The Chairman of the Melcom Group of Companies, Bhagwan Khubchand-Ani, has dismissed reports that the collapsed mall at Achimota used the upper 3 floors as a warehouse and had overloaded the place with stocks for the upcoming Christmas season.
A clearly devastated Khubchand-Ani, told peacefmonline.com in an interview that they only occupy the ground, first and second floors of the 6 storey building, and shudders to think of the bigger catastrophe that could have happened if the 4th, 5th and 6th floors were also occupied by their personnel.
“This is not true…it is not a warehouse, it is not a wholesale… We have 6 warehouse compounds, totalling over 200,000 sq. ft. only 2 kms away from our Achimota Branch (in the Industrial area, and goods are supplied to the shop as and when required even daily if necessary)….What heavenly reason can we possibly have to overstock the place when they can supply goods to us every blessed day?...What heavenly reason can we possibly have in keeping more goods than necessary? I would prefer to use every square inch of our place in displaying products rather than waste it on storage. If I were a wholesaler it would be different, I’m a pure simple retailer; as in piece, piece (selling). Nobody comes to me and buy in cartons, so why would I save extra goods in a warehouse, for what reason?” he rhetorically asked.
The Chairman, together with the Managing Director and other top executives, were on a visit to the 37 Military Hospital to meet, console and encourage the employees and the public who were affected.
The team, which had earlier been to the Police Hospital, the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital as well as the Achimota Hospital, presented some items to those convalescing.
Tragedy struck the whole nation on Wednesday, November 7, 2012, when the six-storeyed ultra-modern Melcom shopping complex collapsed. So far, more than 80 people have been rescued from the rubble whiles 52 have been treated and discharged from the four hospitals.
Unofficially, the death toll has reached double digits.
Expressing his deepest regret for the incident and sympathies with the families of those who lost their lives, Mr. Khubchand-Ani, said he is more concerned about the lives lost and taking care of survivors than his goods that perished in the disaster.
“We will do whatever we can to assist these unfortunate staff and ensure that the necessary treatments are given to them,” he said.
Touching on the collapsed structure and safety concerns raised by some section of the Ghanaian public, Mr. Khubchand-Ani revealed that due diligence was done before taking over the place to ensure that it was safe and suitable for employees and the general public before operations commenced.
According to him, they were told by the landlord that the purpose for which the building was erected was specifically for either a retail store, bank or offices.
“We knew that one other property also constructed by the same landlord on the adjoining plot was rented to the Standard Chartered Bank and this gave us confidence that we were dealing with a reputable landlord….Before opening the store to the public we applied and were granted a Fire Certificate from GFS as we complied to their requirements….We also applied and were granted a Business Operating Permit by AMA to operate this store in this building,” he added.
Asked if Melcom conducted an engineering structural test on the building before leasing it, the Chairman of the Melcom Group of Companies replied that since the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) had issued a Business Operating Permit to them, it stood to reason that the necessary approvals and permits had been secured for the place to be used as a mall.
Meanwhile, the owner of the collapsed Melcom Shopping complex, Nana Boadu Nkansah Ayeboafo, together with the AMA Ga West Director of Works, Mr. Carl Henry Clerk, were still in the custody of the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) as of 6pm Friday.
The two are being questioned by the BNI for roles they may have played in triggering the disaster. They are believed to have acted negligently resulting in the collapse of the building.