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Opinions of Saturday, 9 February 2008

Columnist: Okyere Bonna

Where are the laws to protect our future national assets,-Ghanaian Children?

The tragic death of the beautiful 13 year old girl that occurred at Abeka- Lapaz near the Las- Palmas international Chop bar on Saturday the 26th of January 2008 merits a national debate and immediate correction.

Story: According to eye witness report, Miss Ofaribea a 13year old ice water seller at the Abeka-Lapaz traffic light met her untimely death when a middle class man driving a VW PASSAT car bought ice water from the little girl and in the process threw the money (GH¢5 or ¢500, old Ghana Cedis)on the ground for the girl.

In her effort to pick the money, GH¢5, to make way for smooth flow of traffic, an articulator truck with registration number GW5841W smashed the little girls head killing her instantly.

The dead body was allowed to lie on the road for close to two hours before a taxi driver offered his car to transport the dead body to the police hospital after the frantic effort of the police personnel to get an ambulance service to transport the dead body.

Ghana’s Leadership Challenge:

Miss Akua Ofaribea’s tragic death must compel the government and Ministry of Highways not only to answer some questions but also to pass a law to prohibit hawkers from selling along the busy streets, especially along the highways. Above all children under the age of sixteen must be protected by the laws of the state from engaging in selling along the streets to prevent any of such occurrences in the history of Ghana.

Miss Akua Ofaribea lost her life on Saturday the 26th of January 2008 while working under exposed dangerous situation along the busy highways of Accra. Like many Ghanaian teen agers and even pre-teen girls, Miss Akua Ofaribea was working hard to make a living; perhaps to pay her school fees or to make money to buy her school supplies.

Authorities in Ghana have vehemently argued that they do not permit or condone with child labor in Ghana. However, thousands of children are abused on the major streets of Ghana selling what ever they could find to support themselves and their families;--from ice water to dog chains while Authorities watch unconcerned. It is about time the government or law makers of the land acted proactively to save the future assets of the nation, children. Keep them in school and allow them the right of proper and sound education.

Child labor abounds in Africa. This is violation of human rights and the rights of children. Children under sixteen are supposed to be catered for and nurtured by their parents and the state; not to be abused. Children under sixteen are not matured enough to enter the job market; at least not jobs that expose them to acute danger.

Although it is not directly the fault of the incumbent regime, it is imperative that they (Government) play a proactive role in keeping children off from the job market, especially from along the dangerous streets, and provide them the opportunity to focus on their education.

It is even heart-breaking to find out how Miss Akua Ofaribea, a 13-year-old girl, with all the possibilities of the future ahead of her had to pass on to the next world. I believe her death must compel the government, if it really cares for the future of Ghana, and the Ministry of Highways and even the Ministry of Interior, to come together and pass a law to prohibit any of such occurrences in the future of Ghana. Forbid children under sixteen to be exposed to dangerous “expeditions.”

The people of Ghana must ask their government or leaders some tough questions including the following.

1. We know the incident occurred in the capital city of Ghana, the capitol of the nation.

2. The accident occurred at Abeka-Lapaz near the Las- Palmas international Chop bar. We know that Abeka is not very far from Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital.

3. We know that Ministry of Health, at least, has one ambulance; or the Accra City Council, (Accra Metropolitan Council), purportedly has the facilities to either clean up the city or maintain some environmental hygiene and decency. The Fire Service and the Police departments may also have been equipped to intervene.

So how come the body or remains of the deceased was left in the road unattended?

Questions for the Ministry of Health and others to answer:

Is this how the country’s authorities treat their citizens?

Let the authorities concerned not brush this off or shelf this away as business as usual. Let the President and Parliament address the issue. If there is no clear-cut responsibility here, let it find one and delegate this responsibility to.

It was only fair, for example, that every hospital in the country had some ambulance to attend to emergencies on the road. It was only common-sense business as usual to have provided hospitals the tools to deal with such issues and similar health related emergencies on the highways if the nation can conveniently afford a $30 million plus Presidential Palace.

Let government also begin to take the needs of the people to heart and find genuine means to bridge the gap between the affluent and privileged politicians and the ordinary folks of Ghana; after all it was these ordinary folks who put these politicians at the top. The goal was that they were going to make life a little better for all; not only themselves. Leaving a dead body on the streets of the capital of a country for two hours without any health officer attending is simply un-excusable. At least some one has to bear the responsibility.

As a civilized nation, we cannot sit aloof to let the pathetic death of Ofaribea escape our memory without any proactive effort to avoid another repetition any day. This is one tragic episode that cannot be erased from the minds of many people in and around Abeka, Accra.

Okyere Bonna Visit me at: www.okyerebonna.com