The Okyenhene, Osagyefuo Amoatia Ofori Panin, is demanding an immediate apology from the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) for wrongfully accusing him of engaging in ‘galamsey’ activities.
That followed a BNI report which named the chief among scores of other chiefs from eight regions of the country as being engaged in illegal mining activities.
It stated that it had in an official communication responded to a Criminal Investigations Department of the Ghana Police Service that the Okyeman Environment Brigade had been disbanded and that a purported activity by a group calling itself “Okyenhene Task Force” could not be related to the Ofori Panin Palace and formed the basis of a report.
The statement further said the Okyenhene had publicly expressed his opposition to mining of any kind, small scale or large scale, adding: “The Okyenhene does not control the Army or the Police. We wish to state that the BNI has failed in its duty to the state.”
It indicated that it would have served the national interest if the BNI had focused on the failure of the security agencies to fight the menace and not to “recklessly accuse the Ofori Panin Stool of complicity in the galamsey menace”.
The statement expressed its appreciation to the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr John-Peter Amewu, for his intervention in setting the record straight.
Ministry exonerates Okyenhene
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources has exonerated the Okyenhene and his palace from any illegal mining in the Kibi area.
“The Okyenhene’s Foundation has rather been at the forefront of the fight against illegal mining and the ministry will continue to urge the Okyenhene, his foundation and other traditional authorities to continue supporting this necessary fight to save the environment,” a statement issued by the ministry in Accra said.
The statement said the ministry had taken notice of media publications that the BNI had, in a report, mentioned the Okyenhene’s palace as “perceived to be behind illegal mining activities in the Kyebi area”.
It said media publications further reported that members of an anti-illegal mining task force purportedly linked to the Okyenhene’s palace “allegedly extort monies from illegal miners in the area”.
“The ministry hereby informs the general public that the said BNI report only recorded a said perception against the Okyenhene’s palace.
“It did not accuse the Okyenhene or the palace of being in any way complicit in illegal mining activities.
“Checks by this ministry indicate that the last known environmental protection task force from the palace was disbanded over three years ago,” the statement said.
The statement said while the ministry welcomed the support of responsible community action against illegal mining, “we, however, are concerned about the activities of certain individuals and groups who choose to exploit the situation for ill gains. “We are cautioning them to desist from such activities which compromise the fight against illegal mining,” it added.
A security report accusing some prominent Ghanaians of engaging in illegal mining activities in the country stirred controversy, as those named categorically debunked the report and described it as lacking merit.
The BNI, in a recent 31-page report, named scores of chiefs, individuals and organisations from eight regions of the country as allegedly engaged in galamsey activities.
Prominent individuals accused
It accused Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panin; the Member of Parliament (MP) for Talensi, Mr B.T. Baba; and other personalities of alleged complicity in galamsey.
The report named the areas where illegal mining activities were widespread in as the Ashanti, Eastern, Brong Ahafo, Central, Northern, Upper East and Upper West regions.
It alluded to the threat posed to water bodies as a result of galamsey and said the Birim River that served many communities in the Eastern Region was under serious threat.