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Opinions of Monday, 27 July 2015

Columnist: Asare-Donkoh, Frankie

And Oko swims in filth

Did I hear right, that Ghana is the 7th most dirtiest country in the world? I need some assurance from Uncle Alfred Oko Vanderpuiye, the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) Chief Executive, that it is not true, because he recently returned home from a conference to tell us he was elected the ‘best mayor’ in Africa.

I’m tempted to believe that the writers of the Joint Monitoring Programme report, “Progress on Sanitation and Drinking Water: 2015 Update and MDG Assessment,” a collaborative effort between the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) have made a mistake in stating that Ghana is the 7th most dirtiest country in the world. Didn't anyone tell them the best mayor of Africa is from Ghana's national capital?

Even before Oko told us he was the best of the best, Ghana was ranked 10th a year before, and if only Accra was the yardstick, I’m sure we would have been 2nd or 3rd. So how come that with Uncle Oko being the best of the best of mayors in Africa, our sanitation situation has become worse?

Shamefully, Ghana, which currently has sanitation coverage of 15 per cent, is ranked after South Sudan, a country just coming out of years of war, while still competing with other countries like Niger, Chad, perhaps the poorest country in the world, Madagascar, Togo, and Sierra Leone another country just out of war and now re-building its infrastructure.

National Sanitation Day

For some months now ministers of state travel from region to region on monthly basis to clean under the so-called National Sanitation Day. I believe the amount of money spent on fuel, lodging and accommodation for the ministers and the per diem allowances for their entourage could provide more cleaning materials for district assemblies and individual communities to undertake their own cleaning without the fanfare which accompanies this monthly photo shoot exercise.

We definitely don’t need monthly sanitation days where ministers of state and their entourage spend money to travel for photo shoot ceremonies whiles Uncle Oko continues to swim in filth in Accra, while other towns and cities are decorating their streets with mountains of rubbish. Any visitors to or beaches can tell you we losing a great tourism potential as most of the beaches have been the places of convenience when houses in our communities have no toilet facilities and no public toilets are built by the district and metropolitan assemblies.

Doesn't this WHO-Unicef report expose the hollowness of the crown Mr Oko Vanderpuiye is carrying as the best 'Mayor of Africa', when the best mayor's country is the 7th most dirtiest country in the world? What were the indicators based upon which he was elected (that is, if he was elected at all; or did he buy the title?), because arguably Accra being both the regional and national capital is the most dirtiest of all the regional capitals when you consider that most of the streets including the so-called central business area is overwhelmed by rubbish and filth.

Currently, Oko and his AMA and some of the district assemblies covering other parts of the national capital are demolition houses which they claim are on waterways and blocking water not to flow freely and thus causing the June 3, 2015 flood disaster which caused over 150 people to lose their lives. Wasn't that a knee-jerk reaction? What is Oko and other district chief executives going to do now with the WHO-Unicef Joint Monitoring Programme report placing Ghana at 7th on the dirtiest countries table? Are the supposed buildings on waterways the cause of all the filth in our cities?

The mind-boggling issue is that owners of most of the buildings they have just started demolition claim they have building permits issued to them by the same district and metropolitan assemblies including the AMA, which enabled them to put up their buildings where they put them. So since when did the officials of the district and metropolitan assemblies realise that they issued building permits without doing the proper checks? Many of the affected building owners are heading for court and we need to brace ourselves for a series of damages and compensations, and possibly another batch of judgement debts.

Cleanliness, they say, is next to Godliness. We need to adopt the right policies to get our towns and cities cleaned instead of waiting for disasters to happen before we behave like the vulture who promises to build itself a house during the rainy season but quickly forgets about it when sun shines.