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A nation addicted to neglect: Shall we forever be lamenting

People were going about their business at Apiatse, a village near Bogoso (Western Region) in the early afternoon of 20 January 2022.

All of a sudden, all they heard was a very loud “Bang!” followed by an earth-shattering “Boom”! To at least 13 of them (so far) that was the last noise they were ever to hear on planet earth.

They died.

Over 100 others suffered excruciating pain from injuries they received from the (then unexplained) explosion. Many were still in hospital as this article was being written. The injuries consisted mainly of stinging burns, as well as lacerations of the skin. Clothing was torn off the bodies of many.

Iron sheets and woodwork tumbled down, burying bodies beneath them. A road “broke” in half as if it had been bombed from the air by a jet fighter. A village, once well-built and peaceful, lay in ruins, as if it had been hit from the air by jet bombers, at the same time as suffering from the effects of a hurricane! For buildings everywhere had collapsed like Lego structures.

Everything had been reduced to rubble. So much so that the news footage of the destruction captured, in all its pathos, the wails of a person who must have been standing near whoever shot the film and was so stupefied that all he could say was:

“Ei!……Ei!…..Ei!…Ei!” As the footage was repeated in Youtube and other media outlets, the “Ei!…..Ei!…..Ei!” soundtrack assumed the surrealistic note of a calamity on a loop.

As if the apocalypse had visited the site and had no intention of departing. How often will Ghanaians condemn themselves to this sort of man-made calamity? For, (without prejudice to the “investigations” that were being carried out) the preliminary facts pointed clearly to a word which seldom occurs in our national discourse, but which we cannot avoid if we are serious – neglect! Our scientists and lawyers have put their heads together and written Regulations that oblige persons transporting explosives, to observe certain safety measures that should have made the accident at Apiatse simply impossible, repeat impossible.

Regulations such as: “A person who transports explosives, shall give notice to the Chief Inspector of Mines about the type and amount of explosives to be transported at least forty-eight hours before the explosives are transported” *Regulation 107—Vehicles To Be Accompanied By Competent Personn And Police Escort”*

(1) A person who transports explosives in a road vehicle shall ensure that the explosives are under the direct control of a person who has a certificate of competency in explosives.

(2) Without limiting sub-regulation (1), a person who transports explosives in a road vehicle shall ensure that the transportation is done under a police escort. Were these instructions followed? The investigators should tell us that as quickly as possible.

For we don’t want to be mystified into lamenting helplessly, ceaselessly as if it was Fate, not human beings, who caused the accident.

For sad as it is, the fact of the matter is that some Ghanaians are so superstitious and/or fatalistic that they will, at the drop of a hat, accept the vapid claims of numerous false prophets that the deity is punishing us for our sins; or that the driver of the vehicle was being stalked by a coven of witches from his village and/or the afflicted village; or (moreover) the company to which the explosives were being driven had not “pacified the juju spirits and dwarfs in its area of operation.

Yet the Regulations governing the transportation of explosives are exhaustive and imaginative and leave nothing to chance.

They specify, for instance, that: “A person who drives a vehicle that carries explosives shall not carry explosives in the driver’s cab of that vehicle, “ The common sense in this does not need elaboration.

More common sense stipulations are that: “A person who uses a vehicle to transport explosives shall ensure that the vehicle is authorized and (a) is of sound construction and free from any patent defect, and is maintained in good working order; (b) “the vehicle is propelled by a diesel engine, (not a Petrol engine, which is infinitely more flammable); (c) the vehicle is provided with two fire extinguishers mounted on a suitable holder that are readily available for use, and which are kept in good working order at all times.

“The exhaust pipe of the vehicle is fitted and directed in a manner that ensures that neither the pipe nor the exhaust gases pass under any part of the compartment used for carrying the explosives; “Except where the vehicle is empty, [it must have] at each corner, so as to be distinctly visible from the front and rear, a red flag at least four hundred and fifty millimeters square, with the letter “E” in black superimposed in the middle” “the vehicle that is loaded with explosives, [shall be] posted on the two sides and on the front and the rear in red paint on a white background and in a manner that enables it to be distinctly visible from the front, rear and sides, a sign that bears the words:”Danger-Explosives”.

*Regulation 105—Route And Speed Limit*

(1) “A person who transports explosives by road shall convey the explosives by the most direct route and by the quickest and safest means. A person who drives a vehicle that is transporting explosives shall not drive faster than sixty kilometers per hour.

“A person who transports explosives in a motor vehicle shall transport the explosives between 6.00 am and 6.00 pm. “A vehicle carrying explosives can only park in a town or village at a location off a public road and at a reasonable and safe distance from an inhabited building if the vehicle is kept in charge of a blast man and is accompanied by a police escort, both of whom stay with the vehicle throughout the period the vehicle is parked.

Now, preliminary reports say that the vehicle carrying the explosives was in collision with an “adapted motorcycle” and that the driver was able to get out of the vehicle to warn people nearby to leave their homes and workplaces because he feared it would catch fire and cause a deadly blast.

If he did this, he deserves praise. But a relevant question is: if the vehicle had a police escort as required by the Regulations how could a motorbike come so close to the vehicle as to collide with it? The answers to these questions must, I repeat, be given to the public.

For we all know how corrupt many systems in Ghana are, and it is patent that those who neglected to conform with the Regulations will do everything to cover up their neglect. And without anyone stern enough to safeguard public safety by exposing and punishing the culprits, other negligent persons will not learn that if they too engage in such negligent acts in the future, they will be ruthlessly exposed and punished. Strict enforcement of the Regulations is the only guarantee that we shall not see anything like this utter calamity again.

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