You are here: HomeWallOpinionsArticles2012 05 26Article 240061

Opinions of Saturday, 26 May 2012

Columnist: Abugri, George Sydney

Bad roads, hungry cops and danger in the sky

By George Sydney Abugri

The election campaign and its multiple and fiercely competing propaganda-motivated distractions have killed all the critical headlines, distorted some and buried the rest under long and winding news bulletins, Jomo.

The forgotten news will get some oxygen though, so help me Lord: The capital for example. In spite of his very gallant efforts and passion to see the metro spick and span, a conspiracy of various factors keep throwing baboon wrenches in the city mayor’s works.

A lady who came visiting from the States the other day sent an email in which she informed a friend that in the Ghanaian capital Accra you do not need a car because you are really not going anywhere no matter how long you sit in it. The traffic congestion in the Ghanaian capital she claimed, was far worse than the jams in Bay Bridge area in San Francisco and the George Washington Bridge Area in New York.

The hapless mayor with some sympathy from the rest of us may have a lot more to worry about in coming days than traffic jams: His prayer now might probably be that the torrents when they come cascading down, do not drown us one and all.

From that day many, many years ago, when I arrived in the capital from my duty post up on the Savanna, booked into a hotel at Kwame Nkrumah Circle and woke up the next morning to find the hotel submerged under the Atlantic, to the unforgettable flood of 1995 which killed many and threatened to wash the city into the seas, the status of Accra as one of Africa’s most flood-prone capitals has seasonally been affirmed.

That morning, I woke in my second floor room to hear loud, banging, swooshing, scraping, clanging, sounds downstairs and on the stair way. Then lodgers wet as guinea fowls drenched in buckets of water, began coming up from ground floors, dragging bags and suitcases.

The ravages of the 1995 floods have remained one of the most devastating to date, what with most people trekking through mud in all manner of expensive shoes across the city on the day of that disaster. There were some tragic yet morbidly comic scenes playing out across the city as well:

Gaping pedestrians walking through the Kwame Nkrumah Circle stared in horror at the sight of a sofa floating down the huge drain from Alajo to Circle with a dead middle-aged man sitting in it!

The National Disaster chaps say this season, they have all the necessary tools and accoutrements all stocked up: Cranes to dig though rubble, the necessary equipment to pluck marooned families from roof tops, boats to rescue hapless people being swept to kingdom come and so on and so. We give then some marks then for readiness, yah?

The problem with flooding in Accra will remain as dicey as city engineering problems ever get: Nearly every water source and course from upstream is bound for the coast. As if that were not enough, Accra lies on low land. To cap it all, flouting building regulations and building property on water ways and choking all available drains with every discarded solid with a name is now a way of metropolitan life.

Residents of Accra have failed to make one neglected issue a campaign issue and it will be to their chagrin gain when the skies open up: Roads. For some strange reason, roads in Ghana have become synonymous with super highways on which motorists fly over the asphalt with hair-raising abandon, killing themselves and others all the time.

There are other very important roads that have been totally neglected: Feeder roads, access roads, roads linking communities in large built-up areas, roads linking the hundreds of new and old residential areas across the city, with the highways and major roads.

President Mills has no doubt seen some bad roads but let the Minister of roads and transport take him on a, day’s inspection of roads across Accra the city and the boss man will probably collapse in disbelief. The roads are really very, very, very bad, Jomo.

Since February, I have moved around a bit across the city and its suburbs and seen some of the worst roads in most of the scores of residential communities of Tema, Ashongman, Madina, Abokobi, Atomic Junction, Pokuasi, Amasaman, Kuntunse, Ashale Botwe, Nungua, Teshie, Adjirigano, New Legon etc

Hey, Jomo, it is a long story I cannot tell you,{at least now right away}, but I found myself hobnobbing with some cops last and this week:

As early as eight o’clock in morning, the Police Headquarters and most police stations are veritable beehives of hyperactivity. Top brass with the big officer aura and slightly aloof body language, detectives with dead pan expressions, cops armed to the teeth ready to embark on operations, unsmiling unformed and men and women scurrying about as if the world were coming o an end..

In the CID office, snatches of conversation float across the room as detectives prepare to get on the trail of fugitives, crooks, killers and conmen:

“Hey, corporal, where the handcuff dey”. “Who is investigating this case …” “Sergeant, there is no car to send us to the place”, “Inspector, we are very late.” “That lawyer will be here any minute”. “Inspector, quick, a taxi cab.” The most common complaint was “there is no car, sir.”

A friend and I provided a vehicle to take a couple of detectives from Tema all the way to Madina and thence to Oyarrifa and back to Tema. Back in Tema under a scorching noon,, we all looked as if we could each do with a meal and a glass of water. Do you have a police canteen? The plain cops laughed at the mention of a canteen.

Before he leaves office Inspector General of Police Mr. Paul Quay should his make it his aim to equip every divisional police station with a modest canteen and a small library stocked with books which can help policemen and women continually upgrade their knowledge of new trends in police work and help them prepare for promotion exams.

Occasionally a philanthropist with a few extra cedis to spare presents a motor vehicle to a police station and a press photographer comes along and takes a picture for the newspapers, which is all commendable but is that the most scientific and sustainable way to build a modern police service in an era of worsening crime and insecurity?

If our national priorities have been erroneously stood on their heads, why not stand them upright now and place the revamping of the police service and motivation of officers higher up on the budgetary priority ladder, Jomo?

Alright, so the other side of the coin is that some police officers are worse than greedy octopuses, always grabbing at bribes left, right, front and behind, from erring motorists and crime suspect seeking bail. They brutalize suspects and sometimes pursue investigations with suspicious restraint.

What about the many cops who are not corrupt and who risk their lives daily to save people? The IGP might tell us how many police officers were killed last and this year by robbers and bandits.

Besides, Jomo, there are crooked lawyers, pastors, public servants, engineers, nurses, accountants, politicians, estate developers, journalists etc aren’t there? A secret to a reorganization of the service should only involve retaining, adequately equipping and motivating the good cops and showing the crooked ones the wide extit, yah? Website: www.sydneyabugri.com Email: georgeabu@hotmail.com