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Regional News of Thursday, 20 March 2014

Source: radioxyzonline.com

UG explains road closure policy to Education Minister

The University of Ghana has written to the Minster of Education to explain its road closure policy.

The minister demanded a report following massive chaos and complaints that greeted the implementation of the policy earlier this week.

Prof. Jane Naana Opku-Agyemang on Tuesday gave the University up to Friday to furnish her office with a report on the policy.

Below is the University’s full response to the Minister

Report to Minister of Education on Restricted Access to University of Ghana

History

The University of Ghana has traditionally maintained a system of restricted access to its Legon Campus, and indeed to all of its campuses. This has come in the form of motorists being asked to use specific roads for entry. In the past security personnel also asked pedestrians for the purpose of visiting the campus. This was easily enforceable when the University had only one main access point at the front of the campus and another minor access point on the road to Achimota. The road to Achimota was constructed in order to create access for staff staying at Achimota School, and its use has always been restricted.

With time, as the community around Legon has grown in size, the use of Legon roads has also increased significantly. The growth created the situation where motorists using roads with restricted access simply used any means possible to gain unauthorized access, including creating new roads through the bushes. The situation became most acute during the construction of the N1 Highway and the rehabilitation of the Madina-Accra road over the last five years.

During the construction of these roads, the Ministry of Roads and Highways and Department of Urban Roads approached the University about the need to allow general access to the University's major roads on a temporary basis. The University was also persuaded to provide land along its boundaries for the construction of a bypass that would take away the traffic that would otherwise have poured into the campus. That was how the Legon Bypass or Boundary Road between Legon and GIMPA was constructed. Similarly, that was how the road from Gulf House to the Boundary Road came into being. The expectation was always that, with the completion of those roads, the campus through-traffic would be reduced to a bearable minimum, as is appropriate for a campus of more than 30,000 students. Unfortunately the expected shift never materialized simply because motorists have found it convenient to drive through the campus.

The current use of Legon roads as a public thoroughfare generates significant congestion and anxiety among the mainly pedestrian population. An average of 16,000 vehicles drive through the campus everyday with no business on the campus. Commercial vehicles passing through the campus show extremely little regard for traffic regulations and for the safety of persons. Drivers on the newly constructed Annie Jiagge Road Extension often drive at top speed, thereby endangering the lives of our students and staff. Vehicles trying to avoid traffic on the main routes have resorted to driving through the residential areas, such as Little Legon, and academic areas such as around the N Block. The situation does not promote the serenity required for serious academic work. It is a danger to life and property on the campus.

In addition to the difficulties created, the roads experienced acute deterioration as a result of heavy traffic. Various efforts to obtain budgetary support for the maintenance of roads failed. Assistance promised by the Ministry of Roads and Highways never materialized. It was for these reasons that the University took a facility of GHC 8 million to repair its roads.

The University Council in approving the loan facility recognized the fact that the loan would be repaid by levying a charge on the users of the road. This was rightly seen as both a lawful and legitimate proposition. The user charges were also expected to lead to a decongestion of the roads by inducing a change in the behavior of motorists and generate revenue for the future maintenance of Legon roads. The user charges were suspended on 22nd February 2014, following the intervention of the Government with a promise to take over the entire loan.

Current Policy

Following the suspension of the application of user charges, traffic volumes which had declined by 50% jumped again to pre-user charge levels. There is no doubt about the fact that the user charges were extremely useful in keeping traffic down.

Following the new increase in traffic after the suspension of user charges, members of the University community petitioned Management by emails on the need to place new restrictions on the entry of vehicles into the campus. This led to discussions at a meeting of the Business and Executive Committee on 26th February 2014 and a proposal to return to a policy of restricting access through the use of stickers distributed to selected persons after being processed. This policy was approved by the Council of the University on 27th February 2014. (See policy statement attached). It is important to emphasise the fact that this was simply a return to an old practice. The policy statement on vehicle entry restrictions was communicated to the Minister of Roads and Highways and the Chief of Staff on 28th February 2014 by the University.

Implementation of Policy of Restricted Access

The policy statement was released to the general public on 27th February 2014. The statement made it clear that implementation would begin on 15th March 2014, 17 clear days after it had been issued. The statement was widely circulated in the print media, through radio announcements and by electronic dissemination. The University also caused to be printed thousands of flyers that were distributed to motorists who used the Legon roads regularly. Large visible banners were hung at the various entry points with the inscription "Effective 15th March 2014, NO STICKER, NO ENTRY, NO EXIT". The University also developed a video clip to explain the rationale behind the exercise, and this was telecast on GTV at prime time on Thursday, 13th March 2014 as a public education exercise. Hence, the likelihood that any motorist using the road was unaware of the new requirement was certainly minimal.

At 6 am on Saturday, 15th March 2014, security personnel of the University moved to enforce the new rules. Implementation of the new regulations worked well over the weekend with isolated incidents of motorists refusing to comply with the regulations.

On Monday, 17th February 2014, however, the implementation of the policy was completely derailed by a number of motorists, including some parents of pupils at the University Basic School, refusing to accept the new regulations at the University's Link Gate entry point. Their decision to block the road with their vehicles caused mayhem at the entry point, and this is highly regrettable. The blockade made it impossible for free shuttle buses that had been made available by the University to be reached by potential users.

It needs to be pointed out that the chaos at the Link Gate was fuelled to a very large extent by widespread misinformation and misrepresentation from the Press. The misinformation was fed to the wider population designed to cause disaffection towards the University and its Management. This was reflected by the fact that efforts by University PR personnel and members of the community to correct misrepresentations went largely unheeded by sections of the Press.

With the assistance of personnel from the Ghana Police Service, the situation was returned to normal by mid-day on that day.

Current Situation at Entry Points

On Tuesday, 18th February 2014, the situation at all entry points returned to normal. The University has entered into agreements with duly registered commercial drivers on how they may obtain stickers in order to be authorized to use restricted entry points. The University is mobilizing buses for its shuttle service and this is working well. The procedure to acquire stickers has been made a lot easier and faster. It is the expectation of the University that, in the absence of any unforeseen interventions, the situation would remain normal for the conduct of regular University business.

Conclusion

It is the responsibility of the University Council and University Management to protect work, staff, local as well as foreign students, at the University. The right of the University community to protection is not less important than that of any other persons. It is also the responsibility of Council and Management to protect the assets of the University as required by law. It will therefore be negligent on the part of Council and Management not to take any actions as University assets deteriorate, lives are placed in danger and the work and integrity of the campus as a suitable learning environment are threatened. The University Council and Management appeal for greater understanding for the actions they have taken. The University is certainly undergoing significant transformation to make it a better place, befitting the nation's premier University. This calls for support from the Government, Parliament, the Press and the general public and not animosity and prioritisation of only the convenience of commuters who have access to university-provided alternative routes.

UNIVERSITY OF GHANA STATEMENT ON PUBLIC ACCESS TO LEGON CAMPUS

Preamble

The University of Ghana is committed to improving and protecting its facilities and physical assets as part of a larger programme to enhance the quality of its products. The object is to re-establish and maintain a serene atmosphere that is conducive to academic work, including teaching and research. The University cannot support academic work with the needed environment when 16,000 vehicles travel through its Legon campus every day, creating significant congestion at crucial times as well as posing safety and security challenges for members of the university community, especially our students.

Mindful, however, of the inconvenience restrictions on the use of campus roads may impose on neighbouring communities, the University has taken steps to work with Government to provide appropriate alternative routes for the use of motorists who have no legitimate business on the campus. University of Ghana is taking steps to enforce already existing restrictions in the use of its roads as public thoroughfare. It is important to note that University of Ghana has always been and remains private property even though it is publicly owned.

The general public is hereby advised to take note of the following directives on access to Legon Campus, with effect from 5.00 a.m. on Saturday, 15th March 2014.

Directives on Access
The Stadium Road entrance (Okponglo Junction) to the University is, for the time being, designated the main entrance to the University. It will remain open 24 hours a day to the general public. Members of the general public seeking to enter the University campus for any reason are advised to use this entry point.

Vehicles entering the University by the Stadium Road will be required to exit the campus by the same road.

All other entry points, including the one at the Link Gate on the road from Achimota and on the Annie Jiagge Road Extension from Haatso, will not open to the general public. They will, however, open for persons who have been pre-approved by University Management. Typically persons who have been pre¬approved will be provided with a “UG Sticker” to display on their vehicle windscreen. Vehicles with a “UG Sticker” may enter and exit the campus from any of the designated points.

Members of the general public who wish to be considered for a “UG Sticker” may submit an application to the Director of Physical Development and Municipal Services.

Vehicles without a 2014 “UG Sticker” will not be permitted to exit the campus from any other point except the Stadium Road.

All persons who were issued with various “UG Stickers” in 2014, when the University applied a user charge to all vehicles entering the campus, are to note that these will remain valid until they are replaced with new stickers by the University.

All commercial vehicles (except those belonging to the two transport unions that have registered with the University) may enter and exit the campus only through the Stadium Road.

With the exception of the Stadium Road entrance, all other entry and exit points will be shut at midnight and be opened at 5.00 a.m. daily, as has been the practice.

The University will start a campus shuttle bus service for its staff and students shortly.

The University appeals for the understanding and cooperation of members of the community.

Mercy Haizel-Ashia REGISTRAR

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