These fire outbreaks need decisive action to tackle

Fri, 30 Jan 2015 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Folks, I am now more than persuaded that the spate of fire outbreaks at important state (not government) installations cannot be caused by faulty electricity cables, transformers, or air conditioners at offices. My hunch is that there is much instigation behind it to cause havoc and undermine the government. In truth, then, my position must be clear: that the fire outbreaks are politically motivated.

Those hiding behind such a dastardly act to destroy state property and blame it on the government's incompetence or to create disaffection for the government thereby should bow their heads in shame.

I don't want to point any finger at any particular political camp but the persistent occurrence (recurrence) of these fire outbreaks throughout the country cannot just be happening on the spur of faulty equipment.

From burning down markets all over the country and electricity transformers of the Electricity Company of Ghana to many other materials elsewhere, attention has now been shifted to vital installations such as the medical stores of the ministry of health. Barely two weeks ago, it was the Central medical Stores in Tema that were razed. The burning down of electricity cables in a makeshift warehouse in Kumasi had occurred earlier.

Now, it is the turn of the Medical Stores of the Tamale Teaching Hospital in the Northern Region, which went up in flames this morning, as reported by MyjoyOnline whose correspondent (Hashmin Mohammed) reported that “lots of drugs have been burnt”.

“At the moment as we speak now, fire officials have been able to bring the situation under control,” Hashmin added.

(Source: http://www.myjoyonline.com/news/2015/January-28th/tamale-medical-stores-go-up-in-flames.php#sthash.mEtZDEPy.dpuf).

Folks, anybody doing a dispassionate assessment of the fire hazard should come to a clear conclusion that these fire outbreaks are caused by those seeking to cause public panic and sabotage the government. Don't ask me to provide evidence. Just analyze the situation yourselves, and you should arrive at that conclusion. If you cannot, then, leave me alone to do my educated guesswork.

The truth, though, is that burning down important national installations won't solve anybody's "political" problems. These acts of sabotage have dire consequences for everybody, not only the government. Even those masterminding them will come to realize too late that they have been driven by hatred for the government to do acts that have caused irreparable damage and will negatively influence governance, assuming that the Mahama-led administration loses Election 2016. How will they repair the damage?

I am convinced that once fire outbreaks have become the most preferred political weapon, they will continue to be used at will. Those behind the arson will intensify their efforts until one or two of the perpetrators are caught in the act to expose them.

That is why I am disturbed that the government isn't acting decisively to use its wide national security and intelligence services on that score. These institutions could by now have established effective agent networks and used many other opportunities (including electronic surveillance of important installations) to detect clandestine acts of sabotage, even before they occur.

Mounting short-circuit television or cameras at such institutions to detect goings-on shouldn't be difficult if the government sits up to do the proper thing and to make fire prevention a major national agenda. The citizens must be woken up to play their part in monitoring installations. There is much ado about a National Sanitation Day but nothing about the damaging fire outbreaks. What sort of governance style is this?

Added to this havoc is the performance of the Ghana National Fire Service, which seems overwhelmed by the spate of fire outbreaks. Indeed, the GNFS is more of a mere employment avenue than an institution that can help solve fire problems. It is choked with personnel who can't be trusted to solve fire-related problems either because they are not properly trained or equipped for the job. Just take a quick glance at the personnel and you shouldn't miss the mark to know that they are more bent toward showing off in their uniforms than doing what they are in service to do.

A few friends have told me about some kind of apathy among the rank and file for various reasons. There is talk of nepotism and all the negative traits that undermine national security. The recycling of Gaisie to become the Chief Fire Officer won't solve any problem unless the government rejigs the entire GNFS to eliminate the deadwood and plug all the loopholes.

In addition, the government must consider the rampant fire outbreaks as a major national security risk and adopt quick measures to tackle the havoc. The most important of all measures should be equipping the GNFS to the hilt to do its assignments. I hear fire hydrants aren't even available or functioning to expedite their work. How?

Then, the clustering of buildings and other makeshift structures impedes movement to fire spots, meaning that inaccessibility is a major problem. The government seems to be too satisfied with the existing situation, which is disappointing.

As I write now, we don't even know the outcome of the investigation that the so-called experts from the United States that the government engaged to investigate the fire outbreaks at Makola and other places last year. What did they find out and what recommendations did they make to help solve the problem? Why isn't the government implementing those recommendations (if they made any at all)?

Folks, you can tell that I am highly disappointed, if not frustrated or angry, that despite the fire hazard facing the country, no serious action is being taken to prevent the recurrence. How can we build Ghana when installations and vital equipment/materials are burnt to ashes anyhow? And we are talking about the razing of stores housing medical supplies!! Where else will the arson occur before serious action is taken to bring the perpetrators to book? Maybe, at the Flagstaff House itself? Too bad for Ghana!!

I shall return…

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Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.