Regional News of Thursday, 8 November 2012

Source: PPP Communications Directorate

PPP mourns victims & families of Melcom building disaster

The Progressive People's Party (PPP) is shocked to hear that the Achimota branch of multi-storey departmental store owned by MELCOM has collapsed with scores of people still trapped beneath the debris.

Our prayers go to the many workers and other attendants who were in the store when the building collapsed. Our prayers also go for those who suffered varied degrees of injuries and others yet to recover from the shock of the collapsed building.

Our heartfelt condolences and deepest sympathies again go to the families of those who lost their lives and others still covered by the piled MELCOM rubble.

Although rescue efforts started just a while after the disaster, the slow pace of the rescue mission meant many people who, otherwise, would have been saved, risked a further danger to their lives being under the heaped debris which as at the second day stood close to a two-storey building.

With the official death recorded rising on the second day of the disaster, we fear many more deaths will be recorded with the slow pace of the rescue efforts.

Others who were pulled alive, we believe, are likely to live with possible or perpetual trauma and physical deformities.

The latest incident has brought to the fore the inability of our officialdom, especially those at the helm of City and Town and Planning as well as the Municipal,Metropolitan and District Assemblies (MMDAs) to keep a professional eye on the many stores and houses springing up in our towns and cities.

For these officials and other traditional rulers who sell or lease plots of land for these multi-national companies, what matters to them most is the financial gains in selling these lands.

Other issues like how to supervise the construction of such multi-faceted edifice are considered too peripheral a personal issue to warrant any official probing and supervision.

The Ministry of Works, Housing & Water Resources, the parent government agency that has the oversight responsibility in ensuring that proper permits are granted for such housing projects cannot escape blame.

And so if it is true that the owners of the MELCOM building had no permit to put No. 62 5th Crescent, Asylum Down, Accra, Post Office Box GP 17187, Tel.: 030 702 2483 up the five- storey building, then the call for the resignation of the Accra Mayor should also beextended to the Minister of Works, Housing & Water Resources and his deputy.

But should these negligent officials only resign their positions? We say No!They should be prosecuted!

We often wait for such avoidable disasters and shed crocodile tears to cover-up for our ineptitudes and sloppiness in dealing with such systemic failures. True to prediction,President John Dramani Mahama has suspended his campaign somewhere in the country to mourn with the victims and the affected families.

Indeed the government has declared the area — Achimota-Neoplan, around where the disaster occurred, a disaster zone. Vice-President, Paa Kwesi Amissah-Arthur, was also at the scene,coordinating rescue efforts.

The PPP does not in any way share in the presidential grief. At best it is a grief a bit too late. Our stance is neither influenced by the swiftness nor otherwise of the Castle response; but the fact that ineptitude on the part of officialdom to compel relevant agencies to be up and doing has led to the current disaster and many more calamities like the perennial flooding in the northern parts of the country.

So the blame is not entirely on the doorstep of those agencies responsible for the planning of our town and cities, but also the powers-that-be (in this case government) to deal with the systemic failure which today has brought to us a terrible Black Wednesday.

In many of such instances, officialdom rather than dealing with the incompetent lots, tend to subtly defend their cronies.

We were shocked to hear media reports that Vice President Kwesi Amissah-Arthur said the MELCOM building collapsed shortly before the MELCOM store was due to open for business.

This is in sharp contrast to an eyewitness report by one Ama Okyere, who said she was very close to the incident.

According to her, she had to run for her life, because she was so terrified and believed there were lots of people trapped under the debris because Achimota MELCOM is heavily patronised.

Ama's story was corroborated by many other eye-witnesses, suggesting that MELCOM had indeed opened for business for the day when the disaster struck. So we ask His Excellency, the Vice President, that if MELCOM was not opened for the day's business, how come that many victims were feared trapped and dead, under the rubble? Were they all workers of MELCOM?

Richmond Keelson,

Communications Directorate