Feature Article of Thursday, 13 December 2012
Columnist: Yakubu, Abdul-Razak
MASS MURDER OF MILLIONS OF INNOCENT GHANAIANS, WHO IS TO BE BLAMED, IS IT THE GOVERNMENT, DVLA, POLICE, SPARE PARTS DEALERS, MECHANICS, OR PASSENGERS?
Dear reader, I am so confused and the heading above says it all. As a young Ghanaian man, one great challenge in my life since I started to read and write is the quest of looking for solutions to our country’s developmental problems. Probing further has brought me nothing but gigantic confusion as to which individual or group is to blame for the present socioeconomic conditions of mother Ghana. I would like to share with you sector by sector and you will understand what I mean by confusion.
We will first look at the chronic road accidents in Ghana and those responsible. As you read you may have the answers or you probably know what solutions or methodology to use so that we can save valuable lives. In Ghana, news about road accidents is constant in our everyday lives. In recent times, this has become gargantuan, many speak of it yet little has been seen in our collective efforts as a nation to reducing it. I have been a victim of such man made or man created accidents which could have been prevented, yet God’s intervention in all the 10 times of my involvement has given me the chance to be among the living today. I therefore made a vow to myself and all of humanity to break the silence and speak out loud as a thunder storm when it rains to make sure that by my writing society will rise to the call to end all man made errors that lead to road accidents in Ghana.
Fifty five (55) years after independence from British rule, and I feel ashamed to speak today about the way Ghanaians have handled the affairs of our dear nation. I am filled with great grief as many precious human lives have been lost although these deaths were preventable. Can you tell me who is responsible for all these deaths of many Ghanaians in this country due to road accidents? As I write, I have the feeling that there has just been an accident somewhere in this country, and I know as you read the same is happening elsewhere in this country.
First, I would say that governments have failed woefully as our roads continue to remain immotorable, despite several promises from Military to Civilian governments. Do you know how pathetic this sounds when I remember Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s famous speech which say’s “the African is capable of managing his own affairs”. Maybe that African was Nkrumah, not the rest of us.
In Ghana, roads that can be constructed within weeks take months, those that can be constructed within months takes several years. However, when they are finally done, they are either too small or are shoddily constructed. There are also no proper road markings, signs and other facilities to make them user friendly and safe. This particular wasteful use of the country’s resources is a blame I want to hang on the necks of all successive governments that have ruled this nation. Governments come and go, but when they do come, all they are good at doing is making laws which they themselves lack the will power to implement. They place people by appointment to various institutions that are responsible for roads and road users, yet these people that are appointed when marched with all the accidents year by year implies that they are mostly incompetent or negligent in the performance of their duties. Why do I say so? It is because the institutions and person in-charge have completely failed in maintaining their mandates which have led to the chronic road accidents. To name a few of them; we have the DVLA, Ministry of Roads and Transport, MTTU, Ghana Highway Authority etc. Some of these institutions are responsible in monitoring and evaluation work being done on our roads yet due to corruption they turn a blind eye to the unprofessional and shoddy works. It is on these grounds that I say that education is meaningless unless it is used for the benefit of the community. So if you are entrusted with a national job, especially one that has to do with human lives, you must work to the best of your abilities.
When vehicles are manufactured, they come with some safety provisions in anticipation of accidents that may occur in the usage of the vehicle. But does the DVLA check these before registering vehicles imported in the country? I don’t think so. Also, during the annual vehicular examinations, do they observe that these safety devices or fittings are still intact and properly functioning as they are supposed to (Seat belts, air bags, seat covers etc)? Again I don’t think so, why?
Next to be blamed are the local and foreign contractors that are given road contracts. They take the money and constructs roads that will only last at most one year, then its starts to give way. As part of their work on our roads, they are never supervised enough to make sure safety measures are well placed to avoid causing accidents. Due to this, many people have died. Why will you take money and not deliver to the best of your ability? This is stealing of the highest order and a disservice to humanity.
Dear citizens of Ghana, like I told you from the start, there is a great confusion in my mind. Now let’s talk into detail about how the Driver License & Vehicle Authority, popularly known as the DVLA has contributed to the manslaughter of many innocent Ghanaians. Do you know how driver license are issued? An institution of this magnitude which is mandated as a Regulator has failed to protect the lives of the innocent women and children, husbands and wives. Many people have driver license and you will wonder how they were given such permits to become serial killers. If I am not mistaken, over 60% percent of people that drive automobiles in Ghana have very little or no knowledge about road signs and regulations, yet have been issued with licenses. However, if such licenses were not issued by the DVLA, it means that people are either driving with fake licenses or none at all. How much is human life worth in Ghana? That GHC 10.00 or even GHC 50.00 can make one wrongfully certify another to go on a killing spree. Also, apart from the wrongful issuance of licenses, some undeserving vehicles that are issued road worthiness certification to move on our roads are also suicidal. After several visits to the DVLA, it was revealed that the most common test that is conducted during the vehicle examination is the lamp test after which these death traps we call vehicles are allowed to frequent our roads killing people and also damaging the already shoddily constructed roads.
If you visit the Kaneshie and Circle lorry stations which are just two examples of thousands country wide, you will be alarmed to know the kind of dangers passengers are exposed to just for sitting in the vehicle even before roads accidents may occur. Metal parts are seen well exposed in the interior of vehicles, and in other situations one can see through the floor of the vehicle, yet it passes road worthiness examination at the DVLA. How can we as a people live so dangerously? Is it the greed for money, or is the lack of knowledge on the part of these institutions? Instead of the phrase God Bless our Homeland Ghana, I will prefer “God Help…” Don’t you agree?
In Ghana, over 90% of vehicles ply our roads with worn-out tyres. And what makes this serious is that, most of the tyres are rejected abroad where they have excellent roads. So how can we in this heat and also bad roads allow their use in our country? I know they will say we are Africans, but does it mean we are less of humans? I don’t think so, and are we rational? yes we are, so why?
Over aged vehicles, the DVLA should be able to band them from being driven on our roads. If a vehicle does not meet the necessary requirements to be road worthy, why do we have to accept money from them and issue them with certificates? Even if we claim we are poor, we must be able to refuse vehicles that have been commercialized yet are not properly maintained. As a country, if we cannot afford to place age limits on the vehicles, then we should be able to put in place laws that will see to it that they are properly maintained. And if we claim to have these laws already in place, then we must enforce them in the name of God and humanity.
The Police, as law enforcement officers have failed themselves, their families and the nation at large. People get recruited to maintain law and order on the streets/roads yet they claim their salaries are not enough therefore they will accept bribes and many die as a result. As it stands now, they have been included in the single spine salary structure yet we have seen very little improvement. Sometimes they will claim they don’t have enough logistics to carry out their mandate and by so doing they turn a blind eye to the lawlessness on our roads and in most cases they themselves are seen flouting the rules/laws themselves. Besides this, some police officers and police stations have turned themselves into judges and law courts, where they pronounce judgments on road offences as well as charge offenders discretionary fees. When road accidents occur what happens to the drivers involved if they survive? Are they asked to go for refresher programs, are they registered as ever having been involved in accidents, or what is done? I am sure there are standard procedures that are supposed to be followed, but you will only hear of these when they police are been interviewed by the media. They also fail to arrest and put before the courts individuals who drive on our roads without proper certification (licenses). I can tell you in estimation that about 45% of Ghanaians drive without licenses, but it does not seem to worry the police at all. If only the police will not wait to be told or remained of their duties we will not have incompetent people moving vehicles on our roads. I can assure you that the MTTU could be turned into revenue collector for all road offenses and these monies could be used in resourcing the Ghana police service, but as the saying goes government work must be left the way it is, no innovation and most people there fear change. But if we do not make a stand now, no matter the political party in power, it will still be the same.
Uncertified fitters (Mechanics); they work on vehicles causing more damage to vehicles when they are brought to them for repairs. They practice nonprofessional jobs on vehicles, remove parts and replace them with either wrong or conduct fictitious alterations on cars thereby turning them into death traps. They have also contributed about 20% in road accidents in Ghana. However, since nothing is taking serious in Ghana apart from politicking, when accidents occur hardly are we able to link the uncertified Mechanics to these accidents. What surprises me is the rate at which government or state owned vehicles are mostly found in the shops of such uncertified road side mechanics. If government is seen as the largest customer of these unprofessional mechanics, what more will the other members of the general public do?
Spare Parts Dealers; these categories of individuals and organizations cannot be left out when we speak of road accidents in Ghana. Whiles others deal in fake parts, others sell damaged used parts as replacement for their clients, consciously aiding and abetting in the killings of the innocent all in the name of doing business.
Passengers; the Ghanaian is one that can compromise on his/her safety just to see commercial vehicle owners make more profits at the expense of their dear lives. Why do I say so, when you join a trotro or taxis, and drives overload their vehicles, there are some passengers that will boldly support these illegal acts. Also, most Ghanaians passengers do not care much about the physical condition of the vehicles before they get on as long as the vehicle is at a lorry station or seen on the road. Sometimes just taking a good look at the vehicle, one should be able to know that it is unsafe for them to get on, but in Ghana, no one seem to care. When accidents do happen, the interior of the vehicle instead of protecting the human from harm, contributes about 80% percent of the harm on passengers onboard. Therefore, when there is a crush we usually record 0% percent survival rate.
Drinking Spots; it is funny to see posters on vehicles that reads “If you drink don’t drive, & if you drive don’t drink” whereas drinking spots are mostly located by some lorry stations. There are some people who even argue that they drive better when they have consumed serious amount of alcohol. Drinking spots owner are also a contributory factor to the road accidents in Ghana.
Carless Derivers; careless driving has also taken lives. Some of our drivers also have bad judgment and timing in the act. Tired drivers, have also killed many including themselves.
If I do not end here, I will continue till you the reader become confused as I am. Ghana, are we not aware of the above happenings? Certainly we all so, yet we contribute by remaining silent. However, speaking without action is better to have remained silent. It is indeed painful to speak the truth, but once it comes out, a lot more good is seen in society. If you have been captured in this article then you must do something positive now. And if you have not been mentioned, start looking at your relation with you work. If Ghana will become better, then we all must work to see this dream come through. This is my confusion.
By: Abdul-Razak Yakubu Tel: 0264659885