Some distraught residents of the Upper East region have served a very strong public notice to bar all government officials from using state vehicles on the Bolgatanga-Bawku-Pulmakom Road from Wednesday January 30, 2019, onwards.
Government, they say, is least bothered about the stalled reconstruction work on that bumpy, dusty ECOWAS highway because its officials do not feel the tortures ordinary citizens experience as they (the officials) enjoy smooth journeys through the same road on cozy state cars.
The agitated residents, bearing the name “Fix the Bolga-Bawku-Pulmakom-Road Now Movement”, are convinced work will resume in no time on that ‘abandoned’ 116-kilometre-long stretch when government officials are compelled to join commoners on trotros (cheap public minibuses) as the imminent embargo takes effect next month.
“We would like to assure government that ‘we the concerned users of this road may take up the road construction by ourselves soon’ should government renege in its role to bring back the contractor by 20th January, 2019. As a reminder to government of our commitment to construction of the road, should government fail to meet the above deadline, we would start the following actions as per the given dates:
“Stop all government officials— Regional and Deputy Ministers, MPs from this region, MDCEs, coordinating directors, Regional Highway Director, etc.—from the use of their official vehicles. This would start on January 30, 2019. We believe they are comfortable in those cars and so are not able to communicate to central government how we the road users suffer,” said the group in a statement read at a news conference by the leader, Abunkudugu Asaa Akunai.
The event is the latest among the multiple press confabs and rallies the region has seen over the sorry state of that busy road long before and soon after government engaged Queiroz Galvão, a Brazilian construction firm, in 2016 to reconstruct it within 30 months at a contract sum of Gh¢612 million. But this is the first time such a notice has been issued. And this is the first time a terminal—the Bolgatanga-Bawku Station— has been chosen as “an appropriate” venue to stage a press conference aimed at reechoing the ‘Fix-Bawku-Bolga-Road-Now’ campaign.
All Checkpoints to be stopped from Operating in February
Whilst pouring out its grief over the state of that international highway, the group also paid attention to some other roads said to be in bad shape and abandoned in the region.
“The MTTU would be stopped from checking vehicles for roadworthy certificates in this region as the roads are not worthy. President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo described our roads as a disaster to be driven on. This activity would start from February 5, 2019,” it further vowed.
The statement also declared: “The market centres, tollgates, DVLA offices and CEPS checkpoints within Upper East region would be stopped from generating revenue for the state. This activity would start from February 20, 2019.”
“We the people of Upper East and its environs deserve good and befitting roads. The only vehicle-worthy road in the region is the Trans-West Africa road that enters the region at Pwalugu and exits at Paga. Citizens and residents of the region certainly deserve better. They deserve at least another trunk road,” it added.
Nurse reported dead as group mourns lost lives on killer road
The longer the contractor, who pulled out its equipment midway into the project in 2017 for nonpayment of arrears by government, stays away from site, the more the road would maim and claim lives, said members of the group who stressed their action was not motivated by politics but by public interest.
“It’s an issue that disturbs almost everybody in this region. I can remember in November, a nurse was travelling from Bolga to Bawku after close of work to visit his family, only to get into the pothole and lost his life. If this road was made motorable, I don’t think this nurse would have lost his life. And that means the workforce in the health sector has been reduced by one worker.
“If this road has been done well, most of the cases we refer to other regions would have been done here because we would get people who would come and stay here and work well. But because of the nature of the road, people are not ready to come here to spoil their cars. If the road is put to good use, it would raise revenue for government and individuals,” said Gilbert Azanto, a member of the movement.
Another member of the group, Ellen Rockson, narrated: “I happened to do my national service at Garu. It was devastating using the road. They packed you like sardines because no better car wants to use that road. It’s very pathetic and we think something must be done. We don’t belong to any political colours. It’s all about development.”
So many lives, the statement emphasised, had been lost as a result of the terrible state of the road. It added that the stalled reconstruction would also end up frustrating all efforts being made to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2— “to end all forms of hunger and malnutrition by 2030”— as farmers remain ‘cut off’ from markets.
Armed Robbers worrying us on that Road - Bawku Drivers Chairman
The statement also spoke about a pregnant woman who, whilst being taken on referral from the Zebilla District Hospital to the Upper East Regional Hospital in 2017, died on the way “as she could not bear the shaking from the potholes”.
“We are really suffering, especially if you are from Bawku, Garu or Pusiga. As you can see, I’ve just arrived from Bawku, but if you see the means I came with, it’s as if I’ve not washed it for a month.
We are not wearing political colours. We are just concerned citizens. We cannot pay taxes, levies, but not enjoy the same facilities others are enjoying somewhere,” raved Joshua Azongo, another member of the movement.
Drivers, who stood by the group at the terminal as its members addressed the press, lodged complaints about recurrent harassments they suffered together with passengers at the hands of armed robbers on that road.
“The Bawku road is too bad for us. Almost every week we have to go for vehicle maintenance. And the spare parts are now costly. At times, the cars break down on the road. Moreover, when the car breaks down on the road, armed robbers worry us.
“Even when you meet another car on the road, the stones on the road break your windscreen. My windscreen got broken through that. Government should do something about the road for us fast,” lamented the Chairman of Bawku drivers at the Bolgatanga Main Lorry Station, Alhaji Sule Gumah.