The deadline for the current house numbering and street naming exercise was, reportedly, the just-ended month, September. Well, I’m one of the concerned citizens keenly awaiting good results from it.
It’s fortunate that in this country people, even foreigners, hardly ever ask the question, “what is your house number?” because in my case I would certainly appear to them to be either dim or cheeky.
For, I might hesitate and seem not to understand the question or not to know the answer; or I would have to reply: “Well, it depends on who is asking!” The problem is that my house has been given different numbers by the service and utility companies.
The State Housing Company (SHC) has identified it by a letter of the alphabet and two digits which follow the numbering of the houses on my street – a street, which, incidentally the SHC has dubbed as a second “Link” in our area. Anyway, the SHC’s system is simple and easy to remember.
However, for reasons I can’t fathom, the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) has added two extra digits to the SHC number for its property rate billing.
Not to be outdone, the Ghana Water Company has dispensed altogether with the SHC’s and given a totally different number – consisting of a letter, three digits/two more digits, followed by “5th Road”. (My question: If I live on a fifth road, where did they start the counting? And what about the SHC’s second Link?)
More confusing still, until the prepaid meter came to the rescue, the Electricity Company identified my house by this formula: H/NO/letter, three digits/two more digits and two letters/eight more digits/five more digits and two letters.
Nevertheless, the prepaid system has its own wahala as it has a customer account number, a 17-digit “GEO Code”, interspersed with dashes as well as a meter number. Thankfully, I don’t have to remember all that, because upon payment, the receipt from the vending machine provides all that information.
How did we come by this complex, multiple numbers for houses? How did my modest, Dansoman Estate semi-detached abode come to be saddled with four different ‘aliases’, like a ‘419’ scammer?
Why couldn’t all the service providers just agree initially to use one house number – for example, the SHC one – to simplify things for everybody?
A popular joke is that at present people give directions to locations by citing nearby landmarks and even temporary facilities such as: “near the ‘Don’t-mind-your-wife-chop-bar’” or “the house opposite the kenkey-seller”.
And God help the location-seeker if the chop bar has since been demolished by the AMA or the kenkey-seller didn’t work that day! Surely, Ghana has outgrown this embarrassment! Little wonder that successive administrations have tried to modernise the chaos.
However, there are some exceptions: such as Duayaw-Nkwanta, in Brong-Ahafo and Konongo-Odumase, in the Asante-Akim North District.
For some years now, travelling through those two towns I have admired the conspicuous, attractive street name signs, apparently the result of a 2006 street naming and house numbering initiative by the government of President John Kufuor.
The late Finance Minister, Mr Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, who was also Member of Parliament for Asante-Akim North, was said to be one of the strong supporters of that initiative, which introduced the interesting novelty of street numbering, such as ‘First Avenue’, instead of the names of personalities. But was that project, apparently piloted in Konongo-Odumase and other places, stillborn?
In March, last year, President John Mahama gave the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development 18 months to ensure that all streets in the country are named and all houses numbered when he launched the National Urban Policy Framework and Action Plan.
Given the history, last November, sounding frustrated, the President warned metropolitan, municipal and district chief executives (MMDCEs) “I gave a deadline for all MMDCEs to name their streets and number their houses. I take this deadline very seriously and your continuous stay in office will depend on how diligently you apply yourself to the street-naming and house-numbering exercise.”
Last week, the Wa Municipality came in for praise from Vice-President Kwesi Amissah-Arthur who during a visit to the Upper West capital said he was impressed with the street-naming so far. Media reports said about 80 percent of the streets have been named.
Local Government Minister, Mr Julius Debrah, stressed that the project would improve the assemblies’ revenue generation as it would be easier to identify structures for the levying of property rates.
Incidentally, in 2002, the Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly’s then Chief Executive, Mr Maxwell Kofi Jumah, was quoted as saying that some 80 per cent of houses built in the second city in the 1990s had no building permits! Landlords in the metropolis owed a staggering 181 billion cedis in property rates, he added.
That same year, the AMA started a house numbering and street naming exercise, citing the frustrations of the old system in distributing bills and collecting revenue. The aim was to simplify the identification to something like “No. 10, James Street, New Town” for each house. What happened to it?
Anyway, it’s commendable that a new national exercise is under way to bring sanity to the disorder. Even though the September deadline didn’t see the completion of the project, at least it appears to be on course. One can only hope that by the end of this year it would have been done – especially as it looks like the jobs of many assemblies’ leaders are on the line.
However, my concern is that although my house is on a named street but it still has at least three different numbers. Is there any hope that in the near future it will have only one number that all the service providers will accept and use?
And, hopefully, one day we will not need post office boxes because Ghana Post will be able to deliver mail to all houses – even if rare letters, as email, texting and other communication advances have taken over.
Equally important, in emergencies, the Fire Service and the Police would locate places without costly, fatal delays.
So, when are we to enjoy a uniform house numbering system? Can somebody give us an answer, please? For, I’m sure mine is not the only house overloaded with numbers!
Source: Adwoa Yeboah Afari/[email protected]
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