Regional News of 2014-03-06

Agona Swedru protests delay in rebuilding bridge

Some chiefs of Agona Swedru in the Central Region yesterday staged a demonstration in protest against the delay in the reconstruction of the steel bridge over the River Akora which runs through the town.

Led by the Paramount Chief of Agona Swedru, Ogidigram Okrupi Asiedu Botwe II, the demonstrators wore red arm bands and headgear and marched through some of the principal streets of the town, amid the chanting of slogans and singing of songs by the Asafo company.

Some of the chiefs who took part in the demonstration were Nana Kweku Esieni V, the Ninfahene; Nana Ogyabea Bedu Ehuren, the Sanaahene; Nana Kwame Donkoh II, the Gyaasehene; Nana Kojo Acquah II, the Tufuhene, and Ebusuapanyin Atta Boateng.

They held placards with inscriptions, “We want more bridges”, “The MCE must respect the chiefs”, “Is Hon. Oppong a bridge contractor?” and “The MCE must be sacked”.

Others were “We don’t want Oppong as MCE”, “Plant trees on the banks of the river and not bank walls” and “Who is the contractor of the Akora project?” The protest march elicited a lot of cheers from the public who lined up the streets to watch the procession.

The demonstration, which started around 9:30 a.m., began from PWD on the Oda stretch of the road through the central business district of the town before it ended at the forecourt of the Agona West Municipal Assembly where the demonstrators presented a statement to the District Coordinating Director, Mr Peter Antwi Bosiako.

Background

The steel bridge was damaged beyond repairs following a blast on Sunday, February 9, this year.

The contractors dredging the river, Las Adventuras Limited, blasted some rocks in the river with a dynamite in the course of work but the intensity of the blast blew away parts of the bridge, rendering it unusable.

As a result, the town has been divided into two, a development that has brought business and economic activities there to a standstill.

The blast also damaged portions of the residence of Nana Asiedu Botwe and four other houses.

The bridge on River Akora was washed away by flood waters in June 2010 and was replaced with a steel bridge.

Take action

The chiefs called on the President, Mr John Dramani Mahama, to, with immediate effect, sack the Municipal Chief Executive, Mr Samuel Oppong, since he had failed to show respect to the chiefs and elders of the town ever since he assumed office on July 21, 2013.

Concerns of the chiefs

Explaining the issues raised by the chiefs later to the press, Nana Bedu Ehuren said since the collapse of the bridge, Swedru was accessible only through the main Akora river concrete bridge, which was built in 1929.

He said ever since the bailey bridge was destroyed, no effort had been made by the contractor to meet the Swedruman Council of Chiefs, who are the custodians of the land, to explain to them the way forward.

He said traffic jams in the town affected healthcare delivery, adding that school pupils now had to be in traffic more than an hour before reaching school.

Swedru chief’s address

For his part, Nana Botwe said the march was not against the government but intended to make those in authority aware of the suffering of the masses since the bridge collapsed.

He stated that as the chief of the town, he had an obligation to ensure that his people were treated well, irrespective of the government in power. Receiving the statement, Mr Antwi Bosiako promised to ensure that their concerns were forwarded to the appropriate quarters.

Ghana Highway Authority explains

Responding to the needs of the demonstrators, the Ghana Highway Authority (GHA) said the authority had been working around the clock to fix the steel bridge, reports Naa Lamiley Bentil from Accra.

The Director of Bridges at the GHA, Mr Owusu Sekyere Antwi, told the Daily Graphic, that the Ministry of Roads and Highways suspended the work it had earlier budgeted for and was using the funds to rehabilitate the bridge.

According to him, the bridge would be dismembered and the damaged components replaced. This is expected to take about eight weeks, he said.

He further explained that the contractor who damaged the bridge would be allowed to finish the work before the new bridge was launched.