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Opinions of Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Columnist: Yiadom, Joseph Boakye

Will Oil Be A Curse On Ghana's Roads?

The failure to include road traffic deaths and injuries in the numerous discussions of Ghana’s production of oil in commercial quantities may result in hundreds of unnecessary deaths and injuries on Ghana’s road resulting in increased poverty in the Western, Central and Greater Accra regions of Ghana.

Road transport account for about 90% of transportation in the country and as we develop our capacity to expand the production of oil in commercial quantities, my heart bleeds for the number of skilled and unskilled human resource that are likely to be killed on Ghana’s roads. I am not a prophet of doom but let’s face reality to enable us plan to save lives.



It doesn’t take rocket science to work out that vehicular population in the country especially in the three regions of Western, Central and Greater Accra proposes to increase significantly to meet the transportation demands of the oil industry. Without any strategic road safety and traffic management system in place to address this increase in vehicular activities presents a present and lasting danger.

Road crashes (accident) are predominantly a killer of the poor and it is the residence of the poorest communities along the fastest highways leading to Western region whose lives especially children are at stake.

It might not necessarily strike anyone in key positions like policy makers, traditional authority, and diplomatic missions etc to do something to save the numerous lives that are likely to add to the huge numbers already being lost and maimed on Ghana’s roads every year because every person thinks that road crash (accident) can only happen to the other person or family until the day it happen to them.

Already an average of 1800 overwhelmingly healthy people loses their lives through road crashes (accident) annually. Also an average of 5000 people becomes permanently disabled through road crashes (accident) yearly. The financial cost to the country is $288 million (over GHC 400 million) equivalent to the budget of the following ministries and agencies of state put together; Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Transport, Ministry of Communication, Ministry of Employment and Social Welfare, Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs (MOWAC), Office of Parliament, Judicial Service, Public Services Commission, Audit Service, Ministry of Justice and Attorney General’s Department, The Electoral Commission, Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Ministry of Chieftaincy and Culture, Ministry of Information, National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE), National Development Planning Commission, National Labour Commission, National Media Commission.

When we try to understand the humanitarian disaster caused by road traffic crashes (accident) our instinct is to reach for statistics. Headcount numbers provide us with a convenient measure of the numbers involved and the scale of the impact. Unfortunately, they can also sanitize reality and hide the human faces of the victims. Numbers are more abstract than names and deflect our attention from the lives of those affected.



So here are some of the names and faces of the people affected by the road traffic crash epidemic that happen on Ghana’s roads everyday;

1. President Rawlings’ convoy was involved in a traffic crash which resulted in the death of four of his body guards during his tenure.

2. President Kuffour was involved in a near fatal crash at Opeabea intersection during his tenure.

3. Hon Edward Osei Kwaku (Minister of Sports) was killed in a traffic crash.

4. Three urologists of Korle-bu Teaching Hospital died in one fatal road crash.

5. Rev Eastwood Anaba lost two of his biological daughters in one road crash on Good Friday.

6. Abdul Hanan Adams (NUG’s President) died on his way to Tamale to visit his relatives.

7. Emmanuel Acheampong (MP), John Achuliwor (MP) and other legislators and policy makers have been killed on Ghana’s roads.

8. Prof Willie Anku, a scholar of African music and the past Director of the school of performing Arts died in a motor crash.

9. Baptists in Ghana are mourning the deaths of four ministerial students killed Dec. 11 2010 in a bus crash while on their way to a classmate's wedding.

These are just a few names of the numerous lives that are lost on Ghana’s roads every day. In the time that it takes you to read this article someone is dead, dying or maimed on Ghana’s road. Of equal importance is the physical pain victims endure before they finally give up the ghost. Behind the huge numbers of victims are the social and economic tragedies.

It is unfortunate to note that at the beginning of every year the country owes to road crashes an average of 1800 healthy lives and 5000 persons suffering physical disabilities. Before the end of the year when we know the victims, every life including the President, Vice-President, Speaker of Parliament, Ministers, MP’s, the King and Chiefs of Ghana, Diplomatic Mission officials, United Nation officials, Tourists, Investors and now oil tycoons etc is a potential statistic to pay the road traffic debt Ghana owe. We ignore road crashes at our peril.

The epidemic on wheels is invisible through its ubiquity yet when we stop to add together the daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly death toll in each neighborhood, district, region; we can comprehend a true tragedy. For every death, there is a grieving family, or a child deprived of love, warmth and support of a parent. For every serious injury there is a family that lives with the consequences and financial costs.

If civilians were killed in a conflict in Ghana on the scale that road crashes does, a national condemnation and calls for action would be guaranteed. Yet the slaughters on Ghana’s roads barely attract media attention let alone be on the priority agenda of various governments. This is because the most vulnerable victims are poor members of society.

Road crashes are described as ACCIDENTS in Ghana, kills and shatter lives daily but the truth is that they are not accidents. They are the results of bad policies of various governments, neglect and of the indifference of the citizenry.

Road death and injury is conspicuous by its absence in national development agenda; that is literally a fatal failure of political leadership over the past years, measured on a narrow economic calculus. The cost of road crashes being business as usual is enormous.

Failure to include road crashes in the Millennium Development Goals framework is resulting in millions of unnecessary deaths, serious injuries and loss of goods (capital) on roads has increased poverty. The hidden road crash epidemic is a public health and safety issue and many people are being deprived of quality education because they lost their parents or guardians through road crash. On human rights, the UN convention on the rights of the child states that children have the right to a safe environment and protection of from injury. Yet every year, hundreds of children are killed or seriously injured by adults (drivers) on Ghana’s roads.

Road crashes (accident) is a cross cutting issue which affect every person and every section of our economic and social endeavours and therefore Ghana can never achieve practical realisation of the millennium development goals if road crashes continuously kill people like it does now.

Road crashes forecast to increase over the next five years from the current average of 1800 to more than 2500 due of the demand for vehicular activities in the country as a result of the production of oil in commercial quantities. It is of urgent priority to halt the appalling and avoidable upward trend of road crashes and begin to achieve year on year reduction.

We are confronted with by an epidemic on wheels that kills and maims on the scale of infectious diseases like Malaria, Tuberculoses and HIV/AIDS.

The annual financial cost to the nation alone is $288 million or over GHC 400 million; simple cost benefit analysis makes its own case for action. By this fact every $1 invested in road safety can save as much as $20 in lost earnings, reduced productivity and health cost. Ghana could save many lives including you; by scaling up investment and commitment in ROAD SAFETY.

We can save over 500 lives yearly if we commit to work together to make our roads safe. 500 lives whose potentials can be realized and not wasted, 500 families that need never know the sudden loss and lifelong grief of a road crash (accident) bereavement.

This is the prize well worth investing in. The benefits of investment in road safety human and economic will far outweigh the cost of investment to both Ghanaians and other National resident or visiting the country.

Oil production in Ghana could not have been a reality at a better time than now in respect of road safety because the UN has declared 2011 – 2020 A DECADE OF ACTION FOR ROAD SAFETY. I hope that with safety being the hallmark of the oil industry, road safety investment will be a priority during this period.

I had wanted to ask whether we can afford to invest in road safety but I want to know if we can afford not to. A word to ROAD SAFETY is in the OIL PRODUCTION IN GHANA!!!



JOSEPH BOAKYE YIADOM

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

AKWAABA FOUNDATION GHANA

akwaabafoundationgh@yahoo.com