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Remembering the June 3 Disaster; Five years on

June 3rd 2015 marked a black day in the history of Ghana, as rainfall turned into a devastating fire and flood catastrophe.

154 people died and hundreds suffered severe burns resulting in permanent physical disabilities which severely undermines their suitability for the job market.

It is disheartening and disappointing that to date, no public or corporate officials have been held accountable for failure to discharge their duty of care to the people of Ghana and especially the victims.

It is even sadder that a disaster of this magnitude has been treated like those before it; official speeches laced with empty platitudes followed by loud silence.

The report of the Ministerial Committee that investigated the disaster attributed it to the floods, poor safety practices at the GOIL filling station and a cigarette spark by a person who has since been identified.

The floods were attributed to blockages in Accra’s main storm drains, resulting from the non-desilting of the drains, as well as the building of settlements and habitations of squatters in the storm drains.

The lower parts of the Odaw River in the area known as “Sodom Gomorrah” had been blocked by settlers who had reclaimed substantial portions of the Odaw channel and built houses, mosques, churches and a market on it, thereby reducing the discharge capacity of the Odaw Channel into the Korle-Lagoon.

It should have been obvious to the relevant public institutions and officials, that the inevitable consequence of allowing human settlements on storm drains, is that the drains will become even more silted and unable to help prevent flooding.

It is a regrettable irony that such a dereliction of duty has led to the death and incapacitation of citizens, on whose taxes these same officials are sustained. It will therefore be a travesty of justice that successive governments sit on and allow persons who have traded political expediency for the discharge of their duty of care owed the public, not to be held personally liable for the losses their irresponsibility has caused.

Besides according blame for institutional failures, it is high time public officers are held responsible in their personal capacities for breaches of duty which occasion injury, damage to property and death. It is our view that institutionalizing such a culture will compel public officials to discharge public functions in a manner they will handle their own individual affairs. We expect the courts to incorporate this important paradigm in their methodology for dispensing justice involving state officials.

The failing by the managers of the GOIL filling station to ensure that the hatch of the underground tank was properly closed, allowed the flood waters to displace the fuel to the surface; leading to the eventual fire disaster. The investigative report noted that the station, and by extension the managers of GOIL, had been previously warned about their poor safety practices.

It is clear that GOIL, by failing in its responsibility of duty of care to the public, contributed to the loss of lives. It is also instructive to note that the Shell Filling Station opposite the GOIL station, did not have its fuel displaced from its underground tanks even though it was also flooded. The failings of every official at GOIL, must definitely be brought to book and justice secured for all victims.

Emily Kanyir Nyuur Executive Secretary – One Ghana Movement

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