The National House of Chiefs is calling for a restoration of their power to summon subjects if the government wants them to play any serious role in the fight against illegal mining.
“How can a chief summon a ‘galamseyer’ [illegal miner] if he has no authority,” President of the House, Togbui Afede said at a forum called by the ministerial task force against ‘galamsey’ to find lasting ways of solving the problem of illegal mining.
The chiefs’ power to summon was clipped by the Supreme Court in a July 20, 2011 ruling which struck out Section 63 (d) of the Chieftaincy Act 759, under which deliberate refusal to honour a call from a chief to attend to an issue was an offence.
On July 20, 2011, the Supreme Court struck out section 63 (d) of the Chieftaincy Act, 2008.
The petitioner, Nana Ampofo filed a writ at the highest court of the land challenging the constitutionality of the provision of the Act and secured judgment in his favour.
That sub-section stated that a person who “deliberately refuses to honour a call from a chief to attend to an issue commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of not more than two hundred penalty units or to a term of imprisonment of not more than three months or both”.
There have since been attempts by the National House of Chiefs to get the law amended to at least, clothe the Chiefs with some power of authority.
During the forum on how to sustain the fight against illegal mining popularly called galamsey, the President of the National House of Chiefs expressed his frustration at the attempts, especially by MPs to deny Chiefs their authority.
According to him, since the July 20 ruling, there have been a number of deliberations with lawyers and the Attorney General to fine tune the old law and at least bequeath to chiefs some power.
He said after the deliberations, it was agreed that the power to summon should only be left to the Paramount Chiefs and not the sub-chiefs, something they have agreed.
However, attempts to get the MPs to amend the law has been physically and mentally draining.
Togbui Afede even suspects the MPs are undermining their move to have the law amended either because they (chiefs) are not as influential as businessmen are or perhaps, the MPs think the Chiefs do not deserve the power to summon at all.
He said under the proposed amendment the paramount chiefs alone can have the power to summon and they can summon two category of persons- citizens or residents and people who engage in hazardous activities in the community.
He believed if the law had been amended the paramount chiefs will have the power to invite the galamseyers and caution them but without the amendments, the Chiefs can do little or nothing.
Somehow, “our MPs think that chiefs do not deserve this power” or maybe because “we were not in the position to influence the MPs like businessmen will do,” he stated.