6 June 2014

Ghana: Red Flag Over Two Bridges and a Road

COMMERCIAL DRIVERS and passengers plying the Salaga-Makango road in the East Gonja District have raised the "red flag" over a looming danger being posed by two bridges linking the two main commercial towns in the District, which are on the verge of collapsing.

They insist that it has become extremely dangerous for drivers and their passengers to cross those bridges as they physically feel heavy vibrations anytime they are crossing. The concrete in the bridge, and even some of the metal slabs, as well as iron rods, are either hanging or have fallen into the river, which makes the road a fatal death trap.

At times, some drivers, especially big buses and articulator trucks fully loaded with yam and maize have to offload their goods to reduce their weight before crossing the bridge. The bridge has compounded the poor nature of the Salaga-Makango road, which already has recorded several accidents leading to fatalities and injuries among passengers.

The spate of road accidents in the area has compelled the District Chief Executive (DCE) for East Gonja, Mohammed Adam Lukman, to constitute a 15-member Road Safety Taskforce, chaired by the District Police Commander, to check indiscipline, and also educate drivers on how to manage the dangerous spots on the roads.

The DCE, members of the East Gonja branch of the Ghana Private Road Transport Union (GPRTU), and the members of the Taskforce, during their first road safety campaign, visited the Salaga-Makango road to assess the dilapidated bridges. Some commercial drivers who spoke to The Chronicle during the road safety campaign complained that they feel very scared when they approach the bridge.

One of the drivers, Tijani Ewuntomah, described the bridge as a "life sentence bridge." Adding, "Anytime I approach the bridge, I feel like I and my passengers have [a] 50-50 chance to live, because we don't know how lucky we can be. Even when I try to dodge, I still do not know where is safer for me."

He, therefore] made a passionate appeal to the government to tackle the Tamale-Salaga-Makango road, to save them from the trauma they go through. One Hajia Mariama Alhassan, a trader, also attacked the government for neglecting the people of East Gonja for far too long. According to her, apart from the difficulties they encounter on the road, traders who want to transport their goods from Makango to the South, through the Volta River, also face similar problems, as the only ferry serving the people was not in good condition.

The East Gonja District Police Commander, ASP Alhaji Simons Amenu, said that the nature of the roads in the district had made it very difficult for the security agency to carry out road safety campaigns. He noted that most of the roads had developed serious potholes with some bridges and culverts washed away. This, he said, trapped and caused accidents for motorists on a daily basis.

At the moment, the members of the Road Safety Taskforce, according to the Police Commander, are facing an uphill task in educating the drivers, or compelling them to comply with road traffic regulations, as a result of the poor nature of the roads. The drivers, he said, complained of the frequent breakdowns to their vehicles.

But, that notwithstanding, the Taskforce insists that drivers and motor riders wear their seatbelts, crash helmets, possess genuine driving licenses, first aid box, reflectors, number plates, fire extinguishers, rectangles, and torch lights among others. ASP Alhaji Amenu gave the assurance that the Road Safety Taskforce would be extended to the remote communities to reduce the activities of Fulani herdsmen on passengers, especially traders.

The District Chief Executive (DCE) for East Gonja said that the nature of the bridge had been a major concern to the District Assembly, as it posed a severe danger to the lives of traders and passengers. He said: "The nature of this bridge is not a danger to one particular truck, but the whole of the district. This is the main route for transporting our yams and other farm produce to urban centres in the south. So, if this bridge finally collapses, all of those yams will have to find [an] alternative route, which is also impossible."

He was apprehensive that with the onset of the rains, the road would face serious danger or wash away completely, and that it would be impossible for the assembly to create a diversion, due to the size of the river. The DCE, however, mentioned that the Tamale-Salaga-Makango road remained a priority for the government, which had plans to develop it.

In the interim, Mr. Adam Lukman gave the assurance that the Assembly was in talks with the Ministry of Roads and Highways to carry out a technical assessment on the bridge, and advice accordingly.

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