Wednesday, 15 November 2017

New Driver's Licence and Vehicle Registration Smart Cards

At long last the new Driver's Licence and Vehicle Registration Smart Cards introduced by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority, DVLA, has been launched. This means that new applicants will be issued with the new Driver's Licence. The journey started from the 18th July this year but was halted for further consultations with stakeholders such as Driver's Unions. After all the consultations and discussions, the issuance of the new smart cards took off November 7.

The initiative is to ensure that qualified persons acquire licence to drive. It is also to eliminate the cumbersome process of acquiring licence and vehicle registration documents. This will eliminate the activities of middlemen popularly called ‘goro boys’ who most of the time issue fake licence to people who patronise their services. The smart Driver's Licence has security features that will make it impossible for anyone to duplicate. It has contactless chip with a high memory for the storage of bio data and other information. The card has a unique design that depicts the cultural heritage of the country.

One interesting this is that DVLA will now print the cards without going through a third party as was the case. This is to ensure that the days when people had the chance to issue fake licence are gone. It also begins the process to achieve paperless operations at the DVLA. These reforms are laudable because they will contribute greatly to safety on the roads and minimise accidents.

One question on the lips of most Ghanaians is that the goro community gained grounds with the help of some staff, what is the assurance that this attitude will not resurface? The management of DVLA led by the CEO, Kwasi Agyeman Busia has however assured the public that this will not happen again because the staff who will be handling the job have been well trained. They will also be monitored and anyone found engaging in any illegal activity will be severely dealt with. DVLA has procured its own capturing and printing equipment which are in use.

About 1,300 cards will be printed daily. This means the cards will be delivered within a maximum of three weeks via courier service to the owners at their locations. There is also a premium service where applicants will have their cards delivered to them in a day or two but this service will attract a premium fee. Another interesting thing about this initiative is that it will be done gradually; drivers with the old driver's licence can continue using it till it expires and then go for the new one.

Since the establishment of DVLA, it has seen a lot of reforms but some of them failed. This is because some of the staff and outsiders who are benefitting from the old system decided to frustrate the new one. It is the hope of all Ghanaians that the management and staff of DVLA will work diligently to ensure that the initiative succeeds to generate more income for the development of the nation.


Tuesday, 7 November 2017

The Menace of Child Defilement in Ghana

The recent sad story of a 4-year old girl defiled by a man in Assin Adadientem in the Central Region is not only shameful, but depressing, heart-breaking, and criminal. Even more worrying, is the alleged clandestine attempts by prominent people in society such as the Chief of the area to obstruct justice for the victim based on the verdict of the community gods. Although rape and defilement cases have been with us in Ghana since time immemorial, the high rate at which the menace is occurring in recent times in different parts of the country is a real cause for concern. This is in view of the devastating and often damning consequences of defilement on the health of the girl child and society as a whole.

A Ghana News Agency report of 9th July, 2003 cited infertility, trauma, the contraction of sexually transmitted diseases, STDs, and terminal illness and even death as some of the negative effects of defilement. While commending the efforts of government, NGOs and individuals in the fight against the menace, it is important to appeal to churches and advocacy groups to join in the fight as our social responsibility. Churches and other religious bodies should educate their members on the need to report rape and defilement cases to the security agencies, instead of accepting private settlement at home. The police on their part should process such cases swiftly for prosecution in court, while judges hand down prompt and stiffer sentences to the perpetrators to serve as a deterrent to both the offenders and others in society. Chiefs, politicians, pastors, and other prominent people in society should refrain from intervening in such cases to obstruct justice from taking its due course.

Victims of rape and defilement should be supported by parents, the clergy, teachers, NGO’s and trained psychologists to promptly report and deal with the consequences of these dastardly acts. As preventive measures, efforts towards women empowerment, poverty alleviation and proper parental care, should be intensified at all levels of society. This will go a long way in curbing the incidence of exposing unsuspecting children to rape and defilement as they engage in petty trading and other such activities on the streets to make a living. There is the need for the girl child at a very early age to be properly educated and empowered both at home and in school on how to avoid falling into the traps of unscrupulous male relatives, neighbours, and strangers.

Studies show that poverty among women and lack of proper parental care are the two main reasons that feed into the predisposition of children to the abuse of rape and defilement. In order to curb the menace or bring it to the barest minimum, we call on all religious bodies, security agencies, the judiciary, civil society and government to team up to wage a relentless war against the menace until it is totally eradicated from our society.

By Rev. Prof. Paul Frimpong-Manso, General Superintendent, Assemblies of God, Ghana.

The Atomic Junction Gas Explosion

Ghana over the weekend witnessed another gas explosion which occurred at a gas filling station at atomic Junction on the Legon - Madina route. Latest figures put the death toll at seven with one hundred and thirty-two persons injured out of which sixty-four have been discharged and sixty-eight still receiving treatment. Ghana has since 2014 recorded at least eight major gas related fires across the country. In all the eight cases, six were recorded in the Greater Accra Region, one in Takoradi in the Western Region, and another at Kasoa in the Central Region. According to statistics, about 250 lives have been lost in gas explosions in the last ten years, with the most severe being the June 3, 2015 disaster in which about 150 people died.

Collectively, we keep brooding over such incidents. Government officials and other people of influence, join the rest of us to express our condolences, yet no radical corrective action is taken to improve the situation. In all the previous explosions, government officials and the regulators resolve that they will put in place the necessary measures to avoid such incidents. But, after a few days of knee jerk reaction, everybody goes to sleep only to wake up to witness the next explosion. It is unfortunate that previous reports concerning similar fire disasters have not been thoroughly analyzed and recommendations implemented.

On a visit to the Atomic accident scene, Vice President Dr. Mahamadu Bawumia indicated that some new policy actions will be considered and government will not allow anyone to stand on the way of these policies. In that regard, there is going to be a crunch cabinet meeting to decide on the way forward for the prevention of such explosions. We must understand that the explosions are not occurring because there are no policies. Indeed, there are wonderful policies and guidelines but the problem has to do with the lack of enforcement. It is also pretty obvious that there is a needless turf war between the regulatory authorities as to who sets the standards especially in the petroleum and power sectors, and who monitors and inspects them.

The Ghana Standards Authority, GSA argues that there should be only one standards-setting body and then numerous regulators to enforce those standards in collaboration with the Authority. However, some energy-sector regulators and agencies resist this approach and try to do their own thing-- often due to their desire to collect various license and inspection fees. At this stage, it will be important to ensure an inter-ministerial and inter-agency collaboration in order to save lives, and also to make our industries more efficient and competitive.

Also, we cannot rule out the indiscipline and poor attitude of the Ghanaian. This indiscipline is reflected in the refusal or reluctance of fuel station managers and attendants, as well as drivers to adhere to simple safety guidelines. Stakeholders need to undertake serious sensitization throughout the country to make all of us change our attitudes towards safety.

In the Atomic Junction fire scenario, several reasons have been cited as the cause, including the location of the facility.

Truth be told, siting a filling station in a forest cannot be a cure for preventing explosion. In developed countries, filling stations are located in commercial centres yet they do not explode like what we witness in Ghana. This explosion should ginger regulatory authorities and all stakeholders in the industry to concentrate on creating a robust safety regime of procedure, supervision, monitoring and sanctions. It is important because about 90 percent of all the gas explosions recorded occurred when the fuel tanks were discharging products into the filling station tanks. This can be attributed to poor attention to safety measures during discharge.

The regulators and the oil and gas marketing companies must as their number one priority invest in safety management systems. One sad development relative to the latest gas explosion was the indecent haste with which some media houses purported to be determining the cause of the fire and how it occurred when the Ghana National Fire Service, the state institution with the expertise, has not done so. In as much the role of the media in giving out timely information is non-negotiable, it is important that such pieces of information are credible.

This places a burden on journalists to separate opinions and speculations from facts. 'Never again' is the catchphrase used when these disasters occur.

May this be our last never again chorus. May the souls of the departed rest in peace and speedy recovery to the injured.


Violent behaviours of political party foot soldiers in parts of Ghana

The time has come for unruly party foot soldiers to be tamed. Quite naturally and justifiably, many well-meaning Ghanaians are disgusted about the fines imposed on the members of the Delta Force, a foot-soldiering group associated with the NPP, whose members took the law into their own hands in Kumasi and physically assaulted a public officer who they thought did not merit an appointment. They further caused mayhem at a Kumasi Circuit Court where they assisted other members to escape from lawful custody.

Indeed, the fine may appear not deterrent enough in the face of the brazen effrontery with which they carried out their criminal activities. But the fact that they went through the court process, were charged, tried and fine, make them ex-convicts. Situate that against the situation in December 2008, during the general election when some bandits attacked some polling stations in Akwatia and carried away ballot boxes. A number of the bandits were arrested and put on trial. They were remanded and detained in police custody. As soon as the new government took office in January 2009, the case was brought to an end. Many such incidents could be recounted across the regions, under the NDC and NPP administrations, where public property including vehicles belonging to district assemblies, were vandalized because foot soldiers of the parties disagreed with appointments to district chief executive positions.

Whilst these are inglorious chapters in our political history, measuring the extent to which governments are prepared to acquiesce over misguided, violent and indeed fanatical conduct of their party supporters, the trial of the Delta Force miscreants marks a watershed that at least we are beginning to awaken to our obligation to protect and defend the Constitution by being impartial and enforcing the provisions that none is above the law.

In recent times, the Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, Ms Afisa Otiko Djaba, seems to have come under attacks and threats from a group of unruly youth in the Tamale metropolis who have on countless times threatened to undermine and disrupt the School Feeding Programme in the area, allegedly claiming that she did not follow what they consider to be their preferred path in the selection of providers of the service and coordinators merely because their preferred persons were not appointed. It is unfortunate that the police have not arrested such persons and are claiming that they have no knowledge of the threats.

The last straw that broke the camel’s back, is media reports of Karaga NPP supporters going on rampage and attacking the Karaga Police Station and freeing two of their colleagues from lawful custody. They also chased out the District Chief Executive as well as the District Coordinator of the Youth Employment Agency, YEA and locked up their offices. They went further to burn the official motorbike of the YEA coordinator. They alleged that the DCE and the YEA coordinator have sidelined them in the scheme of things. It has become imperative that we work to uproot the lawlessness and impunity of the ‘so-called’ party fanatics who take the law into their hands.

The tendency where public officials are blackmailed or prevented from discharging their responsibilities by ordinary citizens parading as foot soldiers must be stopped and dealt with firmly and decisively. It is such unpunished acts that encourage others to tow the same line. These recalcitrant people do not have the mandate of anybody but assume self-importance because they are party supporters whose party is in government. We must resist impunity and lawlessness. We have pampered these deviants for far too long in the name of partisan politics.

As the renowned U.S. Civil Rights advocate Martin Luther King once said, “An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Violence in the name of political party support is evil and must be fought fearlessly.

By Dan Osman Mwin, Head of Public Relations, Ministry of Education.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

World Rabies Day

Children whose parents keep pets such as dogs and cats sometimes fall in love with these pets to such an extent that disposing of them becomes a problem. Owners of pets usually give interesting names to them depending on their keepers moods and situations they find themselves. Though man's best and faithful friend, dogs transmit rabies to humans with children being the most affected. Rabies is a fatal disease of warm blooded beasts, transmitted through the bite of an infected animal. Ninety-nine percent of rabies cases result from the bite of an infected dog, though cats, bats and other mammals are carriers.

Rabies is said to be a neglected disease of poor and vulnerable populations whose deaths are rarely reported. It occurs mainly in remote rural communities where measures to prevent dog to human transmission have not been implemented. Under reporting of rabies also prevents mobilisation of resources from the international community for the elimination of human dog- mediated rabies. The facts are that rabies occurs in more than 150 countries with more than 55,000 deaths every year mostly in Africa and Asia. It is amazing that 40 percent of all people bitten by suspected rabid animals are children under 15 years of age with dogs being the source of the majority of human rabies deaths. But the good news is that rabies can be prevented by keeping our animals vaccinated against it.

Sadly, rabies cannot be treated once the symptoms appear. There are however four simple steps of preventing rabies. The first is to avoid being bitten by an animal, and if bitten, the wound should be immediately washed with running water and soap for 15 minutes and then apply hydrogen peroxide or spirit. The victim should not be given Kola nuts to chew and swallow liquid while the chewed kola is applied on the wound. Instead of trying to catch the dog, it must be reported to the nearest veterinary office or clinic. In the case of children they must report to their parents, teachers or friends that they have been bitten by a dog.

Dogs can be our best friends, but sometimes when they are angry or scared, they bite. So, one must not disturb or frighten dogs, particularly when they are eating or playing with their puppies, toys, tied up, asleep or ill. When dogs are angry they show their teeth, so all of us, especially children, should keep away from dogs. Dogs drop their tails in between their legs when they are scared; and will try to run way. Dogs should be approached slowly and quietly and if you want to touch a dog, the owner or guardians permission must be sought before touching it. Allow the dog to sniff your hand before you gently stroke it starting from the back.

Although all age groups are susceptible, rabies is most common among children under 15. Since rabies is a vaccine- preventable disease, the most cost effective srategy for its prevention in people is by eliminating it in dogs through vaccination. The recent upsurge in human rabies deaths in parts of Africa and Asia suggests that rabies is re-emerging as a serious public health issue. Therefore preventing human rabies through control of domestic dog rabies is a realistic goal for large parts of Africa and Asia and is justified by the future savings of discontinuing post exposure prophylaxis for people.

We must commend Rabies in West Africa, a local organisation in Ghana, for creating a network of rabies control in Ghana and lobbying policy makers for the elimination of rabies in the country. We must create events and activities for the awareness of rabies to the public and initiate public vaccination for dogs.

Remember that rabies kills. So, by vaccinating your dog annually, you dont only protect yourself, but your pets life too.


Kenya Plastic Bag Ban And Lessons For Ghana

Kenyans recently joined more than forty other countries including China, France, Rwanda, and Italy to ban, partly ban or tax single use of plastic bags. Hence forth any, Kenyan caught producing, selling or using plastic bags, risk imprisonment of up to four years or could be fined up to forty thousand dollars. Congratulations! to Kenya for this bold decision, giving the challenge for other countries to do same, despite dire consequences in using plastics on human life, a nation's development and the environment as a whole.

Here in Ghana, several attempts have been made to ban the use of plastic bags, yet none seem to have worked. Not even the painful reminder of the June flood and fire Disaster, at the nation's capital, Kwame Nkrumah Circle which claimed the lives of many and displaced several families even pushed decision makers to take the lead in saying ''no more'', to poor sanitation and hygienic practices in the cities. Instead, the indiscriminate littering goes on unabated. Throwing of rubbish including plastic bags all over the city, from moving vehicles, in front of homes, side works, markets and other working areas etc. Many of these result into choked gutters, that contributes to flooding.

Meanwhile, the consequences of diseases such as cholera on the nation’s scare resources and the human resource are not a pleasant one to write home about. Yet, the decision makers sit and do nothing, yet government does not see why it is urgent to ban plastics in Ghana. This is not only shameful, but pathetic! Marine experts say many of the plastics drift into the ocean, strangling turtles, suffocating seabirds and filling the stomachs of dolphins and whales with waste until they die of starvation.

According to one UN Environmentalist, Habib El-Habr, who is working in Kenya, if this practice continues, by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. This is not a distant story in the case of Ghana, we find plastics making it into the food chain of animals and stories have been told of how some animals have choked to death in parts of the north from eating plastics. The economic consequences are dire and cannot be underestimated.

Sadly, plastics are not biodegradable. Even as Ghana considers what I will term a death sentence of the daily pile of plastic bags on Ghanaians, it is never too late for the politicians to re-consider the ban on plastic bag usage in Ghana, besides, many attempts by past governments. In 2015, then Minister of the Environment, Mahama Ayariga made an attempt to ban the use of light plastics, there was hue and cry from manufactures and typical of politicians, that attempt died of natural causes.

For Kenya, it took three attempts over a ten year period to finally pass the ban, and not everyone is in favour of the action. The Kenyan Association of Manufacturers for example, said the ban of plastics will lead to the loss of sixty thousand jobs and force 176 manufacturers to close. Yet, Kenya took the lead to ban the use of plastic bags. Ghana can do same.

Enough of the stakeholder consultations over tea and coffee. President Akufo-Addo, please!!! Ban Plastics bags in Ghana!

By Rebecca Ekpe, A Journalist.


The victory chalked up by Ghana against her western neighbour, Cote d'Ivoire on the Maritime Boundary dispute, is what we stand to achieve as a nation when we put aside partisan politics and work together for mother Ghana.

The use of institutional memory is so vital to our development as a nation but the over-politicization of issues has been our problem.

We salute former Attorney General Marrietta Brew Appiah Oppong for thinking about Ghana and rendering her services where it was needed most and also to the current Attorney General Gloria Akuffo for allowing Marrietta the space to bring her expertise on board to help Ghana win the maritime dispute against Cote D'Ivoire.

We have lost much as a state because of how we do our politics.

To make it worse per the case of Ghana, the nation lacks the blueprint by way of a national policy to guide the activities of successive governments.

One must vehemently stress that the need for an all-inclusive government cannot be achieved with the mere implementation of party manifestos.

You cannot employ anyone whose idiosyncrasies are at variance with yours and expect him to do a good job. The pull him down syndrome has clouded our actions in the past, and even currently.

This syndrome has not only been extended to the doorsteps of people we consider our ideological enemies, but even within the group of like-minded individuals; it abounds and has affected many envisaged progress in the past.

Can you imagine what would have happened to an NPP faithful appointed to work under an NDC led government? Your guess is as good as mine.

That notwithstanding we should know that irrespective of one's political affiliation, religious differences and geographical location, we are the same people with a common destiny.

We may be many and diverse, but we are the same people with a common destiny of fighting for the growth and development of our motherland.

Agreeing to disagree is a natural phenomenon. God did not create us all the same and therefore it is unnatural for everyone to think alike.

Diversity and disagreements are inevitable in any human relations but are neither for destruction nor acrimony.

They have the inherent worth of contributing to the general well-being and common good of the nation, in that they allow for development.

Agreeing to disagree in the interest of Ghana" in the context of a multi party democracy therefore means acknowledgement and tolerance of differences of interest, principles and philosophies" as well as "principled compromises in the overall national interest" by all the actors involved in the political process.

Values such as tolerance, compassion, patience, perseverance, are necessary for social harmony. Beyond that, diversity is not intended for division, but unity in terms of purpose and actions for cohesive social existence.

There is therefore nothing wrong with having differences in opinions or ideas regarding goals and procedures on any matter in question.

However, if not handled properly or abused, disagreement may become dysfunctional and lead to social disharmony. Our civil servants must work to serve Ghana and not political parties.

Similarly journalists must put Ghana first in their gate-keeping, agenda settings and interpretation functions, while politicians should also eschew corruption and the like and the economy will get better.

One major thing worth noting is the fact that this landmark victory was a bi-partisan effort by the Attorney General, Gloria Akufo and her counterpart under the NDC administration, Marrietta Brew Appiah Oppong.

The victory in the landmark maritime boundary dispute against Cote d’Ivoire,belongs to all of us and we must congratulate ourselves.