A piece of my mind: Ghana – The land where illegality is legal

Ours is a very interesting country, Ghana. I weep for my country because I travel and return home and it often is unfathomable why things remain the way they do here...


Ours is a very interesting country, Ghana. I weep for my country because I travel and return home and it often is unfathomable why things remain the way they do here. This morning I would like to share my lamentations on our country with a focus on how the illegal is made legal and how we all sit down with arms folded as though nothing were happening. I am, thus, going to touch on a number of things that I see going wrong which we all appear to be turning a blind eye to.

The first bit I shall touch on is the gas explosions we have witnessed in recent years. After all the disasters and sad events around the Kwame Nkrumah Interchange, the Atomic Junction among others with regard to gas explosions, we still have fuel stations cited at very alarming locations. There were proposals made and supervision proffered, especially after the Atomic Junction saga, yet here we are, a long time after that event, and danger still looms. We, as a people, are waiting till another disaster happens again - and then the flame of talk shop will be rekindled.

Something else that riles me up is how unauthorised people use sirens to escape traffic. Why should that be? Are there some people, in Ghana, who are primus inter pares? More equal than others? Are there sacred cows in our system?

In Ghana, the Road Traffic Act, 2004 (act 683) is the primary law that deals with all matters pertaining to traffic and road use in the country. The Road Traffic Regulations, 2012 (LI 2180) was enacted to supplement the provisions of the Act. Regulation 74(3) of LI 2180 provides that a siren or bell may be used as a warning appliance and used on certain categories of motor vehicles.

The first category in this group is “a government vehicle used for official purposes by the head of state;” the second category is “a police vehicle;” the third category is “a motor vehicle used as an ambulance by a hospital or clinic;” the fourth category is “a motor vehicle used by other recognised government security agencies” and; the fifth category is “a bullion vehicle registered by the licensing authority.”

LI 2180 also accords certain privileges to “authorised emergency vehicles” when responding to emergency calls. According to the legislative instrument, a condition precedent for the exercise of these privileges by drivers of “authorised emergency vehicles” is the sounding of a siren and the flashing of emergency lamps while the vehicle is in motion.

“Authorised emergency vehicles” are interpreted as motor vehicles used by the police service, the fire service, used as an ambulance by a clinic or hospital or one used by other government security agencies. I could go on and on, but the matter is simple: laws do not really work in Ghana, at least not those ones that we ought to see being applied.

There also is the issue of people citing their buildings on waterways, government lands and other places where they should not be. We are grappling with flooding once more, partly because of such situations. My question? Why, government, do we have to suffer this year after year, owing to your lethargy - your inaction, your failure to act?

Illegal mining is also on my radar this morning. Illegal mining costs the nation sums we cannot even begin to imagine, robbing us of acutely needed social services where the money we lose and that which we spend trying, jokingly, to save the situation, could have been pumped into changing the lives of ordinary Ghanaians.

And now, we hear this new and disturbing bit about the overt danger at the Kwame Nkrumah interchange with regard to illegal bus terminals that have sprung up right next to the railway track. This, of course, endangers the lives of passengers, drivers and the myriad pedestrians that throng that area every day. That can only happen in a country that has laws but does not apply them, for we do have regulations that do not permit the springing up of such stations, but illegality is carried out under the full glare, and even sometimes with the complicity of state officials, and that can only be a recipe for disaster.

Rosewood is still being harvested up north, even by foreigners, though it is illegal; hawkers still sell at places they shouldn't, though it is illegal; bad drivers still remain on our streets, because some policeman or woman pockets a few Ghana Cedis and sacrifices the security of all of us on the platter of self-interest; politicians continue to line their pockets with your money and mine, and my good old uncle whom I think is drowning in the sea of his work, Martin Amidu, the Special Prosecutor, has still done nothing about that situation.

Ah, well, it all is a very sad mess, but I shall do my bit by speaking up about such issues, bringing them to the front burner of our national discussions and working my hardest to start a revolution of positive change from my little corner. What I keep pondering, though, is when things will truly begin changing in Ghana. I believe it behoves us all to make the relevant changes and compel our leaders to do what is right and hold them accountable so they will actually work - until the work is done.

I pour out my heart and mind on these issues because I am a citizen, not a spectator. My name is Benjamin Akakpo and this is a piece of my mind.

-The Author is the Host of the Executive Breakfast Show on Class 91.3 FM-



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