Accra, March 13, GNA - Mr Dominic Nitiwul, Minister of Defence has justified the recent burning of 14 tipper trucks and other equipment by Operation Vanguard Task Force in the Kumbugu District of the Northern Region.
According to him, the operation was undertaken by a backup troop of the Operation Vanguard to bring to an end the menace of illegal sand winning and mining.
A contingent of armed military personnel set fire to fourteen tipper trucks, an excavator and a motorbike used for sand winning in the Dalun River, a tributary of the White Volta.
The action was allegedly taken by the military after several warnings to sand winners to stop their illegal activity close to the river had yielded no results.
Mr Nitiwul responding to a statement from the Member of Parliament (MP) for Kumbungu, Ras Mubarak on the incident on the floor of Parliament, said the soldiers had to resort to such an action to deal with the recalcitrant illegal sand winners.
He explained that the intention of the military was to arrest the illegal sand winners and miners to prosecute them, but they have been outwitting the military and had continued their activities with intensity.
He said even those who were legally given the license were asked to stop, and they complied, but some of the illegal sand winners, who did not have permits continued their activities
“They were operating illegally. They did not have the permit. The Military went there for the fifth time and decided to send a strong signal to anyone who decides to take the law into his own hands,” he said.
Mr Joseph Osei-Owusu, the First Deputy Speaker in his contribution urged members to support government in its fight against the illegal sand winning on the country’s water bodies.
He said some extreme behaviour and situations must be met with extreme force to ensure sanity in the system.
“We are dealing with people who are determined at all cost to make their money notwithstanding the damage they cause to the environment”
Mr Osei-Owusu said mining in the country’s waters bodies possess a great danger to the lives of the people. He said members should be careful not to appear to be loyal to the few people, who were destroying the water bodies, farms and eventually affecting the livelihood of the rural folks.
Mr Alban Bagbin, the Second Deputy Speaker in his contribution said no one in the country was happy with what was happening to the environment.
He said over the years’ various governments have resorted to the use of the military against illegal mining in the country but nothing much was achieved.
He therefore called on members to sit down and fashion out a better way of solving the illegal mining problem.
“It is clear that the measure we have taken is not yielding the desired results, so do we have to continue this way” he questioned.
Mr Haruna Iddrisu, the Minority Leader said the burning of the tipper trucks was unlawful.
“The wicked burning of those 14 tipper trucks was excessive and therefore legally unjustifiable and untenable, and we will pursue this matter to its utmost and logical conclusion. Nothing will stop us from asking for adequate compensation for the affected persons as due process was not respected and upheld,” he said.
“Rights have been disrespected and rights have been breached. The right to own property and the right to own a tipper truck for the purpose of livelihood has been undermined.”