The most confused and terror-stricken road users in Ghana today are said to be in the Upper East region as all the traffic lights in the whole place have broken down and remained so for more than 400 days.
The traffic lights stopped working before the 2016 general elections were conducted and road users—including children, the elderly and persons with disabilities— are seriously threatened by massive jams every moment at all the region’s busy intersections.
A groundswell of public anger can be heard in the air, felt at every corner and seen on every face especially in the regional capital, Bolgatanga, where the mostly used motorcycles have been frighteningly crashing in highway crisscross.
A catastrophe that seems about to strike whenever people arrive at the chaotic junctions, at times with a whole family on board a vehicle, has continued to leave every heart beating at a very ‘hypertensive’ pace. And the persistent trouble, an awful ache in countless heads in the region, is what is dominating public discussions everywhere at present.
Checks by Starr News revealed that 61 of the funerals performed in the region in 2017 were due to road crashes, with most of the dead being gainfully employed young men and women.
Statistics wired to the National Road Safety Commission (NRSC) by the Motor Traffic and Transport Department (MTTD) and shared with Starr News, which confirmed the 61 deaths, also show that 173 persons in the region were injured in 201 crashes involving 329 vehicles in 2017.
Of all the many intersections in the regional capital, it is only at the “SSNIT House Junction” a traffic warden, dispatched from the MTTD, is found.
The wardens come in the morning, not on a regular basis, and they are soon flogged back to their office around noon by a harsh sun. That is the only crossway in the entire region with a white pair of gloves beckoning and barring motorists and pedestrians. The rest of the heavily frequented junctions, for panicky users, are mere crossroads pointing nowhere.
“Unconcerned” authorities only waiting for disaster to strike
Lawlessness is the word many have used to describe the state of road use in the region amid the ageing breakdown of the traffic lights.
Tempers flared last year, and it went far, after sweaty traffic engineers were seen doing repair work on the lights in preparation for a working tour of the region by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo in October.
The team was not able to resurrect just one traffic light until the President arrived. And when he returned to Accra after his two-day visit, the repair project was pushed aside.
Failure to put the traffic lights back to work and what appears to be unconcern on the part of duty bearers for more than a year have led to the disappointed public concluding in strong terms that authorities are only waiting for a far-reaching disaster to strike before they begin to run around with an appeal.
Every life on the road has come under an overwhelming risk, particularly in the regional capital, since the concluding quarter of 2016. And nothing has changed since Starr News contacted the Department of Urban Roads on the crisis in 2017.
The only thing that has changed is that the population of the vehicles in the region, with the fast-growing number of the canopied motorised tricycles mostly referred to as “Mahama Camboo”, has increased significantly— doubling the road traffic fright and disaster in the region.
Residents vent anger; call on President to act
Scores of concerned residents, including the 2016 parliamentary candidate for the Convention People’s Party (CPP), Abdul-Rahman Latifatu Geswende Compaoure, have taken their frustrations to the social media, punching their keypads with a surge of fury only surpassed by the red flames of hell.
“Traffic lights broken down here, broken down there and everywhere in the Bolgatanga municipality causing a lot of chaos and lawlessness on our streets. The only time they work effectively is when the President is visiting the region. Mr. President, kindly visit the region one of [these] days so that our traffic lights can be fixed. The authorities and agencies have decided to sleep on their jobs. They must sit up to ensure the regional capital status is not by mere name but infrastructure and facility wise,” ranted a Facebook user, Tinga Israel Alamisi Adama.
Samuel Mbura, a well-known journalist and host of Day Break Upper East, a breakfast show on A1 Radio, one of the widely monitored media outlets in the capital, also wrote: “During my trip to Tamale, I realised that though their traffic and streets lights were working as expected, a technical team still went round to upgrade them.
But unfortunately on the part of the Upper East region, the regional capital, Bolgatanga, is a dark town even to the extent that the curve leading to the Regional Minister's residence has two street lights knocked down, yet they see nothing wrong with it.”
Our numbers are increasing because of broken traffic lights— Disability organisation
The most affected among the road users are the persons with disabilities. It usually takes a great deal of struggle and sorrow for them to roll their wheelchairs, to hop on their crutches or to use the white cane through the roads as competing vehicles and able-bodied persons move chaotically through the free-for-all intersections.
According to the Upper East Regional President of the Ghana Federation of Disability Organisations (GFD), David Aniah, membership of the disability organisation is painfully growing in the region as more people are having their arms and legs amputated as a result of the broken state of traffic lights.
“As for the repairs of the traffic lights, we are all aware that the person who is in charge of repairing those traffic lights is in Accra. And, so, there is no way we can always get prompt repairs when the traffic lights break down. And that is uncalled for. I don’t know whether there are no technicians in the region who can always repair these traffic lights.
“The broken state of the traffic lights is adding a lot of people to our numbers. We are not praying that more people should join us. But because of the malfunction of all these things and also the behaviour of certain people and certain motorists, the numbers keep on adding. Day after day, people get accidents and are being amputated. And once you are amputated, you have to pick a form and join the association— and that is what we don’t want,” a sad-looking Mr. Aniah told Starr News.
The crushing gloom on the region’s roads also has been made even worse by the disrepair of several streetlights, including those on the Bolgatanga-Navrongo Highway, amid recurrent launch of terror on soft targets by nocturnal gangsters.