Wednesday, August 16, 2017

 Galamsey fire dragons must not dare cool ocean octopuses

By Mawutodzi Kodzo Abissath

How illegal miners take risks to endanger their lives
Our ancestors used their native wisdom to caution: “Never put your finger tip into the fangs or mouth of a snake that does not bite.”
On Monday, July 31, 2017 the youthful Ghana’s Defence Minister, Hon. Dominic Nitiwul demonstrated the wisdom of King Solomon when he wisely advised residents of galamsey ravaged communities in the country not to provoke soldiers and police officers being assigned to their areas. He gave the warning in the lions’ den at the Burma Camp in Accra where over 400 dreadful looking combined contingents of armed soldiers and police officers had gathered for the official launch of was dubbed as “Operation Vanguard”.
The world-acclaimed heart surgeon and Ghana’s Environment Minister, Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng who is also the Head of President Akufo-Addo’s Cabinet body of responsible eminent Ghanaians presented government’s strategy of tackling the galamsey challenges. Earlier on July 10, 2017 the President addressed a galamsey forum of traditional authorities in Accra and announced that plans were afoot to ‘arrest the galamsey menace and preserve our heritage’, as he put it.  
In this article, I shall pretend to be seen as one of the Environmental ‘Watch Dogs’ of Ghana, and add my  insignificant voice to that of the Defence Minister to humbly appeal to our brothers and sisters in galamsey devastated communities to respect the authority of the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Ghana Armed Forces, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo. They should be mindful of the fact that the President has put a rope around the neck of his presidency, and vowed to stop illegal mining in Ghana once and for all.  All law-abiding galamsey engineers should heed the Defence Minister’s call and do nothing to provoke the already disturbed peace loving Ghanaian soldiers. Please do not dare them! They not there to brutalize you, but to protect you and the future of your children yet unborn.  
 “The entire country is behind the 400 soldiers and police officers to be stationed across three regions, namely Ashanti, Eastern and Western,” the Defence Minister reiterated. Then he cautioned repeatedly that no seven-headed-fire-spilling galamsey dragon should provoke the sleeping octopus in the person of the calm, cool and self-disciplined peaceful Ghanaian soldier. Ghanaian soldiers don’t like ‘gidigidi’or ‘basabasa koraaa oooo’! I beg you oooo! But if you attempt to put your finger into their nose, they will not smile at you at all. I know them very well!
 Other authorities who spoke for the Commander-in-Chief on that occasion included the Interior Minister, Hon. Ambrose Dery, the Environment Minister as mentioned above, and the Minister for Information Mr. Mustapha Abdul-Hamid was there. Many people might not know the role Mr. Abdul-Hamid has been   playing behind the scene for the success story of the Media Coalition against galamsey so far.
Above all, the Chief of Dense Staff Major General Akwa and the Inspector General of Police, Mr. David Asante-Apeatu all spoke to the military cum police battalion against galamsey at the Burma Camp Operation Vanguard launch ceremony. They all gingered but urged the contingent to be fair but firm and carry out their duties a professionally as possible. “You are not there to brutalize the people”, they were reminded.  “But you reserve the right to defend yourselves with commensurate force if your lives are put at risk”. They were also cautioned not to allow their selfish interest to blind them in  collecting  mouth-watering gifts from powerful galamsey pay masters.   
The fate that befell the late Major Mahama at Denkyira Obuasi is still fresh in Ghanaians’ minds. This is why our brothers and sisters of galamsey kingdoms should not play any tricks with soldiers and police officers on duty in their communities. 
The truth is that Government is not saying that unemployed hungry youth should not engage in small-scale mining to feed themselves and their loved ones.  NO! No Government of Ghana has ever denied Ghanaian citizens the right to engage in small scale mining. What they have always said, and which Nana Akufo-Addo’s government is also stressing is that, if you are a Ghanaian and wants to engage in small-scale mining, please do so in accordance with the laws of the land. If care is not taken it is only lawlessness that may lead this peaceful country into a ditch one day. “Torfiakwa!” As for foreigners, whether you are from America, Australia, China, Burkina Faso or Nigeria, please keep your contaminated galamsey hands off Ghana’s small-scale extractive industry. Period! The lawd do not permit you to do so.
The law governing operations of small-scale gold miners
The Small-Scale Gold Mining Act, 1989, (PNDC Law, 218) among other things stipulates, …“A person licensed to mine gold under this Act may win, mine and produce gold by aneffective and efficient method and shall in the operations observe good mining practices, health and safety rules, and pay due regard to the protection of the environment.”
This Act was issued as far back as on19th day of April, 1989 and notified in the Gazette on 2nd June, 1989. It has been in operation for nearly 30 years now without “wahala.”  Why must it take Government to deploy 400 strong battalion of soldiers and police officers today to enforce this law as if Ghana was going to war against some terrible terrorists from unknown planet? Something must have gone wrong somewhere. And our elders say: “A child, who doesn’t want the mother to sleep, will also not sleep either.
Since April this year when the Media coalition against galamsey advocacy was launched under the leadership of the Graphic Communications Group Limited (GCGL), the entire media in Ghana have proved beyond doubt that, it is not for nothing that Edmund Burke, a member of the House of Commons of the then Great Britain, in parliamentary debate, described the press as ‘the Fourth Estate of the realm or governance in 1787.  Thus, any person or group of persons who joke with the media do so at their own peril. Have you heard the saying “the pen is mightier than the sword?”
Why should Ghana be like any war-torn country?
It appears because some people of modern Ghana have never seen war with their naked eyes before,  they seem to wish  Ghana could go to war against itself one day.  But Ghanaian soldiers who have been participating in UN Peace-keeping operations since 1960s the know the anatomy of wars. So, they have been praying that their country should never experience wars.
 It is alleged that a certain group calling itself Association of Small Scale Miners in the Ashanti Region had threatened that “Ghana will be like Ivory Coast if they prevent us from visiting our sites”. It was against that background that Ghana’s Defence Minister issued a stern warning that residents of ravaged galamsey communities should not provoke our brothers and sisters in uniforms when deployed.
In Ghanaian culture, it is believed that when an elderly person is in the house, children are not allowed to engage in deadly fighting that may lead to maiming or killing of one another. The Ga will rhetorically ask: “Onukpa be dzen loo”? The Akan would say: “Opany ni fieho aanaa”? And the Ewe would put it this way: “Tsoo – ametsitsiadeke mele afima oo haaa?”
I have laboured to quote these traditional idiomatic expressions in their respective local dialects, even though the spellings might not be perfect. But the philosophy behind them is for the attention of Ghanaian traditional authorities. I wish to politely refresh their memories that when the President addressed them at the galamsey forum on July 10, 2017, he appealed to them to support him to eliminate galamsey.
Nana opined that, because traditional authorities are the custodians of all lands in Ghana, they have a responsibility to help stop galamsey.  As the elders of the nation, traditional authorities cannot sit down unconcerned while the youths in their communities may attempt to confront or provoke soldiers and police officers stationed in the areas of galamsey operations. They should remember Denkyira Obuasi.
Suggestion for consideration
First, all paramount chiefs in galamsey-prone regions should quickly summon their sub-chiefs and inform them about the coming of the anti-galamsey friendly battalions. Then the sub-chiefs in turn, should hold durbars or town hall meetings for their people, especially the youths and counsel them accordingly. They should reason out with them that Ghana Government is not against them. Rather, Government’s actions are meant to protect them and the future of their own children to get good food to eat, potable water to drink and fresh air to breathe.
 Thus, when they see the soldiers and police officers coming, they should run away, rather go towards them and make them “aaatuuu” like the savior. They should help them to flush out all illegal miners be they local or foreigners. But for heaven sake, they should not provoke the soldiers and police officers who are their fellow Ghanaians.

The author works with Information Services Department ISD abissath@gmail.com

Friday, August 4, 2017

THOSE GALAMSEY DEMONS MUST OBEY THE ORDERS OF OUR COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF OR ELSE...

By Mawutodzi Kodzo Abissath

Some of the galamsey combatants charged for action
Do you remember what happened to Satan and his bunch of demonic angels in heaven when they disobeyed the orders of God? (See Ezekiel 28:12-19 and Isaiah 14:12-14).
And our elders say: “If you see evil and do nothing, or say nothing against it, it will destroy you.”  It is for this reason that, if for nothing at all, concrete measures taken by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, Commander-in-Chief of the Ghana Armed Forces within six months of his administration to combat the evils of galamsey or illegal mining in Ghana are commendable. 
On Monday, July 31, 2017 the youthful Ghana’s Defence Minister, Hon. Dominic Nitiwul demonstrated the wisdom of King Solomon when he wisely advised residents of galamsey ravaged communities in the country not to provoke soldiers and police officers being assigned to their areas. He gave the warning in the lions’ den at the Burma Camp in Accra where over 400 dreadful looking combined contingents of armed soldiers and police officers had gathered for the official launch of what was dubbed “Operation Vanguard”.
The world-acclaimed heart surgeon and Ghana’s Environment Minister, Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng who is also the Head of President Akufo-Addo’s Cabinet body of responsible eminent Ghanaians presented government’s strategy of tackling the galamsey challenges. Earlier on July 10, 2017 the President addressed a galamsey forum of traditional authorities in Accra and announced that plans were afoot to ‘arrest the galamsey menace and preserve our heritage’, as he put it.
In this article, I shall pretend to be seen as one of the Environmental ‘Watch Dogs’ of Ghana, and add my  insignificant voice to that of the Defence Minister to humbly appeal to our brothers and sisters in galamsey devastated communities to respect the authority of the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Ghana Armed Forces, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo. They should be mindful of the fact that the President has put a rope around the neck of his presidency, and vowed to stop illegal mining in Ghana once and for all.  All law-abiding galamsey engineers should heed the Defence Minister’s call and do nothing to provoke the already disturbed peace loving Ghanaian soldiers. Please do not dare them! They are not there to brutalize you, but to protect you and the future of your children yet unborn.
“The entire country is behind the 400 soldiers and police officers to be stationed across three regions, namely Ashanti, Eastern and Western,” the Defence Minister reiterated. Then he cautioned repeatedly that no seven-headed-fire-spilling galamsey dragon should provoke the sleeping octopus in the person of the calm, cool and self-disciplined peaceful Ghanaian soldier. Ghanaian soldiers don’t like ‘gidigidi’or ‘basabasa koraaa oooo’! I beg you oooo! But if you attempt to put your finger into their nose, they will not smile at you at all. I know them very well!
Other authorities who spoke for the Commander-in-Chief on that occasion included the Interior Minister, Hon. Ambrose Dery, the Environment Minister as mentioned above, and the Minister for Information Mr. Mustapha Abdul-Hamid was there. Many people might not know the role Mr. Abdul-Hamid has been   playing behind the scene for the success story of the Media Coalition against galamsey so far.
Above all, the Chief of Dense Staff Major General Akwa and the Inspector General of Police, Mr. David Asante-Apeatu all spoke to the military cum police battalion against galamsey at the Burma Camp Operation Vanguard launch ceremony. They all gingered but urged the contingent to be fair but firm and carry out their duties as professionally as possible. “You are not there to brutalize the people”, they were reminded.  “But you reserve the right to defend yourselves with commensurate force if your lives are put at risk”. They were also cautioned not to allow their selfish interest to blind them in collecting mouth-watering gifts from powerful galamsey pay masters. 
The fate that befell the late Major Mahama at Denkyira Obuasi is still fresh in Ghanaians’ minds. This is why our brothers and sisters of galamsey kingdoms should not play any tricks with soldiers and police officers on duty in their communities.
The truth is that Government is not saying that unemployed hungry youth should not engage in small-scale mining to feed themselves and their loved ones.  NO! No Government of Ghana has ever denied Ghanaian citizens the right to engage in small scale mining. What they have always said, and which Nana Akufo-Addo’s government is also stressing is that, if you are a Ghanaian and wants to engage in small-scale mining, please do so in accordance with the laws of the land. If care is not taken it is only lawlessness that may lead this peaceful country into a ditch one day. “Torfiakwa!” As for foreigners, whether you are from America, Australia, China, Burkina Faso or Nigeria, please keep your contaminated galamsey hands off Ghana’s small-scale extractive industry. Period! The laws do not permit you to do so.
The law governing operations of small-scale gold miners
The Small-Scale Gold Mining Act, 1989, (PNDC Law, 218) among other things stipulates, …“A person licensed to mine gold under this Act may win, mine and produce gold by an effective and efficient method and shall in the operations observe good mining practices, health and safety rules, and pay due regard to the protection of the environment.”
This Act was issued as far back as on 19th day of April, 1989 and notified in the Gazette on 2nd June, 1989. It has been in operation for nearly 30 years now without “wahala.”  Why must it take Government to deploy 400 strong battalion of soldiers and police officers today to enforce this law as if Ghana was going to war against some terrible terrorists from unknown planet? Something must have gone wrong somewhere. And our elders say: “A child, who doesn’t want the mother to sleep, will also not sleep either.
Since April this year when the Media coalition against galamsey advocacy was launched under the leadership of the Graphic Communications Group Limited (GCGL), the entire media in Ghana have proved beyond doubt that, it is not for nothing that Edmund Burke, a member of the House of Commons of the then Great Britain, in parliamentary debate, described the press as ‘the Fourth Estate of the realm or governance in 1787.  Thus, any person or group of persons who joke with the media do so at their own peril. Have you heard the saying “the pen is mightier than the sword?”
Why should Ghana be like any war-torn country?
It appears because some people of modern Ghana have never seen war with their naked eyes before,  they seem to wish  Ghana could go to war against itself one day.  But Ghanaian soldiers who have been participating in UN Peace-keeping operations since the 1960s, they know the anatomy of wars. So, they have been praying that their country should never experience wars.
It is alleged that a certain group calling itself Association of Small Scale Miners in the Ashanti Region had threatened that “Ghana will be like Ivory Coast if they prevent us from visiting our sites”. It was against that background that Ghana’s Defence Minister issued a stern warning that residents of ravaged galamsey communities should not provoke our brothers and sisters in uniforms when deployed.
In Ghanaian culture, it is believed that when an elderly person is in the house, children are not allowed to engage in deadly fighting that may lead to maiming or killing of one another. The Ga will rhetorically ask: “Onukpa be dzen loo”? The Akan would say: “Opany ni fieho aanaa”? And the Ewe would put it this way: “Tsoo – ametsitsiadeke mele afima oo haaa?”
I have laboured to quote these traditional idiomatic expressions in their respective local dialects, even though the spellings might not be perfect. But the philosophy behind them is for the attention of Ghanaian traditional authorities. I wish to politely refresh their memories that when the President addressed them at the galamsey forum on July 10, 2017, he appealed to them to support him to eliminate galamsey.
Nana opined that, because traditional authorities are the custodians of all lands in Ghana, they have a responsibility to help stop galamsey.  As the elders of the nation, traditional authorities cannot sit down unconcerned while the youths in their communities may attempt to confront or provoke soldiers and police officers stationed in the areas of galamsey operations. They should remember Denkyira Obuasi.
Suggestion for consideration

First, all paramount chiefs in galamsey-prone regions should quickly summon their sub-chiefs and inform them about the coming of the anti-galamsey friendly battalions. Then the sub-chiefs in turn, should hold durbars or town hall meetings for their people, especially the youths and counsel them accordingly. They should reason out with them that Ghana Government is not against them. Rather, Government’s actions are meant to protect them and the future of their own children to get good food to eat, potable water to drink and fresh air to breathe.
Thus, when they see the soldiers and police officers coming, they should not run away, but rather go towards and make them “aaatuuu” like the savior. They should help them to flush out all illegal miners be they local or foreigners. But for heaven sake, they should not provoke the soldiers and police officers assigned to combat galamsey. The orders of the Commander-in-Chief of the Republic must be obeyed in the interest of Ghana.  Period!
The author works with Information Services Department ISD abissath@gmail.com


Monday, July 17, 2017

Ghanaian traditional authorities and the funeral rites of galamsey

By Mawutodzi Kodzo Abissath

President Nana  Akufo-Addo interacting with traditional authorities 
Can some smart evangelist quickly crosscheck this passage in the Bible - Mark 8:36? I paraphrase: “For what inheritance shall a traditional ruler bestow his descendants if he accumulates all the ‘Chinese Dollars’ in the globe but desecrates the forests and rivers bequeathed him by his ancestors?”
On Monday, 10 July, 2017, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo elevated the spirit of the fight against galamsey to another level. It was on that day that the President proclaimed: “I WILL PUT MY PRESIDENCY ON LINE TO STOP GALAMSEY,” emphasis mine. I dare opine that this presidential declaration has supplied afresh oxygen to the initiative of the media coalition against galamsey launched on Tuesday, 4 April, 2017. May the gods of the environment bless the President.
In this article, I shall try  to play the role of an environmental Okyeame to interpret and amplify the voice of the President as an environmental Paramount King who sent two bottles of schnapps to announce the death of galamsey and  appealed to his colleague traditional authorities to support him to give a befitting burial to the departed spirit of galamsey.
Vision of media coalition against galamsey
Some observers are of the opinion that the vision and philosophy behind the  advocacy of media coalition against galamsey today may take some souls the next 2000 years to appreciate it  because  their action is not only meant for the present but the future generations as well.
Fortunately for Ghana, President Nana Akufo-Addo’s pronouncement indicates that he is in tune with the Ghanaian media as far as the galamsey menace is corned. And I can place my right  hand over my heart and  pledge  that if  this government succeeds in conquering galamsey once and for all, the President’s declaration quoted above  will become legendary like what Osagyfo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah said 60 years ago at independence. “Our independence is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of the African continent.”
In December 2000, BBC World Servicelisteners in Africa voted Kwame Nkrumah, their "Man of the Millennium". Continental survey indicated that it was largely due to that singular statement Nkrumah made about Ghana’s independence that placed him over and above other great leaders of the continent like Nelson Mandela of South Africa.
When the environmental Paramount King Nana, was addressing his colleague traditional authorities at that galamsey forum here in Accra, he stated, (…) “But we have also to recognize that as difficult as things have been and we are looking for employment and stuff, there are things that we cannot allow to happen and one of them is the heritage, the inheritance that our fathers  and our grandfathers, our great grandfathers bequeath to us especially the space, the Ghanaian  space which we all occupy. We have a duty to preserve it for those who are coming after us.” If this statement is not environmentally profound then I don’t know what it is.
Then President Nana Akufo-Addo continued, “And if our river bodies are drying up, our landscape is being desecrated, we here, leaders of our society,leaders of our nation, political leaders, traditional rulers, religious leaders, we have a responsibility to say NO; we can’t allow this to go on for our own common survival and the survival of those who are to come. We can if we allow it we are jeopardising our own future.” This sounds like Pope Francis speaking in June 2015 somewhere in the  world.
Patriotism of Nana Akufo-Addo
For the President to look directly into the faces of the most powerful monarchs in Ghana and state unequivocally that he was prepared to sacrifice his presidency  on the altar of galamsey speaks volume of the depth of his statesmanship and patriotism.
But that was not the first time Nana Akufo-Addo demonstrated his patriotism to Ghanaians. It will be recalled that in August 2013 during his post-verdict speech at the Supreme Court, the then Presidential candidate of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) said: “The Supreme Court of our nation has spoken and the result of the December 2012 presidential election has been confirmed as having been won by the candidate of the NDC, President Mahama.”
Then he added, “Although I was saddened by the decision, I accept that what the Court says brings finality to the election dispute. We shall not be asking for a review of the verdict so we can all move on in the interest of our nation.”  That statement made Nana then an instant global angel of democracy in Africa.
Again, at the galamsey forum the President reminded the chiefs,  …when I took the oath that I am  sworn into office  to protect the integrity of the nation, Ghana, I swore to uphold its constitution, its sovereignty, that is, the care of the nation, its people, its resources and its nature have been put to my  care temporarily as a trustee like the Nananom are trustees of the lands of which they occupy for their people. So you are at the national level a trustee of the lands and resources of our nation. So you ask yourselves, how best you can discharge this trust, do you sit back and say; “well all these young men don’t have anything to do so let it go on?”
A big challenge to traditional authorities
This was a big challenge the President had thrown to the traditional rulers if galamsey is to be stopped in Ghana. It is common knowledge that in Ghana, traditional rulers are not elected. They are leaders who were born with “divine rights” to rule over their subjects.Whenever they mount their thrones they wild monarchical powers and reserve the rights to rule until thy kingdom come. All lands in Ghana are held in trust by traditional rulers for the people of Ghana. They are highly revered in society. Therefore, they are the alpha and omega of the continuation or otherwise of galamsey in Ghana. That is what President Nana Akufo- Addo means when he said the traditional authorities have a responsibility to support the government to perform thefinal  funeral rites of galamsey one and for all.
The President cited a very embarrassing diplomatic incident suffered by the country to the amazement of some of the traditional authorities hearing it for the first time. The environmental Paramount King narrated the incident in a story telling format like this:
 Once upon a time, there lived a very prominent Ghanaian Professor Heart surgeon in Ogyakrom. The said famous heart operating engineer also became a Minister for Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation of his country.
Galamsey diplomatic embarrassment to Ghana
 One day the famous Professor who is also teaching at a medical school, went to Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire for a very important town hall durbar of chiefs and people in that country. After the durbar, the Professor was on his way to a certain junction to get a calabash of palm wine to quench his thirst.
Then just as the noble Professor was about to gulp the first throat full of the wine, without any protocol,some inquisitive ordinary mortals holding writing sticks, microphones, mobile phones and sorts of  modern communications gadgets, confronted him and started bombarding him with unnecessary environmental queries. “Why is your galamsey country polluting rivers in our land?” Why do you allow illegal mining taking place in Ghana affecting our water bodies, to the extent that we cannot treat water for our people to drink.?” Why, why, don’t you have control over the looting of precious minerals in your country?” Is it that is how you govern your nation?”
The President told the traditional authorities that the Ghanaian Professor felt very embarrassed, and very apologetic that the galamsey activities of Ghanaians was jeopardising the space of another fellow neigbour country in our sub-region.In fact, the Professor was so embarrassed that he could not even quaff the first calabash of palm wine in his hands.
Cabinet body to find solution to galamsey menace
So, when he came back to Ghana he reported the humiliation to the Commander-in-Chief of the Republic who sent him on that mission. Consequently, the President disclosed at the galamsey forum that the Government had composed a cabinet body of very responsible eminent Ghanaians headed by the same renowned Professor Kwabena Frimpong Boateng to try and arrest the galamsey menace to “preserve our heritage” once  and for all.

As a humble environmental “watch dog”, with particular sniffing for galamsey stench,this writer wishes to humbly suggest that Professor Frimpong Boateng Cabinet Committee must not allow the neck of President Akufo-Addo’s presidency to be led to the galamsey gallows to be truncated. Before they start their operations, they should endeavour to ascertain why ex-President Mahama’s inter-ministerial anti-galamsey taskforce disappointed Ghanaians in 2013.

The author works with Information Services Department (ISD)  abissath@gmail.com

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Ten Years of Oil Exploration: Has Ghana any Oil Spill Contingency Plan in Place?  

By Mawutodzi Kodzo Abissath

Training Workshop Participants at EPA Institute of Environmental Studies,
Amasaman, near Accra. 
A Ghanaian proverb advises: “A person who is sufficiently prepared for any eventuality is hardly overtaken by events.”
Gradually but steadily, Ghana is elbowing its way into a comity of nations where she could be described as an oil producing country. No matter how long it may take Ghana to actually join the cartel of those powerful nations on this planet of elegance known as Oil Producing Countries (OPEC), Ghanaians must be grateful and thankful to the Creator for the natural resources bestowed upon this land of their birth.
Out of 60 years of political independence so far, ten could be characterised as a decade of oil exploration.  It was in June 2007 that the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) led the Kosmos Energy of the USA and the E.O. Group of Companies to present the first bottle of sample crude oil to former President J.A. Kufuor at the Castle Osu, Accra.
President Kufuor was full of broad smiles when the sample oil was poured like honey into a plate for him to see. The temperature of public expectations of economic prosperity shot up to 99.9 degree centigrade. It was thought that with oil discovery in commercial quantities, all the economic woes of the nation were gone forever and ever. “Kpaaoo”!
Since then, three other Ghanaian Heads of State, namely, Prof. J.E.A. Mills, President J. D. Mahama and President Nana A.D. Akufo-Addo, have all had the privilege to switch on valves in December 2010, August 2016 and July 2017 of Floating, Production, Storage and Offloading (FPSO), for oil and gas to flow onto our blessed land.  It is ten years now. Are we still in that child like jubilation over oil and gas production in Ghana? Life remains miserable for the majority of Ghanaians. So, people are asking where the oil money is. “Naa sika nu wohi”?
The object of this article is not about jubilation and singing of hosanna halleluiah because Ghana has been producing oil and gas for the past ten years. Rather, to find out whether the country has any contingency plan in place to respond to oil spillage whenever disaster strikes?
As a layman in disaster management in general and oil spill response in particular, my only business here is to share some basic knowledge acquired at a training workshop organised by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for environmental stakeholders including the media recently. The workshop was held under the joint-collaboration of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), the Global Initiative for Western, Central and Southern Africa (GIWACAF) and the Global Oil and Gas Industry Association for Environmental and Social Issues (IPIECA), sponsored by some seven Oil Companies.

The event took place at the magnificent Institute of Environmental Studies – Ghana, located at Amasaman near Accra. It was themed: National Exercise to test the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan (NOSCP) from 27 – 30 June 2017.
Mercifully, it was gratifying to know that the Environmental Protection Agency, which is the statutory body established by the Environmental Protection Agency Act, 1994 (Act 490) was able to put in place a National Contingency Plan as far back as 1986 to combat pollution of the sea and the coastline by oil and other noxious and hazardous substances in the country.
Periodically, key stakeholders of the NOSCP have been embarking on some kinds of exercises with specific objectives. Records show that the last exercise on national oil spill contingency plan preparedness was conducted in March 2017 here in Accra.  The EPA in collaborated with Tullow Oil, the Ghana Armed Forces, especially the Navy and the Ghana Air Force Units and other stakeholders including the media participated in that exercise.
An Information Centre was created at the EPA Headquarters that handled the flow of information to the press and the public and feedback to the Navy Command Centre. The outcome of that exercise was fruitful and insightful indeed!
The Amasaman Training Workshop
The Amasaman Training workshop, as the theme indicates, was meant to do some practical exercise, dubbed “tabletop exercise” to test the NOSCP and to build on the previous work of improving and developing the country’s capacity to respond to oil spills. Two expatriate trainers from UK who served as resource persons included a veteran marine operation and emergency response expert of 40 years’ experience, Mr. Joe Small, who is also an IMPO/IPIECA Consultant. 
The other was Clément Chazot, GL WACAF Project Manager. The course content covered areas of Incident Management System (IMS), Incident Command Structure - involving advising, planning operations, logistics and finances, implementation response action plan, deployment of resources (people and equipment), and above all Incident Response Communications, which concerned the media.
Incident Response Communications
For the purpose of this article, I should like to dwell on the communications component of the training course for the benefit of media practitioners. We were told that during crisis, especially when oil spillage occurs at sea, information movement must take two dimensions, vertical - that is internally and horizontal – externally. But the flow of information to the media and the public must be carefully crafted in order not to create fear and panic.
Communications strategy ought to be planned in such a way that the incident response team should receive feedback or reactions from the media and the public while the rescue operations were on going at sea.  The best way to achieve this is to establish a Command Centre where various professionals including information and communication will be directing affairs. That is what is referred to in this context as Command Structure.
Information management during crisis situation demands that only one spokesperson must serve as a liaison between the emergency response team and the media and the public. Such a person must be knowledgeable and give accurate and concise information without doubling in technicalities to confuse media practitioners.
Experience has proved that most often, during emergency situations, people tend to engage in speculations, misinformation, distortions, manipulations and exaggerations. Everybody will report the incident from their own perceptions and understanding, especially on social media. This is why the communications professional at the command centre must be on top of issues and have facts and figures at his or her finger tips, but at the same time must give out only the appropriate information for public consumption.
Again, during oil spill incident, the communication plan must address priority issues. For example, when disaster occurs, the first thing to consider is human lives. While the rescue operations team must think of saving lives at sea, the communication response team too, must be sensitive to people’s emotions, and know their target audience. In Ghana, the way naked dead bodies are bundled and dangled around during disasters is not the best.  Body bags should be used for that purpose.
Table Top Exercise
Workshop participants broke into three groups with Group 1 made up of Command/Communications Centre under the leadership of the Ghana Navy; Group 2 Rescue Operations/Planning/Action Plan; and Group3 Administration/Finance /Logistic sections.  A case study was presented where imaginary Marine Vessels MV Onward Prince & MV Gulf Trader collided in Ghanaian waters off Tema. One of the vessels was badly damaged with casualties and thousands of tons of oil spills spreading very fast towards a fishing community at Ada on Ghana’s eastern coastline. That was the problem of the day.
Quickly, various environmental stakeholders were called for emergency response. A rescue operation was activated. On the part of the Incident Communications Response team a scenario was created where local canoe fishermen’s Association wrote to the Command Centre for information: “We hear reports of an oil spill off Tema. Can you advise us, urgently, of any dangers and the potential impacts on our livelihoods? We need reassurances that fishing can continue and that the revenue for our families is unaffected.”
This writer stood in for EPA’s Head of Public Relations who was responsible for information management between the media and the public. First a press release was issued giving relevant background information of the incident to both print and electronic media. Then it was advised that some EPA officials were quickly dispatched to the fishing community at Ada to have interpersonal communication with the chief fisherman and his people.
They were assured that indeed, the incident had occurred but rescue operations were activated to contain the situation.  They were assured that their fishing activities would not be affected in any way. Information Cinema Vans were also mobilised for street announcement and to educate the people about the incident in their own languages. But they were cautioned not to go near to the disaster zone for fishing.
While dealing with the local media and affected communities, Togolese authorities through the Gl WACAF Focal Point in that country also sent a dispatch to Ghana government:  “Understand you are dealing with an oil spill in your waters. Can you advise, urgently, the threat to Togolese waters and, if so, the timescales?”
In response, the Communications Response team drafted a Note Verbale for Ghana’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration for the Togolese Ambassador in Accra via Gl WACAF Focal Point to assure the country’s neighbours that everything was under control and that the spilled oil had been contained with booms; therefore, there was no cause for alarm.
Finally, Ghana’s Minister for Environment, Science and Technology and Innovation was invited to brief Parliament about the oil spill disaster and what was being done to address the situation. Here too, the Communications Response team was tasked to draft a statement for the Environmental Minister to report to Parliamentarians.
Indeed, the Amasaman training workshop was an eye opener. The rescue operations encountered some logistical challenges and lack of effective coordination among various stakeholders here and there. But some lessons were learnt.  And that was the essence of the Table Top Exercise to test the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan of Ghana.
The author works with Information Services Department. ISD abissath@gmail.com


Friday, June 30, 2017

Thinking of the environment @70 is a sign of ‘green wisdom’

By Mawutodzi Kodzo Abissath
Former President JJ Rawlings (middle) among the audience at the symposium
Photo Credit: Daily Graphic 
A Ghanaian proverb says: “Wisdom is not like gold which may be kept in a safe.” If you are a sage, it will reflect in your image.
Ghana is blessed not only with abundant natural resources but also with statesmen and women of wisdom. Some of the wise men and women of our land are not only those who possess grey hairs. For example, some of the young media gurus like Mr. Kenneth Ashigbey of the Graphic Communications Group (GCGP) and his leading collaborators of the Media Coalition against Galamsey Campaign have their heads impregnated with wisdom.
Verily, verily, I say unto you that the war being waged against illegal mining by the Ghanaian media today may not be appreciated by some egocentric elements of the extractive industry of the present generation. Rather, it will take some future generations about 300 years to clap for the media for saving their farmlands, forests, rivers and water bodies for posterity.  
In this article, I would like to touch briefly on the ingenuity of some past and present Ghanaian leaders with particular reference to former President Jerry John Rawlings who has just celebrated his 70th anniversary. I was fascinated when I heard that as part of activities marking his70th natal day, there was going to be a lecture on the environment. Indeed, there was a symposium, on a broad theme: Protecting and safeguarding the national environment for the future generations.
 I found this aspect of President Rawlings’s anniversary celebration very instructive and productive nationally. President Rawlings’s environmental consciousness has been elevated to that degree of consciousness where the nation must take note of. A Gambian proverb on the environment says, “A tree which is not taller than you cannot shade you.”
On Thursday, June 23, 2017, the Daily Graphic carried on its page 52, a story headlined, and “Lecture on environment held to celebrate JJ at 70 today.” That story reported by Dominic Moses Awiah & Timothy was illustrated with a photograph of audience made up of President Rawlings and his family members, Ambassador Victor Gbeho and Prof. Frimpong-Boateng, Minister for Environment Science, Technology and Innovation, who could be seen standing and addressing the audience.
The story placed emphasis on what Ghana’s Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, Mr. John Peter Amewu, who could be characterized as the general commanding the current fight against galamsey in the country. Mr. Amewu was reported to have outlined a number of interventions the government intended to put in place to protect the country’s environment for the future generations. As a student of Environmental studies, Minister Amewu’s words sound like music in my ears. The earlier those interventions including forests plantations, conservation of biodiversity and protection of water bodies among others are implemented the better for the sustainable development of our beloved nation.
Naturally, President Rawlings cannot be singled out to be the first Ghanaian leader to demonstrate genuine concern about environmental protection and preservation in Ghana.  However, if President Rawlings were like some other egocentric former or present African heads of state,(don’t get me wrong-  I am not saying he is incorruptible); he could have  decided to  embark upon some ‘huhudious’ vacation on some distant luxurious touristic island on this planet of vanity to enjoy his 70th birth day party.
The fact that he thought of the environment, and devoted this anniversary to the awareness creation of the environment alone qualifies him to be baptized as an environmental angel of Ghana. I would compare President Rawlings to Pope Francis and President Barak Obama as far as his environmental consciousness goes.
Some other Ghanaian leaders or personalities who demonstrated their sense of environmental concerns in the past included former UN Secretary-General Busumuru Kofi Annan, former President John Agyekum Kufuor, the immediate past President John Dramani Mahama and the current President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo. Here are some basic facts or evidences to illustrate my point:
In March 2016, Mr. Kofi Anna was the special guest of honour who opened a two-day international conference of African forests here in Ghana. The theme for that event was “Forest for the future of New Forest for Africa”. On that occasion, Mr. Kofi Annan lamented about illegal mining or ‘galamsey’ as well as illegal timber operations that were destroying Africa’s forest cover.  In fact, he disclosed that about 130 million hectares of Africa’s “forest cover has been lost since 1990.”
As for President Kufuor, his concerns about the environment and climate change caught so much   global attention that in December 2013, former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed him as UN Special Envoy on Climate Change, together with a former Prime Minister of Norway, Jens Stoltenberg to mobilize worldwide political will and action in an anticipation of a Climate Summit that was held in New York in 2014.
In September 2015, immediate past President John Mahama, too, was appointed Co-Chair with current Prime Minister of Norway, Ms Erna Solberg, to head a group of sixteen (16) eminent Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Advocates to support the Secretary-General in his efforts to generate momentum and commitment to achieve the SDGs by 2030.
 Earlier in May 2013, President Mahama inaugurated a high-power inter-ministerial committee mandated to find lasting solutions to illegal mining or galamsey in this country. As to how and why that powerful anti-galamsey task force backed by the national security apparatus could not successfully accomplish their task only Jesus knows. And the consequence is what we are all witnessing today as a nation.
In April 2017, Ghana’s current President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo automatically took over the Co-Chairmanship of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Advocates from President Mahama.  This was announced by the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres on Tuesday, 11 April 2017 in New York as reported in the media. These United Nations appointments conferred on former or ruling Ghanaian heads of state should not be taken for granted at all. It is a great honour for a country’s leaders to be assigned such global responsibilities for the benefit of mankind. This explains why Ghanaians must accord uttermost respect to their leaders regardless of their political affiliations. Once a political party flag bearer is elected president of a country, all citizens are obliged to accord him or her necessary due courtesies due that office of authority. 
Since January 2017, when President Nana Akufo-Addo mounted that ‘horse’ as the leader of this peace loving country, illegal mining or galamsey has been one of the  issues that has been giving him sleepless nights. But his determination and commitment to combat the menace which he described as ‘a complex phenomenon’ is admirable. So far, under his command, his Lands and Natural Resources Minister, Mr. Peter Amewu has been making life unpalatable for recalcitrant galamseyers. The galamsey operators should be guided by this proverbs that, “Any child who says his mother will not sleep, he or she too, will not taste the fruit of sound sleep.”

All said and done, former President Rawlings’s commitment to environmental sanitation, especially in those days when he could snatch a shovel from any member of the public and to enter a gutter to clean the city of Accra has distinguished him from all the others. That act may be interpreted by various people to suit their own perception but it encouraged the spirit of communal labour among the citizenry. If today, at the age of 70, he could no longer physically do some of those exercises but would use the occasion of his natal day celebration to organise lectures or symposia on the importance of the environment, one can only proclaim him as a man of Green Wisdom.

The author works with Information Services Department ISD  abissath@gmail.com


















Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Bravo, Media Coalition Against Galamsey: So Far So Fantastic!
By MAWUTODZI KODZO ABISSATH 

Prof. Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, Ghana's Minister for Environment
showing a document to media gurus


 The wisdom of our ancestors is reflected in this patriotic proverb: "A comfortable foreign country is never the same as your own country no matter what!"


On Tuesday, April 4, 2017, the Ghanaian media demonstrated a sense of patriotism with the official launch of the media coalition against ‘galamsey’ in Accra. The objective of the coalition, among other things, is to play an advocacy role by creating awareness through public education campaigns about the destruction of farmlands and the pollution of rivers and water bodies as a result of galamsey activities in the country.

As ‘I sat my somewhere’ watching the scene on Ghana Television, I could not help but start clapping alone like a mad man in my office, for the Graphic Communications Group Ltd (GCGL) and the media partners. All those who matter in the media sector of the nation, including the Minister for Information, Mr Mustapha Abdul-Hamid, were there.

I saw the veteran Editor of the Daily Graphic and former President of the Ghana Journalists Association, Mr Ransford Tetteh, play the role of ‘commandant-in-chief’ directing affairs. If I were writing a script for dramatisation, I would have characterised the Managing Director of GCGL, Mr Kenneth Ashigbey, as the protagonist of the whole caboodle. For I observed that he was more vociferous than all the speakers put together.

Then entered the General Manager, Newspapers, of that progressive media institution, Lawyer Yaw Boadu Ayeh-Boafo, who provided the legal rock upon which the entire episode was constructed.  It was fantastic and I say BRAVOOO to the entire media in Ghana.

Complex

However, something happened which took away the shine off the otherwise enthusiastic event. When the short video clip about galamsey was shown as a prelude, it nearly drew tears to drench the sublime faces of the audience. It was as if they were watching the funeral rites of the mortal remains of the future of mother Ghana. It was pathetic though!

On Monday, April 3, 2017, that is, a day before the launch, the Daily Graphic carried a banner headline: “Galamsey menace complex – But we will deal with it.” The headline was illustrated with an action picture of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.

The opening paragraph of the said story on page three of the paper was attributed to the President who said: “The government will soon roll out a well-thought-out strategy to deal with the menace of illegal mining in the country.”

The President described illegal mining as a “complex phenomenon with widespread interests and forces which required a comprehensive policy and legislation to deal with.”

In this write-up, I will not only concur with the President that “galamsey is a complex phenomenon” but I will also cite at least one example of illegal mining in some other parts of the world such as Mongolia and provide a guideline prepared by a United States (US)-based organisation about how to find some solutions to illegal mining challenges, as Ghanaian authorities may pick some ideas from the Mongolian experience to ensure the sustainable development of our beloved country.

The United Nations (UN) defines sustainable development as, “Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”  What galamsey is doing to our farmlands, forests and water bodies cannot guarantee the sustainable development of our posterity.

Meanwhile, the Chief Justice, Her Ladyship Mrs Justice Georgina Theodora Wood, merits a national award of the Star of the Volta, or even a nobel prize for designating 14 special courts across the country to independently handle all galamsey-related offenses. This is unprecedented in illegal mining history in Ghana. BRAVO, Madam!

Television images of polluted rivers such as the Pra River, Ankobra River, Birim River and Tano River being shown as part of the campaigns were as shocking as they were mind boggling. The newspaper stories of galamsey with graphic pictures and cartoons of some perpetrators of the illegal mining were very, very effective. The unexpected angry reactions from some diplomatic quarters and the call on government to guide and coach the media on how to do their jobs was laughable.

Diplomatic problems of galamsey

A research has shown that apart from ‘socio-economic, politico-cultural, safety/security and environmental problems of galamsey’, one major headache galamsey was posing to Ghana was ‘diplomatic.’ This finding was confirmed since the media coalition embarked on the fight against galamsey campaigns.

 The first evidence was what Ghana’s Minister for Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Prof. Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, told the media on the day of the launch itself. On that day, the renowned heart surgeon disclosed that he went to Cote d’Ivoire on a different mission, only to be ambushed by the angry Ivorian media to explain to them why Ghana was polluting rivers and water bodies in their country through illegal mining.  “They (the Ivorians) find it difficult to even treat the water to make it wholesome, and this is bad for us as a country because it paints a bad image about us,” he lamented.

The second evidence was a letter purported to have been fired by the Chinese Mission in Ghana on the illegal mining menace in the country. Media reports had it that the Chinese Mission in Ghana had issued a strongly-worded letter to Ghana’s Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, Mr John Peter Amewu, expressing anger about how Ghana was dealing with the issue at stake.

The alleged diplomatic “note verbale” reads in part: (…) “It will be extremely harmful to the bilateral relations between the two countries if there are  reports of a casualty during the arrest of Chinese involved in illegal mining in Ghana.”  Really? How many Chinese illegal miners who are poisoning rivers and water bodies have suffered any casualty in Ghana?

Is the Chinese Mission in Ghana aware of the number of Ghanaian casualties who perish on a daily basis in galamsey pits? As recently as April 10, 2017, there were media reports that seven Ghanaians were killed in galamsey pits in the Upper East Region through explosion in the mines.  Can the Chinese Mission help prevent Ghanaian casualties so that bilateral relations between the two friendly nations would not be harmed?

Again, the Chinese Mission must be fair to Ghanaian authorities, in that it is not illegal Chinese miners alone who are being arrested or deported. Several West African citizens engaged in galamsey too are being arrested because the laws of the land do not allow foreigners to engage in small-scale mining. This sector is solely reserved for Ghanaian citizens. Even then, citizens who indulge in illegality are being arrested and prosecuted according to the law.

 However, the fact that some foreign missions would put diplomacy aside and threaten the sovereignty of Ghana based on mere media reports is an indication that the media war against galamsey is doing the trick. Aluta continua.

Illegal gold mining in Mongolia

In Mongolia, illegal gold mining is said to be very pervasive. Mongolians call it “ninjas” as “galamsey” in Ghana. The menace in that country is said to be driven by lack of opportunity, so tens of thousands of Mongolians, including children, are engaged in illegal mining, “often in extreme harsh and dangerous conditions…”

A strategy adopted by the Mongolian Government was to make it clear that all valuable minerals belonged to the state. "Gold, like other valuable minerals, is a state resource that should be reinvested in the country.” What is the state position in Ghana?

“More job opportunities for the youth must be created through education, so that dependence on mining is lessened. And we must try to prevent foreigners from taking our raw materials.” Can Ghana learn any lesson from Mongolia? Here is the source of this document for Ghanaian authorities to access it for further details.

Source: http://www.scmp.com/magazines/post-magazine/article/1939514/winners-and-losers-mongolias-mining-gold-rush

US-based organisation

A US-based international organisation called Inclusive Development International has published a document titled: Safeguarding People and the Environment in Chinese Investment. It reads:

“China has become one of the most important sources of foreign investment in the world. Chinese companies play various roles in overseas projects, from research and design, to construction, development and operation. Chinese financial institutions make many overseas projects possible by providing loans, foreign currency, insurance and equity investments.

“This investment brings with it potential benefits, but also human rights, social and environmental risks (emphasis mine).  Communities impacted by Chinese investments, and the civil society groups that seek to support them, often encounter difficulties obtaining project information, communicating with developers and financiers, and raising concerns or complaints. In response to this situation, state institutions, industry groups and an increasing number of Chinese companies and financiers have begun to adopt environmental and social standards for their overseas investments.

“This guide explains the key actors involved in Chinese overseas investment and describes the environmental and social standards and guidelines that apply…” Again, I hereby provide the source for concerned Ghanaian authorities to access for details.

Source: www.inclusivedevelopment.net/resources/publications/

Therefore, the Ghanaian media cannot stand and stare while some greedy elements among the present generation  compromise the survival of future generations.

The author works with the Information Services Department (ISD) in Accra. abissath@gmail.com