries and damages happen?
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These two separate cases have proved that Okobeng and his group members have been putting lives around the Tarkwa area in danger, hence the laws must deal stringently with them. Inability to strictly apply the rules will completely infringe upon the rights of the deceased family and the other people who received various degrees of injuries. Also Mr. Emmanuel Kutubebi’s life as well as his family will continuously be put in danger, if these assailants are left off the hook. On a more serious note, any unreasonable outcome from this murder case may push other citizens to take the law into their own hands and repeat similar barbaric and despicable acts. This can lead to a serious uncontrollable open lawlessness in the Tarkwa area and the nation as a whole.

Finally, murderers pose national security threats to every nation and the law enforcement agencies, including the Police, the National Investigative Bureau and the Judiciary should take keen interest in this particular case to ensure that justice is served in this matter. Failure to enforce the laws to demonstrate that these institutions are constitutionally sanctioned to fight crimes, protect the citizens and ensure effective security in the country, can set dangerous precedence for the current and future generations. In my humble opinion, the entire galamsey problems in Ghana should be properly addressed as soon as possible to prevent any potential public disturbances as they happened to other countries. Concerned Ghanaians across the world are all anxiously monitoring this case from afar. God bless our homeland Ghana.

Written by: Solomon K. A. Owusu, PhD, Colorado, USA