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Opinions of Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Columnist: Koku Mawuli Nanegbe

Madina - Pantang highway deaths; until the last man dies?

A hit-and-run incident last Friday evening on the Madina – Adentan stretch of the Tetteh Quashie roundabout – Pantang junction highway has sparked a wild protest, forcing protesters to block the road, demanding an immediate action from the authorities to fix the neglected highway to avert pedestrian knockdowns which the highway has notoriously become known for.

The hit-and-run victim, a 22-year-old seamstress apprentice, reports say was hit by a first car that never stopped and was run over by another which also sped off.

Daily Graphic’s Caroline Boateng in a news report said witnesses to the incident got agitated and used rocks, mini billboards, yellow gallons, wooden boards to block the highway and for about one hour and a half prevented vehicles from moving in either direction as they [protesters] chanted “fix our footbridges, fix our footbridges.”

The report also revealed that from January 2018, about 118 deaths have been recorded through vehicular knockdowns on the stretch whilst others put the total death toll within a year at 190.

In discussing this matter, it would be recalled that the 2017 Atomic junction gas filling station explosion generated an unimaginable panic which brought human activity around Madina, particularly Zongo junction to an abrupt end, forcing people to begin to run for their lives out of which some ended up on the highway leading to many knockdowns by moving vehicles which would have been avoided were the footbridges made available.

Non-interest on the part of successive governments in major infrastructural projects – health, education, water, sanitation, roads among others started by previous regimes is partly to blame for our country’s low productivity and overall developmental drive.

Some of these projects are fast deteriorating because they are at the mercy of the weather, others overgrown by weeds and are home to reptiles etc whilst the poor taxpayer who badly needs these facilities is left to struggle.

Immediately, the project that springs to my mind is the completed but yet to operationalise Nagruma CHPS compound in the Mamprugu area at whose neglect pregnant woman in labor and the motorbike she was travelling on had to be carried shoulder high to cross a river to a distance community for medical care which attracted national attention.

Meanwhile, the abandoned project that gazes at me on a daily basis and requiring urgent attention is the Panang Junction – Madina – Tetteh Quashie roundabout dual carriageway, started about a decade ago.

Here is a highway that virtually has nonfunctional streetlights; making visibility difficult, its median, motorbike/bicycle lanes, as well as the pedestrian walkways, are overgrown by weeds. Rainwater collected on the road is unable to flow freely, always trapped – forming a pool at particular spots at SDA junction, Ritz junction, Madina Masalatsi, Okponglo.

The footbridges are uncompleted, leaving pedestrians with the only risky option of crossing the road even at sections without traffic lights and that exacerbated by poor visibility at night often leading to vehicular knockdowns, resulting in 118 deaths in 10 months.

As I script this piece, IMANI’s Selorm Branttie and an advocate for footbridges has posted on his Facebook wall that in a matter of 6hourson Monday, 2 persons were again knocked down on the N1 and on the Firestone - Madina section of the Tetteh Quashie – Pantang highway.

Very devastating! Can we really quantify the cost and effect of the vehicular knockdowns and the deaths to our economy?

The knockdowns must stop. It is for this reason why I fully support #fixourfootbridgesNOW Peace Walk scheduled for Monday 12, November at 5am, starting from Adentan Barrier to get government to urgently deal with the issue.

This government has no excuse, particularly because of the avalanche of resources currently at its disposals. There is more revenue from the taxes on petroleum products, earnings from crude oil exports have also tripled just as loans borrowed in 18 months exceeded Gh40 billion. The people must benefit from the taxes they pay and loans borrowed in their name.

Now, away from the infrastructural issues, anytime I am moving along the highway spanning Adentan – Madina – AMA – La Dadekotopon Assemblies and get confronted by the weedy and unkempt environments, I wondered what is in the performance contract that the MMDCEs always sign with their Regional Coordinating Councils.

We cannot drive development having leaders of these kinds in place. We need people who are prepared to think to solve problems. This country has taxied enough and must take off.