Thursday, 22 June 2017

Road Safety: A Shared And Collective Responsibility

Undoubtedly, road transport remains the largest and main mode of transportation in Ghana. As a major transport network, it serves an array of purposes for both travelers and industries. Safety on the roads has become a major challenge in the country. Globally, road safety is being tackled as a public health and developmental issue which Ghana is no exception. Road traffic crashes and the associated casualties undermine socio-economic development especially in low and middle income countries like Ghana. Owing to this devastating effect, the United Nations (UN) declared a decade of Action for Road Safety with a call on member countries to reduce road traffic crashes by 50 percent by the end of 2020. To achieve this, the National Road Safety Commission and other stakeholders are working hard to ensure that road traffic crashes and injuries are reduced to minimum levels in accordance with the set target.

The National Road Safety Commission was established by an Act of Parliament in 1999 to play the role of a lead agency to spearhead, collaborate and coordinate other stakeholders on road safety issues in the country. One of the major activities through which the Commission uses to achieve this mandate is the nationwide road safety education. The Commission generally employs road user educational campaigns to help compliment other road safety measures. In recent past, the Commission has implemented series of campaigns with slogans like "Don't Drive Tired", "Avoid Drink Driving", "Use of Crash Helmet", "Be Alert! Look out for other Road Users." The Commission is also focusing on motor cycle safety issues to highlight the rising trend of motor cycle related deaths and the measures to help reverse it.

During this year's Easter festivities, the Commission launched a campaign dubbed "Safety First, Think Safety and Drive Safely". This also paved the way for road safety advocates to hit the major roads to advise drivers to minimize their speed limits, empower passengers to speak up against driver misconduct and pedestrians to keep to safe walking and crossing practices In all these, it is important to stress that the Commission's work alone cannot ensure success unless all road users are actively involved. In Ghana, available data suggests that, Pedestrians, motorcyclists and passengers account for nearly seventy percentages of the traffic casualties. This situation is often the consequences of speeds especially in urbanized environments by drivers, failure by pedestrians to cross and use roads safely and failure of motor riders to stop for pedestrians especially at intersections.

It is evident that beyond the advocacy work of the NRSC and its implementing stakeholders, the onus also lies on the drivers, passengers and pedestrians to adhere to the road safety regulations. It is unfortunate that most road users tend to forget that they actually own their safety in their hands once on the road. In Ghana, the second most vulnerable road user class is the passenger. Passenger deaths account for almost 23% of all road traffic deaths in the country. The reason stems largely from the fact that, passengers often assume passive roles and do not speak up against any wrong doing on the roads largely due to the fear of intimidation and being branded "too known" as we say in our local parlance. This situation has led to several avoidable instances. About 90% of causes of road traffic crashes can be attributed to human error. Negative road user behaviour including speeding, drinking driving and others contribute to indiscipline on our roads. These crashes have a very huge impact on the productive human resources base of the country especially the youth who happen to be the future of the country.

About 60 percent of crash victims are between the productive age brackets of 18 to 55years. This shows that the more crashes cases we record, the more deadening the impact it likely to have on us. Road safety is a collective and shared responsibility and we must all have our hands on deck. The National Road Safety has its part to play as the lead agency alongside its supporting stakeholders. However, road users also have their parts to play. It must be a conscious attempt working towards a collective goal. It must be a collective goal and once there is a break within the chain, it affects the level of success. The goal is to eradicate road traffic crashes and injuries by 50% by the year 2020. Let our goal as road users whether as a driver, a passenger, a motorist or a pedestrian ensure that as road users we arrive alive!

By: Samuel Owusu-Yeboah, Information Officer, NRSC communications Unit. Contact: 0244672101.

Roles and expectations of the newly sworn in Chief Justice, Justice Sophia Akuffo

History was repeated June 19 when President Akufo-Addo swore in Justice Sophia Akuffo as the 13th Chief Justice of Ghana, the second female to have attained that height. The first being her immediate predecessor Justice Georgina Theodora Wood who retired about two weeks ago after almost 47 years of active public service, the last ten years being the Chief Justice and head of Ghana's judiciary. It is disturbing that after 60 years of independence only a few women are in high positions in Ghana. Justice Sophia Akuffo's nomination by the president and her subsequent vetting and approval by Parliament is therefore a feather in the cup of gender advocates. It is a major boost towards women empowerment. The point must however be made that she was not chosen simply because she is a woman. The fact is she is highly qualified, very competent and capable of doing the job. She has over the years exhibited these qualities as a lawyer which propelled her to the notice of the 1st President of the 4th Republic, Jerry John Rawlings, to appoint her to the Supreme Court some 22 years ago.

The vetting process brought into perspective various matters about the judiciary which Ghanaians have concerns about. These range from the integrity of the judiciary, political and other interferences, delays in justice delivery, loss of confidence in the justice system and other related issues of mob action, the conduct of lawyers and legal education in Ghana. It is refreshing that she has expressed her desire to address these issues. She must begin by restoring confidence in the judiciary bleeding from the bruises it sustained following that corruption expose by ace investigative journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas. Even before Anas' expose, it has been a long held notion that justice is for sale to the highest bidder. Whether it is a reality or a myth, it is believed that ordinary citizens cannot win any court case against people of high social standing, rich and those who have connections with politicians and other influential figures. Madam Akuffo must do everything within her power to erase this notion from the minds of Ghanaians.

Justice they say must not only be done but it must be seen to be done. One other issue has to do with delays in the court processes. Often times, lawyers and court staff hide behind the phrase that the wheels of justice grind slowly, to unduly delay cases. Sometimes as a deliberate attempt to frustrate one party to the case. The Chief Justice must initiate immediate reforms in court procedures to remove these unnecessary delays. This is one area that she can bring her ICT expertise to bear. Justice is becoming increasingly expensive and a preserve for the rich.

First, it has to do with filing fees and other court processes and the amount charged by lawyers. The Chief Justice must reconsider these legal fees. If the fees cannot be reviewed downwards, safety net measures must be put in place to carter for the poor. Justice Akuffo must also cleanse the judiciary of perception of political bias. It is believed that people who flout the laws in one way or the other are able to escape, when their parties are in government. This must not continue because it breeds lawlessness and anarchy. Just like Malcom X, the judges must be for the truth, no matter who tells it and they must be for justice no matter who it is for or against.

There should be efforts to de-congest the prisons. This can be enhanced by a re-look at the sentencing policy. The Chief Justice must be a champion of non-custodial sentences. It makes more sense to let people render communal services like sweeping public places, desilting drains and disposing refuse than housing them in prisons and spending money feeding them.

The Chief Justice must deepen transparency in the justice delivery system. There should not be a repeat of what happened the other time when the sitting judge in the trial of suspects involved in the murder of former MP for Abuakwa South, J.B. Dankwa Adu, drove journalists out of her court. If court proceedings cannot be carried live as was the case in the 2012 election petition hearing, the least that we can accept is where the media have an unfettered access to every court process. The judiciary must also do more to protect the fundamental human right of every citizen to free speech. Often times, the law of contempt and scandalising the court is used to gag citizens from expressing their views on issues having to do with the courts. Despite her past record, the Chief Justice can institute reforms which will ensure that contemnors are given non-custodial sentences.

Madam Sophia Akuffo has just three years to retire, it may be a short period but long enough for her to make a great impact and leave a lasting legacy.

BY BUBU KLINOGO, A JOURNALIST.

The Paris Agreement on Climate Change and United States’ decision

In 2015, leaders of 197 countries met in the French capital of Paris to deliberate on how to minimize the harmful effects of greenhouse gas emissions on the environment. Greenhouse gas emissions emanating from manufacturing and other related activities are having debilitating effects on the global environment. The earth's human habitation quality is strongly being undermined and gradually rendering biological diversity of many species inhabitable. Realising the devastating effect of global warming on current and future generations, leaders at the Paris meeting drafted an agreement to guide the industrial activities of member countries. The collective consensus culminated in what is now known as the Paris Agreement. It was precisely touted as historic because it provided the platform to mobilise global effort at addressing the threat of climate change.

On 5th October, last year, the threshold of parties required to enforce the Paris Agreement was obtained. That is 147 out of 197 countries have already ratified the agreement. The Paris Agreement which came into force on 4th November, last year, seeks among other things, to maintain global temperature rise in the 21st century below 2 Degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, adapt measures that would lead to further decrease in the global temperature level to 1.5 Degrees Celsius, and to provide the requisite assistance to enhance member countries’ ability to effectively combat the negative impact of climate change. It is worth-emphasising the resolve of advanced economies to contribute financially to enhance capacity building and to introduce a new technology framework to support the initiatives of poorer and developing countries to tackle the issue of climate change.

Under the Paris Agreement, each country is expected to develop nationally determined contributions to support the campaign against global warming. There is no doubt that one of the major culprits of high-carbon emissions in the world is the United States of America. To this end, any effort aimed at minimising the adverse effect of climate change would require active participation of the United States.

At a G8 summit at Taormina in Italy the United States resolved to review the Paris Agreement in relation to the country’s existing policy on climate change. But barely a week after the summit, US President Donald Trump back tracked on his earlier decision. President Donald Trump’s pronouncement was greeted with a barrage of criticisms. Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel described President Trump’s move as regrettable, and expressed the belief that all leaders have an obligation to protect the planet. Similarly, the British Prime Minister, Theresa May is of the firm belief the Paris Agreement would help keep energy clean, affordable and secure for businesses and individuals.

In view of this, the Indian government is strongly committed to taking a leadership role in saving the planet from the harmful effect of climate change. It welcomes news that Italy, France and Germany have signed a joint declaration opposing President Trump’s decision. The declaration was supported by the Presidents of the European Commission and European Council. In order to give the Paris Agreement a major boost, the European Union (EU) and China have committed to raising $100 billion a year by 2020 to help poorer countries reduce high-carbon emissions. The European Commissioner for Climate Action Miguel Arias Canete has also indicated that none of the 29 Articles contained in the Paris Agreement is negotiable. It is believed that the effect of the United States pullout on climate change by the end of the century would be about 0.3 Degrees Celsius. The realisation of the minimal effect of the United States pullout would hinge on effective implementation of measures and strategies contained in the Paris Agreement.

Member countries must strive to redeem their pledges and work in close collaboration with the developing countries to make the global fight against climate change successful.

BY: DR. Ebenezer M. Ashley (PhD). Lead Consultant/CEO Eben Consultancy Fellow Chartered Economist & Council Member, ICEG.

RESTORATION OF THE GHANAIAN IDENTITY

According to the English Oxford Dictionary, Restoration means; the action of returning something to a former owner, place, or condition. It is clear that over the years, some of the Ghanaian identity got lost and needed to be reclaimed.

To quote Former President Rawlings, '' When did we go so wrong, and so far? .He was making reference to the unfortunate murder in Denkyira Obuasi, in cold blood of Major Maxwell Adam Mahama, while on a national assignment at Diaso in the Central Region, recently. His beef was that in the past if an alleged robber or thief was caught, he was given a few slaps and handed over to the law enforcement agencies. Today, the situation is completely different, where ''instant justice'', or better still ''mob injustice'' has become a thing of the time. It is for this reason that we need to restore the values that Ghana has lost.

That is why the National Commission For Civic Education, NCCE needs to be applauded for beginning a conversation to re-claim the Ghanaian values, by convening a stakeholder National Dialogue, themed ''Restoring the Ghanaian Identity, Our Values, Our Passion''.

Listening to a more than Ninety -year old brain like, Justice VCRAC Crabbe give reason for the re-evaluation of self and identity, at the same time give hope that , it is possible for Ghana to restore its identity and it is possible for all citizens to revert to the values and passions of what defines us as a people.

These values include; nationalism, patriotism, hard work, excellence, truthfulness, sincerity, humility, decency, respect, law abiding , and the list goes on. Justice Crabbe believes to restore the Ghanaian values, citizens must go back to their roots, where the home and the family forms the fundamentals of a person's identity and values.

He told a story of how he lost his father at eleven months and got total care from his mother. In his view, mothers have the onerous task of bringing up children in the Ghanaian way, and described as a sad phenomenon , Ghanaians who are living an adulterated culture of ''individualism'', referring to the fact that every Ghanaian is born into a family, and this aspect of the identity and unique culture must be preserved.

It is heartwarming the call by Chairperson of the NCCE, Josephine Nkrumah for the re-introduction of civic education in the school curricular, a point Vice President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia supported.

With the constitutional mandate of making sure that Ghanaians are educated on their rights and responsibilities among others, the NCCE obviously has a herculean task to accomplish.

It is therefore in the right direction that many have called for the proper resourcing of the Commission to ensure the work is done. It is also refreshing to hear the Omanhene of Essikado, Nana Kobina Nketiah ask that the NCCE be likened to a church or mosque, where monthly tithes are donated to facilitate smooth operations.

To restore the Ghanaian values and identity, corruption ought to give way to honesty, disrespect to respect, selfishness and greed to consideration for others, self -doubt to self-worth and lack of critical thinking and apathy to enthusiasm, interest and concern.

Reiterating President Akufo -Addo's call to action and reinvigorate patriotism and nationalism ; he said,'' we must be real citizens and not mere spectators''. When one visits a place like the US, upon speaking , the first question one is asked is ;''where you from''; that tells a lot; ''identity''. So where are we as Ghanaians and where are we heading to ? as a nation .No nation is said to have developed without focusing on discipline!, nor clear values and identity.

This is a call to action as citizens of this dear and beloved nation called GHANA, that it is time for all hands to be on deck, indeed! it is time for the ''Restoration of the Ghanaian Identity, Our Values, and Our Passion''.

BY REBECCA EKPE, A JOURNALIST.

EMERGENCE OF UGLY FACE OF ETHNOCENTRISM IN NORTHERN REGION

The Sixth Edition of the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines ethnocentric as “based on the ideas and beliefs of one particular culture or race, using these to judge other cultures”. This is not an attitude or behaviour that is accepted in any civilized or democratic society and must be collectively condemned wherever it is emerging. All well-meaning Ghanaians will agree that the recent media reports of two groups clashing over the appointment of a new Chief Executive Officer ( CEO) for the Tamale Teaching Hospital was uncalled for and undermines the legitimacy of appointing authorities. It is significant to note that both Dr. Prosper Akanmbong and Dr. David Zaawumya Akolbila hail from the Upper East Region and must have been appointed to the high office of CEO of the Tamale Teaching Hospital on merit and not because of the region they come from. This is not the first time the traditional chiefs in the Tamale Metropolis are reported to have allegedly sanctioned demonstrations and disruptions of handing over ceremonies especially at the Northern Regional Health and Education Directorates.

For instance, in 2015, the youth demonstrated and disrupted the handing over ceremony at the Regional Health Directorate. The then Regional Director, Dr Twumasi had attained the compulsory retirement age of 60 years and was to hand over to Dr. Kofi Issah. Ironically, Dr. Issah had served in the same directorate for many years before accepting a routine transfer to the Upper West Region as Deputy Regional Director in charge of public health. The reason was simple; he was not a citizen because he hails from the Upper East Region. The Ministry of Health, the Ghana Health Service as well as the Regional Coordinating Council kept mute and saw nothing wrong. Earlier, Dr. Ken Sagoe, the then first CEO of the Tamale Teaching Hospital, who before his appointment, was the Director of Human Resources of the Ghana Health Service Headquarters, faced stiff opposition but remained resolute before he retired and paved the way for Dr Prosper Akanbong’s appointment amidst controversy. It must be placed on record that Dr. Rasmus Adongo, now on retirement as the Director of Planning, Budget, Monitoring and Evaluation, GHS, Headquarters, is an indigene of the Upper East Region, but headed the regional directorates of the Upper West and Western Regions.

Currently, the Ashanti Regional Director of Health Services, Dr Alexis Nang-baefoba, is from the Upper West Region. The immediate past Medical Director of the Accra Regional Hospital (former Ridge Hospital), Dr. Abanga hails from the Upper East Region. In all these transfers and appointment, the youth and chiefs of the Upper West, Ashanti, Western and Greater Accra Regions never resisted appointments on the bases of ethnicity. Apart from the health directorates, it has happened to one or two people from other regions, especially the Upper West Region who were posted to the Wa Municipal Directorate of Education. This is unbecoming of the Tamale Metropolis and we must call a spade a spade. Those who practice ethos: the moral idea and attitudes that belong to a particular group or society must ensure respect and decency for other groups and societies. When shall we as a people, restore the Ghanaian identity in terms of values and passion?

For the Kandahar Boys and the Coalition of Dagbon Youth, the least said about them the better. Long live Ghana, long live Ghanaians and shame unto those who exhibit ethnocentric tendencies.

BY DAN OSMAN MWIN, HEAD OF PUBLIC RELATIONS OF THE MINISTRY OF EDUCATION.

DE-POLITICISATION OF MAJOR MAXWELL MAHAMA KILLING

Last Friday, June 9, Ghanaians were united in grief at the state funeral for Major Maxwell Mahama who met his untimely death two weeks ago at Denkyira Obuasi in the Central Region while on a national assignment.

The gruesome murder of Major Mahama did not only send shock waves across the country but raise concerns as to why any group of people could commit such an unimaginable detestable act.

The various tributes read at the forecourt of the State House during the burial service painted a picture of an intelligent officer who given the opportunity to live his life in full will have contributed in no small way to the country's development.

Unfortunately, this was not to be. In view of the fact that Major Mahama was in the line of duty, to combat illegal mining or “galamsey” in the area, any attempt to politicise his death and burial will point to a country which is not grateful to its heroes and heroines. He was, therefore, pursing a noble duty aimed at protecting the interest of the nation as a whole. His death did not only hurt his immediate family but the entire nation could not come to terms with bizarre circumstances surrounding his demise. Again, the late Major’s colleagues in the military are so devastated that some of them given the chance would have also taught the culprits a lesson they would not have easily forgotten. However, since we all believe in constitutional democracy, the various leaders in the country, sad as they are, have impressed upon every one deeply affected by this incidence to remain calm for the law to take its course.

The President, Nana Addo Danquah Akuffo-Addo, has already promised that the culprits will be rigidly dealt with according to the laws of the country. Similarly, former Presidents, Jerry John Rawlings and John Mahama, in their condolence messages prayed that justice will take its 
course in memory of the late military officer.

These are difficult times for the military colleagues of the late Major Mahama as well as members of the family, particularly his wife. For this reason, it will be unreasonable for any group of people to politicise the issue for any reason. Usually in politics, people play gimmicks with issues in order to score political points against their political opponents. However, politicisation of this matter should not be given accommodation in the socio-economic realms of this country.

What has happened is very unfortunate and requires careful analysis of all issues involved in order to arrive at a meaningful conclusion and prevent another recurrence.

Those who caused his unfortunate murder, therefore, deserve to be strictly dealt with according to law so as to serve as a deterrent to all others in future.

The issue of in a matter politicisation of this nature is not necessary since it stands the chance of turning the country into a state of confusion, with the potential to bury the true facts of the case. No Ghanaian from any of the political divide should aggravate the pain of the bereaved families by politicising of the matter for the purpose of scoring cheap political points.

This is not the time for any blame game, because the incident could have happened to anyone at anytime. The sad death of Major Mahama should, therefore teach us a good lesson to be ever prepared to ward off similar unfortunate occurrences irrespective of the people involved. This way, we will be helping the country to move forward with a united front for the benefit of all and sundry as citizens of this noble and great nation.

BY KOFI AMPONSAH-BEDIAKO, HEAD OF PUBLIC RELATIONS, GHANA STANDARDS AUTHORITY

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Lawlessness In Ghana

What should have been a normal endurance routine for a soldier turned out to be a brutal, painful and a deadly voyage. A young promising captain of the Ghana Armed Forces had his life snuffed out in the gruesome of ways. On Monday May 29, the whole country was stunned when news broke about the hideous murder of Major (then Captain) Maxwell Adam Mahama at Denkyira-Obuasi in the Central Region of Ghana. The young Captain of the Fifth Infantry Battalion of the Ghana Armed Forces was on an officially-sanctioned mission when he met his untimely death. He was the commander of a security taskforce on ‘Galamsey’. Some residents of Denkyira-Obuasi accused him of being an armed robber and without recourse to the law Captain Mahama was found guilty and lynched by a mob and parts of his body set ablaze.

The circumstances leading to the death of the Captain has stunned most if not all Ghanaians - perhaps except the perpetrators of the heinous crime. This brutal act raises questions on the state of lawlessness in the country. In recent times, Ghana has witnessed a lot of violence linked with lawlessness. Who can forget the violent havoc wreaked by the Delta Force vigilante group on various personalities and establishments? Barely a month ago, the same impunity and violent lawlessness that led to the demise of Captain Mahama was exhibited by some young Ghanaians at the Kwame Nkrumah Interchange. A man was alleged to have been beaten to death by the Accra Metropolitan Assembly Guards. Agitated traders and hawkers in turn took the law into their own hands and destroyed several properties at the recently inaugurated Interchange. Just when it seemed some level of calm was returning to the country, a violent demonstration against the Electricity Company of Ghana broke out in Somanya in the Yilo Krobo district of the Eastern Region. Frustrations over high electricity bills spilled over into a “free-for-all” violent display. Properties were vandalized in the end.

The gruesome murder and death of Captain Mahama is a wake-up call to Ghanaians to end all violent acts. The public outburst, the condemnation, tears and inaudible pain that swept through the entire country must be a clear indication to Ghanaians to end violence. We need a concerted effort to put an end to all acts that led to the death of the young army captain – ‘galamsey’, lawlessness, violence, disrespect for human dignity, savagery, mob attack and the reign of instant justice. The days of being our brothers’ keeper need to be revisited. Our accolade of being hospitable people should not be dragged in the mud. We must as a country promote communal peace to propel Ghana’s developmental agenda. We should also have regard for human life. Ghana’s Justice System needs reforms so that people will not feel that their only recourse to justice lies in instant justice, lawlessness and violence.

The military, colleagues of Captain Mahama and the entire security apparatus need recommendation for showing restraint in the face of provocation. They have indeed set the pace for a peaceful campaign that violence, lawlessness, mob attack and instant justice should never be an option in any situation.

Captain Maxwell Adam Mahama, duty called and you obeyed. Rest well and may the good Lord watch over your family and comfort them in this trying moment.

Author: Henrietta A. Afful
GBCONLINE