The presidential candidate of the Convention People's Party (CPP) for the December elections, Dr. Abu Sakara Foster, has attributed the recent premix fuel explosion at Axim in the Western Region to lack of safety standards.
Dr. Sakara Foster, who visited the site to access the situation, observed that three rusty tanks, which were half submerged, were directly next to a row of small retail sheds along a narrow road on the sea front.
Furthermore, the distribution point offered no restrictions in access to the throng of people that had gathered there to receive premix fuel after a fuel tanker had discharged its contents.
Dr. Foster commented that the rudimentary conditions under which premix fuel was being handled fell far short of the safety standards for handling inflammable petroleum products.
He also noted that the unrestricted access to the distribution points made it possible for so many people to be injured and killed by the incident.
"These are accidents waiting to happen," he said, referring to similar conditions that prevail at other premix distribution points in the fishing communities.
When asked what solutions he recommends to avoid such occurrences at premix duel distribution points in future, Dr. Sakara Foster said that in the short term, the concerned government agencies must educate the distributors and fishing communities on the safe handling of petroleum products.
He added that the relevant authorities must also ensure that the distribution points meet and comply with the basic safety standards.
He advised that district chief executives and parliamentarians of fishing communities should take an active interest to support the improvement of infrastructure at premix distribution points.
Dr. Sakara Foster went on to add that medium to long term solutions were also needed to protect the livelihoods of fishing communities.
He observed that the distribution of premix fuel was an attempt to subsidise the cost of the ever-decreasing catches of fish with each fishing trip out to sea.
The CPP 2012 presidential candidate said that if nothing was done to reverse the trend of decreasing fish stock off our coastline, there would come a day when the subsidised premix fuel would be useless to fisher folk, because their objective is to catch fish, and not to take joy rides in the sea, only to come back with empty nets.
Dr. Sakara Foster urged the government to pay serious attention to the issuing of fishing licenses for foreign fishing vessels, to ensure that they are within quotas that allow our fish to be adequately replenished.
He also said that the long standing inability to enforce a stop fishing methods that dangerously deplete our fishing stock should be corrected by empowering and motivating the relevant agencies immediately.
Dr. Foster also recommended that in the long term, government should support the development of fish and prawn farms in the rivers and estuaries to provide the fisher folk alternatives that complement going out to sea.
Dr. Sakara, a strong advocate for local entrepreneurship, noted that large fish quantities taken off Africa's coast posed a danger to the food security of Africans.
He noted that whilst the fish itself was going out of our food stock, it also deprived us of a valuable product, fish gut, when fish is not processed on shore.
The loss of such huge quantities of fish gut is a major contributor to our inability to supply adequate feed for our poultry industry.
The processing of fish catches on-shore would create additional jobs for the fisher folk, and also retain our biomass of fish gut for our use.
The government of Ghana and ECOWAS must therefore, be vigilant and prudent in handling negotiations such as the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).
"We must not commit to documents that disadvantage our long term capacity to process our own products on shore," Dr. Sakara Foster concluded.