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Opinions of Saturday, 11 January 2014

Columnist: Owusu, Stephen Atta

Blessings for Ghana in 2014, Na Double Double

The year 2013 will be a year that will stay in the minds of Ghanaians for a very long time. It is one of the worst years in Ghana's history. This was the year in which so many bad things happened at the same time. The year recorded more accidents than perhaps any other year. Fire outbreaks, murder, big time armed robbery, rape?and many more unpleasant events happened in the past year. It was?also a year?in which Ghanaians saw the death of?a political stalwart of the major opposition party in Ghana, Alhaji Aliu Mahama of the National Patriotic Party (NPP)?and a Vice President for eight years during the Kufuor regime.

According to Ghana Central Bureau of Statistics, in 2013 alone, a total of 2,249 people died in motor accidents, with 14,181 people sustaining serious injuries. In all 21,817 vehicles were involved, comprising 10,587 commercial vehicles, 18,790 private vehicles and 2,440 motor bikes. It is very pathetic and most unfortunate that a lot of our human resources are lost through road accidents. One would have expected that the government will channel enough money into road construction and maintenance and procuring machines that are used in testing the condition of vehicles as is done in the Western countries before road-worthy certificates are issued. Regrettably, the government is channeling funds into diseases like malaria which is preventable. What is needed is to educate people to keep their environments clean to prevent a breeding ground for mosquitoes; millions of Ghana cedis went to waste in a guinea fowl project that yielded nothing and a tree planting project in the North which turned out to be a hoax. Typically in 2013, the following were some of the causes of road accidents in Ghana: Careless driving, over-speeding and wrong overtaking played a major role, poor roads, poor and old bridges, worn out wheels, dilapidated vehicles and indiscipline on the part of the traffic police.

Fire outbreaks occur in every country, but the multiple fire outbreaks in Ghana in 2013 leave much to be desired. The fire outbreaks caused considerable damage to life and property. They are the worst in many decades. The country recorded 2,201 fire outbreaks in the first quarter of 2013 alone. The number rose to? 4,577 by the end of the year?with markets being the most affected. Kantamanto market in Accra was razed to the ground by intense fire. Makola market also caught fire and goods valued millions of cedis were burnt to ashes. Almost all the major markets in Ghana have had their share of the fire outbreaks. The old parliament house recently caught fire?and burnt down completely. Was this not arson?

Markets turned into mourning grounds as traders and shopkeepers mourned their losses. The Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS) put the estimated cost of damage from fire outbreaks during the first quarter alone at GHC16million. Eighteen fire outbreaks occurred daily. The number of fire outbreaks recorded in 2013 far exceeded those for 2012.?Fire outbreak recorded nationwide was 4,577 resulting in 295 deaths. The cost of damage was put at GHc40,321,963. Brong Ahafo region recorded the highest number of fire outbreaks with 378 fires, followed by Greater Accra region, 330, Ashanti region, 314, while Volta Region's 46 was the lowest on record.

Crime, armed robbery and burglary intensified in 2013. Fear gripped Ghanaians and the possibility of becoming a victim hung on everyone's head like the sword of Damocles. The greatest crimes that took 2013 by storm were crimes that gave opportunities for immediate gains. These are pick-pocketing, petty theft, home burglary, street blocking by armed robbers and highway robbery. The Department of United?States bureau of Diplomatic Security rates Ghana as a high crime threat post for visitors and residents alike. Robbery against expatriates was the worst and most shameful by armed robbers. Interestingly, these armed robbers who attacked the residencies of the expatriates lacked the sophistication required to overcome home alarm systems and?security guards. Most often the armed robbers took to their heels and disappeared with their evil motives unfulfilled. 2013 was a year in which heavily armed robbers stopped cars and lorries on the road and robbed all passengers and subjected them to painful ordeals. The one that took place on the Kintampo-Tamale road where passengers were robbed and the women were?forced?at gun point to sleep with the male passengers, was one of the most pitiful and never to be forgotten incidents that occurred in 2013.?The year was a very busy one for?security officers in their efforts to fight armed robbery. Very often they exchanged shots with the armed robbers. The security officers seized sophisticated weapons from dangerous armed robbers in Kumasi. The weapons included, AK 47 assault rifles, G3 armour exclusively used by the military, baical guns, pump-action guns, short guns and cartridges. Most of these weapons could fire 500 to 600 rounds per minute.?

There is growing concern about child prostitution which gained solid grounds in Ghana in 2013. Many children feel an urgent need to give their bodies to men who are much older than them, in order to get money to pay their school fees since their parents are impoverished. Child prostitution became predominant in the major cities of Accra, Kumasi, Sekondi-Takoradi and many other cities. Minors in Sekondi-Takoradi take their pimps to a kiosk near the beach, and received just GHc2 from them as a price for engaging in sexual escapades with other men. A similar incident happened in Kumasi where minors under 10 years engaged in sex with five to 10 men a day. They later spent their nights inside a hole in the Subin Valley near Asafo Jubilee Park. Their sleeping place was found out and they were taken to Nhyira FM where the social welfare personnel took them later.

Child rape is another issue that attracted deep concern among Ghanaians in 2013. Innocent girls were raped sometimes by their own brothers and fathers. Sometimes these girls are killed after being raped.

We have entered 2014 and it is the hope of every well-meaning Ghanaian that all the bad things that happened in 2013 do not happen again. We must see prosperity this year. All pastors, Moslems and anyone who believes in the divine intervention of God must go on their knees daily and pray unceasingly for the motherland.?If we all pray fervently blessings will be our portion.?

Written by Stephen Atta Owusu?

Author: Dark Faces at Crossroads