A Tragic Wednesday

Yesterday, Ghana tasted a rare tragedy after a six-storey building collapsed under circumstances which still provoke questions. At the time of going to press, the casualty figure was not available as rescue operation was ongoing. It was as if a telescope had drawn to our view one of those occurrences native to distant places such as Haiti and Bangladesh or some other places noted for natural disasters. Ours cannot be equated to a natural disaster because of the likelihood of negligence on the part of the building inspectorate of the AMA or some other parastatal. It was not out of place for someone to question rhetorically, �Is this Ghana?� because most of us cannot recall a similar occurrence involving a collapsed structure in living memory. Those in their late 70s or early 80s might be able to recall hazily the last earthquake, not tremor, that shook Accra in the late 30s. It was one of those rare occurrences to strike us as a people, testing not only our ability to manage disasters but exposing the many flaws in the way we enforce regulations such as in building construction and others. Yesterday�s avoidable accident, although rueful, taught us an important lesson, especially those of us charged with the enforcement of regulations and issuance of appropriate permits on the need to be meticulous in the discharge of their duties and the need to abhor bribery in matters whose reckless handling could lead to death as witnessed yesterday. The building, from information reaching us, was reduced to rubbles and mangled iron rods in a manner akin to the aftermath of the application of controlled demolition. Little wonder the structure came down almost effortlessly and within the twinkle of an eye. Many theories are flying about which, when pieced together, will enable those who will eventually probe what went wrong to understand the factors which caused the collapse. Cracks were noticed on the under-a-year-old building but the concerns raised by some of the workers were brushed aside. A minister is said to have said that a building permit was denied the developer yet the construction went on. So upon discovering the anomalies, what steps did the authorities take to reverse the situation? It is yet another example about how we lackadaisically manage our affairs in our part of the world. Otherwise, why would construction progress on a project whose permit was being withheld by the relevant authorities? Heads will not roll and the noise about the institution of a committee of enquiry into what led to the collapse of the building would end in the submission of a report under TV cameras and sugar-coated remarks by ministers about what would be done to obviate a future recurrence. The report would gather dust on a shelf in a minister�s office, its final resting place, and no heads will roll.