Our elders, having studied the habits of the vulture, used that nasty bird to coin a proverb to warn those given to procrastination:
“You are just like the vulture!” they would say to such a person. “You do not build a nest like other birds, and you have to sit on a branch and get drenched to the skin every time it rains. As you shiver from the cold, you swear to yourself: ‘As for tomorrow, I shall build myself a nest and not allow the next rainfall to make me all wet again!’ Yet, as soon as the rain stops, you forget what you resolved to do. You fly off in search of carrion, completely amnesiac about what you had promised to do for yourself!”
The nation of Ghana is fast becoming like the vulture that builds no nest. For the Daily Graphic of 9 October, 2017 told us: “Ghana recorded eight major gas explosions in three years [between 2014 and 2017, that] led to the death of more than 200 people…. Six of the explosions were recorded in the Greater Accra Region [alone]. One occurred in Takoradi in the Western Region and one at Kasoa in the Central Region. The most recent gas explosion occurred on Saturday, October 7, 2017, at Atomic Junction near Madina Accra.”
The explosion at Atomic Junction was so horrendous that some of those who saw it
described it in apocalyptic terms: as “something that one imagined could only happen on the day of the Armageddon.” Seven people died from the explosion, while 132 were injured. (The casualty toll keeps rising.)
One eye-witness said: “The gas escaped skywards from the tanker and as it collected up there, a spark from the ground somehow set it ablaze. It created a fireball that was like the mushroom cloud from an atomic explosion. If the detonation had not occurred so high above but had been set off lower down, I don’t think anyone in the vicinity would have survived. It was absolute, dreadfully, terrifying!”
On the Internet, witty people began to compose the type of official messages of condolence that they expected would be sent to the injured and the families of the dead. The phrases included: “Heartfelt grief….”; “everything will be done to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again….”; “ministerial committee;” “urgent disaster relief” and “lessons will be learned….”
Well, all the officials had to do really was to search back to find the messages that had been sent after the: Nungua Explosion (July 19, 2014); Kwame Nkrumah Circle flood-cum-petrol fire (June 3, 2015); Kasoa explosion August 4, 2015); Trade Fair, Accra explosion (December 23, 2016); Takoradi explosion (May 9, 2017); Tema explosion (August 8, 2017); and the Tulip Inn Hotel, Shiashie disaster in Accra (September 26, 2017).
I ask: where are the reports on these incidents? Were we not told that the incidents would be “thoroughly investigated” so that “lessons can be learnt from them?” If the authorities HIDE the reports on such incidents (because the reports inevitably expose official inefficiency or inaction), by what magical process do they expect the technicians, the administrators and other relevant personnel to come by the information that can prevent them from committing, again and again, the same mistakes that caused the previous disasters?
Already, one top executive in the relevant sector has sought to exculpate his organisation from contributing to the Atomic Junction debacle. His organisation, he proudly proclaimed, had “WRITTEN LETTERS” to the management of the Atomic Junction gas station, apprising it of failures the organisation had observed regarding its. safety procedures! A man in charge of a crucial regulatory authority thinks it is sufficient to “WRITE LETTERS” to a recalcitrant provider of such a sensitive service to the public as gas supplies? God save us from these certificated dunces who man so many of our essential services!
Isn’t it disgraceful that after each explosion, ministers and officials go on the TV and radio to assure the public once again that the causes of the explosions would be seriously investigated; that “measures were being taken to” blah-blah-blah and yet these explosions do continue to occur with increasing frequency?
We are, in fact, a “joker nation” (worse than the vulture, because the vulture, at least, cannot boast of possessing ‘thinking faculties’ like we can!) Increasingly, we are demonstrating that we are unable to run our systems efficiently. It’s got nothing to do with the political party that happens to be in power: what we’re facing is an all-round systemic failure that is the end-result of a nationalmalaise that has been sapping our very will to thrive, for decades.
Let us be frank – no matter how good a minister may be, weak or corrupt officials down the line can make disastrous mistakes that endanger the performance of the entire body that they all serve. As a case in point, the current minister responsible for energy cannot personally inspect gas and petrol stations to make sure that what goes on in them complies with safe practice. Trained personnel in his outfit should have sat down and meticulously evolved fail-safe mechanisms and methods for delivering gas and petrol safely to the public. The evidence suggests that this has not been done, no? Eight disasters in three years? No!
Yet, on paper, I’m sure it’s all there: training schemes; refresher courses; backup supervision; periodic unannounced checks. But if one single employee takes his eyes off the job; if an employee comes to work drunk; if a top man allows himself to be influenced by political pressure or money (as disclosed by the former Environment Minister, Mr Mahama Ayariga,) to overlook something irregular – Armageddon!
There are, indeed, serious, policy issues involved. Are petrol and gas stations sited at the appropriate places – that is, as far from human dwellings as possible?
Accidents will happen, even where the best technical expertise exists. That’s why intelligent institutions make and rigidly enforce rules that anticipate the possibility of something going wrong. They deliberately install systems that can limit the loss of life and damage to property, should an accident occur.
In one area of south London that I know well, there are only two petrol stations now, where there used to be four. Two have been closed down. I don’t know exactly why they were closed down but of those left, one is close to a park and fairly far away from dwelling houses, while the other is under a railway bridge and again, is not near many homes. And this in a country with a fairly good regulatory regime in place.
But what about Ghana? Petrol stations are found sited neck and neck to each other. As with other business concerns in our country, as soon as someone hears that a certain type of business brings in large profits, everyone wants to get into it. So, unbearable pressure – political or monetary or both – is brought to bear upon the regulatory authorities to grant licences, without adhering strictly to the criteria that the authorities themselves had instituted to govern enterprises of that nature. Please read what Mr Ayariga said in full and you will see where we have got to (He’s reported on myjoyonline.com).
Someone who did not know about what Mr Ayariga had said wrote to assert that there are too many petrol stations in certain parts of the North, close to the Burkina Faso border and that this may be because it is profitable to smuggle petrol from Ghana to Burkina Faso. But – one wonders – if the NPP Government were to close down some of these petrol stations in the North, would it not be immediately misconstrued as some sort of “punishment” or “revenge” against the Northern business elite, which is largely sympathetic to the NDC?
No – we must be serious and take party politics out of it. Public safety regulations are there for the welfare of every individual amongst us. Did the Atomic Junction explosion discriminate in selecting its victims Were they only from any one political party? No! We must, therefore, recast our mindset and support objective exercises aimed at protecting the Ghanaian populace in its entirety, no matter whose ox is gored in the process. That duty must — I repeat — go far beyond party politics.
So, I call on the government to be bold in taking action to protect the lives of all our people. Certainly, the country will back the Government if it institutes prosecutions – after painstaking investigations have unearthed inefficiency, negligence and/or corruption – as part of the causes of the failures that keep taking our minds to Armageddon!
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