The Ghana Police Service (GPS) and the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) are investigating the Upper East Regional Minister, Stephen Yakubu, following some petitions filed by a group of small-scale miners over the whereabouts of some 150,000 United States dollars.
Robert Boazor Tampoare, a miner who is said to have received the money from the regional minister, is being investigated, too.
It all started in 2011 when a small-scale mining firm― Unique Mining Group― complained that Shaanxi Mining Company Limited had trespassed on its concession in Talensi, a district in the Upper East Region.
The allegation prompted the Minerals Commission to institute a committee to look into the claim made against the Chinese-owned mining company. In 2013, the investigative committee concluded that the allegation was true.
In 2017, the Chinese mining company acquired 16.02 square kilometres of land in the district— a piece of land almost the size of 4,000 standard soccer pitches put together— to venture into a large-scale mining business.
The company also adopted “Earl International Group Ghana Gold Limited” as a new name under which the large-scale mining business would be run.
Some small-scale mining groups, including Unique Mining Group, were occupying parts of that stretch of land before the Chinese mining company acquired it.
Following the acquisition of the land, some of the small-scale mining groups surrendered their concessions to the Chinese mining company. After surrendering their concessions, the company offered 1 million United States dollars for the small-scale miners to share among themselves.
The regional minister received the money into the account of the Upper East Regional Coordinating Council (UERCC) for onward disbursement to the miners.
The company termed the offer as “goodwill”. But the regional minister would describe it later as “compensation”.
After handing over the “goodwill” money to the regional minister, the company also decided to resolve the old issue— the alleged trespass— with the Unique Mining Group. It decided to pay 150,000 United States dollars to the group for the reported trespass. The regional minister received the money and deposited it into the UERCC’s GCB bank account.
Subsequently, the regional minister paid the 150,000 United States dollars to Robert Boazor Tampoare, a member of the Unique Mining Group, by a GCB cheque. The cheque was written in Tampoare’s name.
Tampoare reportedly paid in the cheque at the GCB branch in Bolgatanga, the region’s capital, and transferred the money into his personal account at Zenith Bank. He allegedly did not notify the other members of the group about the money until they found out on their own and approached him with a demand for answers.
“We did not ask Regional Minister to give our money to Tampoare”
Strong protests erupted among the other members of the Unique Mining Group following the discovery.
They told Media Without Borders that they did not delegate Tampoare to receive any cheque on their behalf from the regional minister or the UERCC.
Tampoare is unwilling to hand over the money, according to them. And, to their dismay, despite lodging several complaints with the regional minister as the head of the Regional Security Council (REGSEC), Tampoare is still a free man in town.
The aggrieved small-scale miners say they suspect Tampoare and the regional minister have acted in collusion to defraud them. And shortly after they announced plans to cause the arrests of Tampoare and the regional minister and sue them for fraud and complicity respectively, they reported the matter to the police and EOCO.
“I don’t want anybody to step in my office and talk about that money. Robert came and took the money. Robert is there. If they want, they should go and arrest Robert,” the regional minister told Media Without Borders.
The regional minister said he gave the cheque to Tampoare because the group had introduced Tampoare to him as their leader.
But the aggrieved members of the group maintain they had never introduced him as their leader to the regional minister.
“We did not introduce him to the regional minister as our leader. Is this how some politicians can tell lies? Let’s even assume without admitting that we introduced Robert (Tampoare) to him as our leader, but did we also tell the regional minister to hand over our 150,000 dollars to him?” said Matthew Tindanzie, a leading member of the group.
Tampoare declined to speak to the matter when Media Without Borders contacted him on the telephone for comments.
A top lawyer who doubles as the Upper East Regional Chairman of the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP), Anthony Namoo, is reported to have cautioned the regional minister persistently against meddling in small-scale miners’ affairs in the region.
The small-scale miners lodged their complaint against Tampoare and the regional minister with the Divisional Police Command in Bolgatanga. They also notified the Inspector General of Police (IGP), George Akuffo Dampare, about the matter through a written petition.
The IGP later directed that the complaint be handled at the Upper East Regional Police Command level because it involved a regional minister, according to sources who also say the matter is being processed for prosecution.
Media Without Borders learns the police have taken Tampaore’s and the regional minister’s statements and are awaiting advice from the Justice and Attorney-General’s Department in the region.
Source: Edward Adeti/Media Without Borders/mwbonline.org