As we all mourn the tragic deaths of our dear brothers and sisters in Ghana, the Ghanaians abroad in the diaspora in the UK have contacted me to ask how they could help to assist the victims and their families in any way that they can. These kind expressions of interest have also been accompanied naturally by numerous questions and concerns.
In my capacity as the Interim Chair of the national umbrella body for the various regional Ghana Unions in the United Kingdom, called the ?National Council of Ghanaian Unions UK? (NCGU) and also the President of the regional umbrella body ?Ghana Union Midlands? (GUM) I would also like to add my voice that the full story be told of what actually happened.
Being armed with half-baked facts and the rather disturbing pictures of dead bodies and the aftermath scenes of the carnage from video clips that went ?viral? on the internet, only feeds further speculation as to what exactly caused the fire?
Since the tragedy, I have been faced with questions such as why a petrol station continues to be permitted by the authorities to operate in a densely commercial environs of the Kwame Nkrumah circle. Flooding in that area has been going on for over 20 years now (see Daily Graphic article, 9th June 1988 ?Torrential rains cause floods in Accra City?), so what have successive governments been doing to improve or solve the problem? Finance Minister Seth Terkper, revealed last week that funds for the widely publicized ?Conti Project?, which involves the construction of a massive drainage system for Ghana?s national capital, Accra, are yet to hit government?s accounts. The Minister also pointed out that in the past, multiples of loans had been acquired to undertake the same project but rubbish was immediately dumped back into it drain. – See more at: http://citifmonline.com/2015/06/06/govt-yet-to-receive-funds-for-conti-project-terkper/#sthash.O2Wwwizx.dpuf. The question being asked here is that, why are we allowing what appears to be bureaucracy and the lack of foresight on behalf of the Government to implement this so called ?Conti Project?? Also, why have the authorities failed to stop rubbish being dumped into the drain? The questions are endless and symptomatic of the outrage that we all feel that disasters like this can occur in today?s modern Ghana.
These are understandably emotionally charged questions from Ghanaians in countries outside of Ghana; who are used to seeing Emergency services react much differently to disasters of this kind. One question which keeps resurfacing in the face of these viral video clips of the scene, is why the accident scene was not cordoned off immediately to allow access to only qualified emergency staff?
I was even alerted to a video clip allegedly featuring the Mayor of Accra accompanied by a ?pot-bellied? emergency services staff with a fireman?s badge with the following inscription ?Fire Department City of New York?. I was asked whether I thought the man could climb a ladder. It is very difficult to verify the authenticity of these clips, so you can laugh it off, but in any case, how adequately equipped are these emergency services staff to deal effectively with accidents of this nature? Remember though, brothers and sisters, that these images real or not can only harm the reputation of Ghana internationally and do nothing to assure us of some of the good works that our government is doing to serve our best interests effectively.
A number of people have also spoken to me about the sleepless nights they have had as a result of seeing graphic details of dead bodies, which is very often presented without any warning to viewers. In fact people here are worried of a possible outbreak of disease arising from the situation and possible effect on their brothers and sisters in Accra and beyond. I share these concerns.
In the midst of all these worries and concerns, we have to give some serious consideration to the growing number of Ghanaians abroad and Friends of Ghana who are thinking of mobilising resources, mainly donations, to help the victims. But again hesitant questions are being asked as to where exactly the donations will be going, who will manage it, and how it will be distributed among the victims, and quite rightly too.
As a matter of urgency, I would urge the government to set up a special body with charity status with the relevant systems of accountability in Ghana to co-ordinate donations from abroad. This needs to be thought through carefully to ensure that the real victims and their immediate families are supported.
In Europe, we have relevant structures such as the ?National Council of Ghanaian Unions UK (NCGU)?and the ?Federation of Ghanaian Diaspora in Europe (FEGHADE)? that are well positioned to help co-ordinate resources to the victims. Both bodies are working fervently to find the best and most effective way to support all the victims affected.
Dr. Quaye Botchway
Interim Chair – National Council of Ghanaian Unions UK
President – Ghana Union Midlands