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Opinions of Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Columnist: Ato (Impraim)

RE: Five Interchanges To Be Constructed On N1 Highway

– Mida CEO

The contribution by John Warmann in reaction to the above news item (see contributions to news column on Ghanaweb, 28th January 2013) , I think makes a lot of sense. It is people like him and the contributor above his, by one Michael, who should have been on the MiDA Executive Council or Board.

On this point, I wonder if all those dandy suit wearing, 4x4 chauffeured, plush air-conditioned office, unduly well-paid, puffy-faced non-performing officials who ended up building a ‘corridor of death’ that has killed other peoples children and parents, ever thought of inviting ordinary citizens living along that stretch of road on their Board or decision making processes? If they had, many of those whose only sin was that they dont own cars but have to walk and cross that horrendous engineering disaster that was designed as a highway, would not have died. It stands to reason that they didnt invite ordinary citizens in their decision-making processes and that is why they must have had an after-thought that "oh lets throw in 5 pedestrian over-passes along the over 14km stretch for aesthetic purposes so as to make the whole thing look as nice as the ones we see in films in Europe".

One kilometer is a very long distance for the average person who takes only one meal a day and doesn’t drive - and ideally, one or two pedestrian overpasses or underpasses for each kilometer would have been ideal to serve the heavily populated community all along that highway. Perhaps Mr Eson-Benjamin has long forgotten what it is like not to own a car and to depend on ‘trotskis’ and ‘AD 11’. That level of life has its own dynamics and struggle for survival strategies - that is if one wants to survive in the rat race. If the concerns of ordinary people and residents are routinely not addressed – as is evident in the construction of the N1 for example, they will, for sheer survival instincts, find their own means of ‘keeping head above water’ which understandably may not be the best.

The reason I am elaborating on this is because I realize that those MiDA people - including some misinformed ‘just arrived’ members of the public who drive, simply cannot bring themselves to understand how and why thinking people would want to risk their lives by crossing that highway at unauthorized places. The reality of the situation is that if one has to walk long stretches exceeding one kilometer just to cross the highway at the next available pedestrian crossing before walking back the same distance on the other side to take a tro-tro or taxi to school, market or work, twice every day, one can begin to understand the urgency and the risk pedestrians take in randomly crossing the highway at possible, but unauthorized and dangerous locations.

How all those people at the MiDA and MCC did not take such basic road furniture, accessories and exigencies into proper perspective, consideration and into account, beats my imagination. Just the very first time that I used that highway, soon after MiDA and a bevy of squabbling politicians publicly fought for recognition rights and applauded themselves for what in their own estimation was a good job done, it struck me that how did they expect the local people to cross this monster of a highway in-between the vast stretches separating the pedestrian over-passes? I think that all the so-called engineers, consultants and over-rated but inept administrators who were involved in the construction of that highway, should have their names published in the media to shame them – at the very least, for the deaths of over 70 Ghanaians – and still counting. Any one of them who comes up with the typical excuse that there was no budget or money to build sufficient pedestrian overpasses, should be publicly exposed and decommissioned from whatever professional associations they belong to.

In addition, the obtuse prehistoric characters that we continue to appoint as Ministers of State should for instance have known that if we had decided to develop a single lane slow-moving road through a highly populated community into a mega 3 to 4 lane high-speed highway, the necessary road furniture and services that should have been an inevitable feature throughout the length of that highway, should have been financially and physically arranged for, ahead of the construction phase without any compromise.

Arrangements should have been made for sufficient crossings, fail-proof traffic lights, sufficient numbers of police personnel and City Guards and constant planning supervision to protect the integrity and the safe use of the highway. Two weeks ago, I got stuck in a monstrous traffic jam on that highway in which it took me 1½ hours to make a distance of barely 200 metres. The reason was that one set of street lights had stopped functioning. Just yesterday for instance, my electricity was cut 3 times, amounting to a loss of power for almost 6 hours. So I ask, in a country like this, did the so-called engineers and consultants take all this into consideration whilst planning and building that highway? Since we cannot rely on both the AMA and the Ghana Highways Authority, as both of them seem to have outlived their usefulness, a possible new institution under the Presidency may have to be considered to manage that highway to stem the on-going blood-bath.

Motorways, highways and what have you are all built for the convenience of the general public – not only for cars and their owners who only constitute probably about 5% of the entire population. If therefore MiDA supervised the building of this albeit, useful highway with the exclusive and singular intent of easing traffic congestion, then they have failed miserably. The interest of the overwhelming numbers of ordinary people who have to cope with that gargantuan highway and the new socio-economic challenges that it poses for them every day, should have taken an over-riding place of importance in the planning schemes and considerations of MiDA and the Ghana Highway Authority. It is so sad that 50 years after independence, one can almost without fail, sadly conjecture that Ghanaian professionals and institutions will almost always fail when tasked to undertake a project of national sensitivities, importance and pride. Why? Former President Kufuor and his Minister of Roads, Dr Nduom and Eson-Benjamin amongst others, why?

It is also my suggestion that due to their reckless negligence, out of which so many people have died, MiDA should set up an endowment fund, financed by 20% of the earnings of all those inept functionaries who had a hand in not taking the necessary decisions and measures to avoid the deaths of so many of our brothers, sisters and children on that road. The evolving fund should be used as compensation and funeral donations to the bereaved families of those killed as well as those who unfortunately, will continue to be needlessly killed until the necessary corrective measures are effected on that highway. Accidents due to reckless driving between vehicles on the highway should not be considered to benefit from this fund.

I understand that the driver who knocked down the recent casualty on that highway - the innocent little girl who was going to school , as well as two residents of the area who demonstrated after that accident, are all in Police custody awaiting court proceedings – and Eson-Benjamin and his lot are still defiantly talking and walking around free????? They should all be hauled in and charged for dereliction, incompetence and acute malversation of public office. The raging epidemic of mediocrity, crass official ineptitude and unprofessionalism that perennially stalls the economy to no end and leads to so much waste of human life as well as productivity, has to no avail crippled the entire establishment into something akin to a failed state. In spite of all this damage caused to our society as a result, we still plead deference to senior officials who supervise and execute the on-going chaos in our lives.

I propose that all planning activity geared towards further construction of interchanges should immediately be halted until all outstanding needs for additional pedestrian crossings on the highway have been met. As they say, ‘a stitch in time saves nine’.

And by the way, if Eson-Benjamin says that MiDA’s work and therefore responsibilities on that is finished, for what other reasons is that MiDA office still operating, who is paying them, on whose behalf and to what avail is he still talking?

Ato (Impraim)