On April 20, 2019, Senior Minister Osafo-Maafo, was criticised by Ghanaians over his comment on freeing ‘galamsey queen’ Aisha Huang after she was caught illegally mining gold in the country.
Mr Osafo-Maafo defended the deportation at an event in the United States of America. “Putting that lady (Aisha) in jail in Ghana is not going to solve your economic problems. It is not going to make you happy or me happy, that’s not important, the most important thing is that she has been deported out of Ghana,”
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Osafo-Maafo’s antidote to Ghana’s struggling economy, when he suggested that freeing ‘galamsey queen’ Aisha Huang has had a positive economic impact on the country continues to irk “right-minded Ghanaians”.
The Chinese national was standing trial for engaging in illegal small-scale mining which could have ended her 20 years in jail under Section 99 (3) of Act 900. Whiles the criminal trial was progressing, the government shocked many when it discontinued the case and deported Aisha Huang and her accomplices in 2018.
This was in the heat of the government’s unrelenting fight against illegal mining in Ghana, and the Senior Minister, Osafo-Maafo’s justification has rather unruffled feathers.
Mr Osafo-Maafo defended the deportation at a recent event in the United States of America. “Putting that lady (Aisha) in jail in Ghana is not going to solve your economic problems. It is not going to make you happy or me happy, that’s not important, the most important thing is that she has been deported out of Ghana,” he said.
Some suspect the galamsey kingpin who has a network of Chinese illegal miners in Ghana, was deported in exchange for the 2 billion Sinohydro loan.
“This is rather unfortunate… sad times in our fight against illegal mining” Brigadier General Daniel Mishio, former head of Anti-Galamsey Taskforce analysed.
He told Abena Tabi on TV3’s news analysis show, The Key Points, Saturday that the minister has rather communicated a “wrong signal” to persons engaging in illegal mining.
“I don’t believe that is the best solution to our problem,” he said, noting that as far back as 2013, Ghana was losing 500 million dollars a year through illegal mining “so if we are serious we could be saving money”.
“So are we going to free foreigners and jail our nationals because we are getting money?” he queried.
Co-panelist Emmanuel Yirenkyi Antwi, Operations Director of the Ghana National Association of Small Scale Mining, concurred that what the minister said was “very unfortunate”.
In his view, the state should have invested in resources to prosecute the case to show the seriousness it attaches to the fight against illegal mining.
He noted that prosecuting Aisha would have also exposed those connected to her network and break their camp.
“This is an opportunity that Ghana has missed”, he observed, “Our laws must work, we can’t treat foreigners differently because of the money coming in”.
For Bobby Benson, a private legal practitioner, “every right-minded Ghanaian will condemn” Osafo Maafo’s position.
He finds it difficult connecting the deportation with the Sinohydro deal since the loan was contracted rather later after Aisha’s case.
He also recalled claims by the Chinese ambassador to Ghana that they were not aware about her deportation, clearly delinking the deportation from the loan.
Already, many feel the government’s fight against illegal mining has not been successful. Thinking along that line, Bobby Benson is certain Aisha will still control the network from China.
“We have missed a huge opportunity, Ghanaian leaders should be ashamed….Osafo-Maafo should apologise,” he asserted, “the statement undermines the effort of the galamsey taskforce”.