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General News Mon, 26 Jul 2021

#GhanaWebRoadSafety: Reckless, dangerous driving characterise Ghana's ‘gang' funerals

Correspondence from Eastern Region

While most funerals are peaceful and reverent, those that aren't can be frightful for attendees and bystanders, and dangerous for police.

Funerals, particularly of very popular, young people are usually characterized by violence, reckless driving or riding and general acts of lawlessness.

This is especially prevalent during processions from mortuaries and towards the cemeteries where gangsters disguised as mourners, engage in reckless and dangerous driving, posing danger to bystanders, road users, wayside traders and themselves.

The vast majority of the riders and their pillion riders, wear no helmets.

Many also hang precariously from the windows and roof of speeding vehicles that swerve left and right of the road.

This was evident on Friday, July 23, 2021, during the funeral rites of one Sangmor Richard, a 37-year-old man at Ogome, a suburb of Somanya in the Eastern Region.

The group, made up of young men and women engaged in the acts of lawlessness between Atua where they had gone to pick up the body of the deceased from the Atua government hospital, through the principal streets of Somanya to Ogome, causing heavy traffic and inconveniences to other road users.

Some members of the procession were also seen in outrageous acts of firing guns from moving vehicles and motorcycles during what was supposed to be a cortege.

Last Friday’s incident was the latest in a string of reckless funeral-related incidents.

GhanaWeb managed to stop one of the motor riding youth for an interview. Simon, as he gave his name was also spotted without a helmet swerving his motorbike from one side of the road to the other.

Contrary to fears, however, he did not find anything wrong with his carelessness.

The young man who said he has been riding for the past ten years without ever getting involved in an accident said he felt no dangers in his recklessness as he is “careful” in what he does.

“I am not afraid, I’ve been riding every day so I’m not afraid, I know what I’m doing,” said Simon, acknowledging that his deeds could endanger his life. “I know that I could fall but I’m careful.”

He said though he regularly wore a helmet, he decided not to on the day, adding that he would protect himself in the future.

One of the youth ‘mourners’ who gave his name as Francis though admitted that their actions were dangerous, nevertheless said the acts were to honour the deceased who was a “brother.”

He said: “We know it’s a dangerous thing we’re doing but we’re careful about it and we’re controlling ourselves. As you can see, there’s no accident, just that people are causing and doing dangerous things.”

A worried resident who operates a drug store by the roadside feared that the irresponsibility of the youth could result in loss of lives.

He noted: “People may lose their lives, others may use guns to shoot people [and] that would give problem.”

He urged the police to take control of such situations and enforce the law to ensure sanity on the roads.

Another, Jonas, who sells clothing by the roadside, shared similar thoughts. He called on the government and the road traffic agencies to put a stop to the menace.

“It is not good at all, it is not a good habit, it is not right that a human being will die and they’ll take it as fun. So, I think that the government should do something about it and put a stop to that kind of behaviour,” he suggested, fearing that the acts of lawlessness could result in accidents.

Though the police were on the scene to restore order, many of the youth still had their way.

Inspector Sarpong in charge of Motor Transport Traffic Department (MTTD) of the Ghana Police Service at Somanya who led a team of about 25 men to ensure sanity told GhanaWeb that some of the recalcitrant youth had been arrested.

“As I am talking to you now, we have even arrested most of them who are not in helmets but still riding and we’re going to deal with them after the funeral coupled with drivers who are driving recklessly too, we have picked their numbers and after the funeral, they will be apprehended and prosecuted.”

Several of these gang funerals have evolved into mayhem and Inspector Sarpong said police officials have and will continue to intervene in potentially violent processions to where wake-keepings and burials are to take place.

He said, “As we have started, it will continue in the future so that anytime there is a funeral and we see that it is going to cause traffic jams in town, we’ll manage to organize and try to put a stop to it.”

Worried residents say police must routinely monitor the funerals of known ring members as part of its anti-violence efforts to curb driving and riding recklessness by drivers and motor riders following several eruptions of violence and general lawlessness by "mourners” which is a characteristic of these kinds of funerals.

The funeral of a popular and prominent bar operator in Somanya, popularly known as Tycoon is also due in the coming weeks and police are cautioned to ensure law and order during the occasion.

Watch the video of the funeral procession

Source: www.ghanaweb.com
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