The minister-designate for Defence, Dominic Nitiwul, has explained circumstances that led to the burning of excavators and trucks during the first phase of Operation Vanguard, as a clampdown on the activities of illegal miners.
He said that although it was not a government policy to have seized equipment torched, the military high command had to revise its orders to its men after the first incidents occurred.
He expressed his sympathies with the affected persons but insisted that the overall intention of the actions of the task force was to ensure that perpetrators do not get away with destroying lands and water bodies.
“The armed forces were engaged in trying to help, at that time, in the difficulty of containing illegal miners and to protect fourteen companies under the Ghana Chamber of Mines and seven other companies that were private companies. People were not happy but I did because I thought that armed forces should not be exposed so much to the public and they should allow the police to do that. And so I still hold that view and I as much as possible, told the commanders that the armed forces operate within that kind of circle.
“..the armed forces are for the public: they largely serve the public and they will do things in the interest of the public so when these complaints come, we take it and use it as a form of reforming the orders that are given to the armed forces. And particularly, I sympathize with the owners of the tipper trucks that were burnt.
“It was not only in Tamale that the armed forces thought that when they were given the task on Operation Vanguard to put the fear of God in certain people who they thought were recalcitrant but from the public reaction, including what happened in Parliament, the armed forces had to redo their orders and get them to slow down so you didn’t see any more burning after that.
“Sometimes, they take these decisions not because they want to punish them, but in good faith. It is not a government policy. The government policy was to protect the water bodies – 100 meters on both sides of the water bodies, no activities were supposed to be undertaken,” he said.
He made this known during his vetting at Parliament’s Appointments Committee.