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Opinions of Monday, 21 March 2016

Columnist: Bright Baah Egyir

Street naming fiasco and the president's directive!

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In 2006, a budgetary allocation of GH 6, 000, 00 billion was made for the implementation of a Street-naming project as the country lacks proper spatial reference to facilitate the identification of locations. The Asante Akyem district in the Ashanti region was earmarked for the pilot scheme. For whatever reasons, the project didn't see the light of the day.

Evidently, our country’s responses over the years to street naming and property addressing had been a piecemeal; not sufficiently integrated and holistic. In 2010, the Ministry of Local

Government and Rural Development came up with a comprehensive national framework to guide the implementation of the said street-naming project. This was to ensure harmonisation, consistency, efficiency and standardisation of the system in the various Metropolitan, Municipal and district assemblies.

During the launch of the National Urban Policy framework and Action Plan in March 2013,

President Mahama directed the Ministry of Local Government to ensure that street-naming project was completed within 18 month. In November 2013, the President gave an ultimatum to heads of MMDA's to complete the street-Naming and Property Addressing exercise in their respective areas or lose their Jobs by September 2014.

In spite of the subsequent reminders that followed the President’s ultimatum, the years have passed without anybody wondering about the finality of that ultimatum. At the end of the day, the question that begs for an answer is; have all streets and houses been duly named and numbered?

It appears that getting close to the deadline, most assemblies began mounting signage for the president and the public to realise the evidence of the work done. What many may not be aware of is the fact that street-naming projects goes beyond erecting signage for directions, it involves a rigorous data collection and management system that would be useful for property planning and future development. Are the signage we see around mere whitewashes?

Seemingly, the initial stages of the street-naming project had challenges due to poor funding and allocation of logistics. Also, there were difficulties resolving disagreements between stakeholders on choice of street names as some of these choices bore various historical and cultural connotations. Be that as it may, must it take us this long to realise the real success of this all-important project. Must it be one of the things we never get right as a country? Are we not ever anticipating of a day where even first time visitors can drive around our cities and towns asking any koko-seller for directions? Might I remind you that Ghana will attain 60 years of independence next year?

It is regrettable to think that the country still remains inattentive to the importance of street-naming and effective settlement planning. Every day, our development ambitions are stifled and our urban settings become unfriendly every other day because courier services, health services and emergency services cannot have proper access to locations. Most important of all, the country loses on revenue collection and mobilisation.

It would be inconceivable for anybody to assume that the street-naming project is completed as the actual evidence points to the fact that not even half of the mandate of Street Naming and Property Addressing project has been accomplished. Are we going to start the same project again when there is a change of government like the country did with the National Identification? The recent Accra flooding is a bleak reminder of what laxity in government planning and stability in policy-making can result in and the earlier we start taking our governance process serious, the better it is for all of us.

It is therefore appropriate and imperative for a decision to be made by government to make the Department of Town and Country Planning autonomous to give the institution a proper mandate to function effectively. Ghanaians are to be charged to adapt to the full utilisation of street names, even though none of the street in my locality has been named,  I believe strongly the President must send a wake-up call to his MMDCE's to ensure that the Street-naming project sees the light of that day if it means cracking the whip.

(Executive Sectary for Project Men Ghana Ltd)

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