23 May 2012

Ghana: Accra's Mini Hurricane - the Day After

It was thankfully quite brief and the accompanying rain also mercifully not that much of a deluge, but within the short period it blew, it brought down trees, advertising billboards and buildings.

Roofs of buildings were yanked off and sent flying up to a kilometer away from their origins.

It was very scary and since then residents in the national capital are living in trepidation because the rainy season is just beginning.

Questions are also being asked as to the structural integrity of buildings and the numerous advertising billboards that litter the landscape of the city.

The uprooted billboards were the most visible of the damage caused and an embarrassed Advertising Association of Ghana (AAG) was compelled to come out with a statement which opened with the following words: "The Advertising Association of Ghana (AAG) is concerned about the recent destruction caused by storms hitting the country and our paramount commitment is ensuring lives and properties are protected. The Association has further noticed the construction of a number of billboard structures contrary to laid down procedure and specifications outlined by the gazetted Code Ghana Standard GS 847-2010 of the 5th of March 2010 spearheaded by the AAG."

This says it all. It encapsulates the national psyche of impunity. No one gives a damn! There are regulations and bylaws covering so many things, but they are not enforced.

The authorities in charge, like the Accra Metropolitan Assembly, for the national capital, never see through any programmes they initiate to get the right things done.

Slums have sprung up where they should not be; kiosks have taken over the city; traders congest roads, contractors do shoddy jobs building drains and gutters and yes, advertising agencies also place billboards with abandon.

Now the weather is telling us that there is an expensive price to pay for all that nonchalance. If the storm of last week portends what is to come as the season gathers storm, then we are in for big, big trouble!

But first things first: We need a public inquiry into what happened - not the act of God, but the acts of omission and commission by agencies like the AMA and AAG so as to determine responsibility, liability and work out the strategies to minimize future damage.

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