Damaged infrastructure in Ghana who pays the damages?

Damaged Road Damaged guardrails on the Aburi-Peduase road

Thu, 26 Apr 2018 Source: Nico van Staalduinen

I drive almost every day from Aburi to Accra, and am a curious person, always looking around, every day I see just before Kitase that a cement truck had taken away about 20 meters of guardrails protecting people coming for water. On the road down from Peduase Lodge several light poles are missing and the concrete walls to separate traffic coming up and down is damaged in many places. On the other side of the road, the guardrail and walkway rail are damaged for a few hundred meters, as is the road from Ayi Mensa through Adenta and Madina. From the University of Ghana again several light poles missing, road signs and boards missing or damaged, traffic lights hit by trucks and cut of at ground level. Around Tetteh Quarshi Round about, most of the fencing is damaged road signs gone etc.etc.

It looks like a normal thing in Ghana, because we are all used to our low maintenance culture and after all after the victims have been taken care of and the cars have been towed what else is there to do?

What is left are the damages at properties paid for by the state or municipality, road signs, street lights etc. but who cares?

Does anybody have any idea how expensive these road signs, light poles and signboards are when they need to be replaced ?

I do and know for a long time: when I was 18, I bought a (more than) home-used car called, Simca Rally Racing 1 on a Thursday which I wrecked on he Saturday after I acquired it.

My Simca Rally was a cheap orange and black “sports car look-a-like” with racing wheel, sports seats and flashy wheels, as you can understand, a dream car for an 18-year-old rascal.

On Friday night I drove the car to a seaside town in the Netherlands to show off with my “new” car to my friends. The whole evening, I had fun with my friends and by 3 AM I decided that it was time to drive home. It was drizzling and slightly foggy and I drove careful out of town towards the city where I lived, one long straight road with a curve at the end before I entered the last stretch onto the highway to my house. It was cold outside and because of the weather my windscreen started fogging up. Because of the damp on it I tried to clean it with a cloth.

The next few seconds were the longest seconds of my life: The curve in the road appeared much earlier than I thought, my car hit the guardrails. After that, I knocked a light pole into a petrol station and stopped in between an Opel delivery Van and a Peugeot 504.

I managed to get out through my windscreen and was bleeding from my mouth, only to find out seconds later that I cut my tongue with some of the glass, it was a miracle but that was all.

My action had cut the electricity supply to the petrol station and light poles along the road. I waited for 20 minutes before another car arrived, the owner brought me to the nearest police station. The police checked my alcohol level but when that was ok they advised me to go home and come back and report in the morning, which I did.

Together with my uncle and a police officer we went to the place of the accident and were welcomed by the owner of the closed petrol station. My uncle and the police officer couldn’t believe that I survived without a scratch (accept for my slightly bleeding tong, which stopped within a few minutes).

All the glass from the car windows was gone; the driver’s seat was cut into 2, the roof of the car was flat on the doors except for the windscreen the back and other front seat were loose in the car, 3 flat tires; the last one we didn’t know because the wheel couldn’t be found, the engine in the back lying next to the car.

But that wasn’t all; 2 highway light poles, a signboard of the city under which the location was, a direction sign board to enter the highway and one pump of the petrol station were lying on the floor together with a road sign 50km maximum speed limit which I obviously never saw and because of that didn’t respect (oh-oh). Both the Opel Van and Peugeot 504 where un-reparable and declared total loss. Luckily in the Netherlands insurances are good and cover high amounts.

After I arranged everything with my insurance company I started receiving invoices from all parties involved which I passed to my insurance company.

One Opel Van and one Peugeot 504, valued at about 9,000 Guilders (today’s value 22,400 Usd)

One Petrol pump valued at, 7,000 Guilders (today 18,000 Usd)

17 meter of guardrails two highway light poles, sign boards, speed limit traffic boards and 1 traffic light slightly over 200,000 guilders being today’s value about 480,000 Euro.

Until that time, I, and many people like me, including my uncle and family, never realized how expensive public properties were,and what was needed to repair the damage I had caused.

Some details revealed; costs of equipment to close the road and divert traffic for a full day. Emergency connection and placement of temporary road lights, labor cost of public utility companies before the prices of guardrails, sign boards, light poles etc. I was not only surprised by what I caused but in shock of what all the costs were to repair what I damaged.

Let’s have a look at the Ghanaian damage of infrastructure and other public properties.

Because I know (for 42 years) how much repairs of these damages cost, I am concerned why the people causing the damage are not paying for it or even why our public servants are not even making an attempt to try to let them pay for these damages.

Who pays for all these damages on our public owned infrastructure, is it you and me the taxpayers?

Does the Police, who always try to be involved in accidents for all the right (and wrong) reasons, do anything to try to recuperate these damages of motorists?

Does our government have any idea how much these damages cost our society and taxpayers annually?

Why are insurance companies not claimed for damages of properties belonging to all Ghanaians?

If the Government and local authorities are not claiming these damages from the one causing them we all end up paying for them through our taxes.

Since my accident my slogan has become; drive carefully and if you can’t control your car drive against something cheap, like a tree (although in the Netherlands these are also valuated and paid for these days)

Columnist: Nico van Staalduinen