U.S.-based Ghanaian legal practitioner, Prof Stephen Kwaku Asare, has warned the government it risks incurring huge judgement debts with its decision to burn excavators suspected to be used for illegal mining.
The Accounting Professor, known popularly as Prof Azar, said the governmentâ€™s insistence to burn the excavators also amounts to tampering with evidence.
â€œWhen the executive decides to burn excavators outside the lawful process, it gifts the owners a cause of action that will result in the payment of judgment debts. It is no defense for the Republic that it suspected that the excavators were being used to pollute our rivers,â€ he posted on Facebook.
Already some small-scale mining companies, with legal mining concessions, have issued statements to say their excavators have been torched, without cause.
Xtra-Gold Mining Limited, a licensed small-scale mining company in the Atiwa West District of the Eastern Region expressed frustration over the burning of 16 of its excavators and a bulldozer by military personnel attached to the Operation Halt.
The company said the development was a violation of the rule of law.
It said despite paying â€œbig moneyâ€ in royalties and taxes to the government, it had its equipment destroyed.
â€œThese unlawful actions are a clear violation of the rule of law,â€ the company said in a press statement issued on Monday, May 17, 2021.
As part of Operation Halt, the second phase of a national clampdown on illegal mining, the government has stated that all seized equipment used in the illegal activity will be set on fire.
Defence Minister, Dominic Nitiwul, said excavators and other equipment seized by military officers deployed to illegal mining sites will be burned and would not be transported to Accra.
â€œWe are not seizing any equipment, no equipment will be returned home, they will all be destroyed on-site. No excavator, nothing will come back home,â€ he said at a press conference in Accra on Friday, April 30.
Scores of excavators have been set alight so far.
In the past, seized excavators seized at illegal mining sites that were transported to Accra had gotten missing under inexplicable circumstances, a justification for persons supporting the decision by the government to burn them this time around.
Despite this, legal practitioners and some interest groups have said it is still illegal to set the seized excavators to fire.
â€œEvidence will be needed to prosecute these people and the excavators are part of that evidence. Burning the excavators will not only make it difficult to prosecute the galamsayers, it is also tampering with evidence.
â€œThe system of government that we voted to operate does not allow the minister or the executive to suspect and decide that excavators are being used unlawfully and punish the excavators on that determination,â€ parts of Prof Azarâ€™s post on Facebook stated.
Read his full post below.