Correspondence from Eastern Region:
Six persons are in the grips of the Suhum police following clashes between some landowners, farmers, and fisherfolks in Asuboi in the Ayensuano Municipality of the Eastern Region.
The suspects, all farmers, and landowners were arrested Friday morning by police personnel from Suhum when the frustrated victims of the land destruction physically confronted the sand winners in an attempt to stop the illegality.
About 200 farmers are estimated to have so far been affected by the menace of illegal sand winning as the perpetrators wantonly destroy farmlands in search of sand.
The illegal activities in the area were said to have begun about three months ago with the activity intensifying within the last three weeks, resulting in dire destruction of farmlands and the Suhum River.
The cruel destruction of farmlands has led to physical confrontations between farmers and landowners and the illegal sand winners on the other side.
Several tipper trucks allegedly ram into the farms and leave with several trips of sand to unknown destinations.
Narrating what happened to GhanaWeb, a farmer, Samuel Tommy Lawer whose cassava and palm farmlands have been destroyed said large acres of cassava farms, palm plantations, maize, and other crops are destroyed by the machete and arm-wielding men who attack the victims.
“The sand winners have destroyed our farms and water bodies, now they are at our backyards…they have even encroached on our buildings and electric poles have been affected. They [sand winners] were destroying their farms and they tried to stop them and it turned into a fight and the farmers were beaten,” said the distraught farmer.
Mr. Lawer said the sand winners employed armed land guards to provide security for their operations.
He said: “They come with guns and machetes and you’re scared of them. Even if you make a phone call, they beat you. They force their way onto our farms, whether you like it or not, they go ahead with their activities on your farmland.”
Asuboi is not the only community affected by sand-winning activities in the municipality as similar clashes were recorded in Anfaso in the same municipality after armed sand winners with similar modus operandi destroyed farmlands while winning sand.
The peeved farmer said though petitions were written to the Eastern Regional Minister and Regional Police Commander and reports made to the MCE for the area with police and military personnel being deployed to the affected farms to conduct some assessment, the illegal activities are still ongoing.
The farmer who accused the police of being biased in the arrests said only the “poor farmers” were picked up, leaving the sand winners and land guards.
“When the police came, they arrested we the poor farmers and sent them to the Suhum police station. The police rather arrested the farmers who were stopping the destruction of their farmlands and left the sand winners instead.
“They destroyed 22 acres of coconut farm of my brother called Michael Obodo and when he complained, he has been arrested instead and dumped in cells,” he narrated.
In a verbal petition to President Akufo-Addo, Mr. Lawer called on the President to intervene in the situation to save his food production drive in the country.
He appealed: “Tell President Akufo-Addo that the farms he asked us to cultivate are being destroyed. We can’t produce to eat, our water bodies are being destroyed, they are destroying the electricity poles, the government and other stakeholders should come to our aid.”
Attempts to get a response from the Suhum Police Commander proved futile as he could not immediately comment on the situation.