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Feature Article of Sunday, 11 November 2012

Columnist: Pryce, Daniel K.

The Avoidable Melcom Building Tragedy

A good thing about a nation that has teachable citizens is the willingness of the latter to learn from their mistakes. For example, U.S. history is replete with example after example of lessons learned the hard way, but which, thankfully, were never repeated. In the U.S.A., there are very strict building codes that must be adhered to before a building is declared habitable. I had believed that we had such strict building codes and regulations in Ghana, too, but that may be nothing more than a fleeting illusion.

The collapse of the Melcom edifice in Accra, as lamentable as it is, should serve as an example of why we should not be cutting corners. The best "monument" that we can erect in the memory of the dead is to make sure that this sad event does not occur again in Mother Ghana. In other words, any contractor or government employee who accepted a bribe to issue this property a certificate of occupancy must bow his or her head in shame.

Without a doubt, the government must investigate this incident and punish those found to have turned a blind eye to obvious structural problems that had afflicted the building. Over all, here is a lesson for Ghanaians: Cutting corners is not only unethical, it has the potential to destroy lives. Or still, cutting corners may serve a temporary purpose, but should we not think ahead?
I have always worried about what would happen should a powerful earthquake strike a poorly designed, but miserably congested, city like Accra. Even the design of Accra’s drainage system appears to be the handiwork of “klutus” who have no formal training in city planning. Are our planners prepared for natural occurrences, such as earthquakes and deluges?
As a nation, we have terrible health care facilities, although we can afford to improve conditions at our flagship medical facilities, such as Korle-Bu and Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospitals. Instead, our government officials travel to South Africa, England, and the U.S.A. when they become ill. Do we truly understand how frightened ordinary citizens have become of our hospitals, knowing that those tasked with running the government have no faith in our health care delivery system? The message is simply this: If one becomes ill and cannot afford to travel overseas, one is at risk of dying even from a preventable condition. Let us learn to put the larger society first, my fellow Ghanaians. And this “repentance” must begin with those who have power over the use of the nation’s resources.

Once again, the collapse of the Melcom edifice was avoidable. Compromising the safety of others is simply unacceptable. May the souls of those who perished in this calamity rest in perfect peace.

© The writer, Daniel K. Pryce, is a doctoral student and an Adjunct Professor of Criminology, Law & Society at George Mason University. He holds a master’s degree in Public Administration from the same university. He is a member of the National Honor Society for Public Affairs and Administration in the U.S.A. He may be followed on Twitter: @DanielKPryce. He invites the reader to join the pressure group “Good Governance in Ghana” on Facebook.com, which he superintends. He can be reached at dpryce@cox.net.

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