For the second time in 2018, a group of concerned citizens of Upper East Region has expressed displeasure in the manner in which the administrations of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP) respectively, have reneged on their promises to rehabilitate the Bolgatanga-Bawku-Pulmakom road.
For many years now, the road has remained a distressing pain to travelers, as countless potholes – now being described as ‘manholes’, ‘open wells’ and ‘dams’ – have made the road a nightmare to travel on. Unlike in the good old days, when people could live in Bolgatanga and commute daily to work in Bawku and vice visa, the same cannot be done today, due to the deplorable nature of the 115-kilometre road.
In July 2016, then President John Mahama cut the sod for the reconstruction of the road and promised funding for the project was available for the Brazilian contractor, Queiroz Galvao, to complete the project in 910 days.
This was what Mr. Mahama said in July 2016: “This road runs through seven districts, and runs through a total of nine constituencies. And so, it’s a very important road to many people. And that’s why government is investing in completing this road.
“Let me assure you that the funding for the road is available, and so any delay in the road work would not be due to funding. The funding is fully available, and the work, I believe, once it starts, would continue until it is completed.”
In what many later described as a tactic employed by the government to deceive residents that it was serious about the reconstruction of the road, heavy duty machines were commandeered from the Tamale Airport, which Queiroz Galvao was rehabilitating, to a site near Zebilla where Mr. Mahama cut the sod.
If, indeed, funding for the project was available at the time Mr. Mahama cut the sod for the reconstruction of the road, why did the contractor abandon the project soon after the 2016 general elections?
As usual of our politicians, the NDC and NPP have been playing politics with this road project for some decades now over who has failed to do what and who has done what and deserved credit.
When the NPP took over the governance of the country in 2017, we were told they could not locate a funding source or dedicated fund left by its predecessor for the reconstruction of the road. This claim has been rejected by the NDC.
During his working tour of the region in October 2017, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo acknowledged the significance of the road, but described it as disastrous, after he received briefing on its state. He subsequently directed the Minister of Finance and his Transport counterpart to find money and get the road fixed within the shortest possible time. One year on, the state of the road is yet to witness significant improvement.
Though in his 2019 Budget statement, the Minister for Finance, Ken Ofori Atta, mentioned that work on the Bolgatanga-Bawku-Pulmakom would continue, his mention of the project in the budget statement is not enough to convince residents of the region, who say it was just one of the many promises which would not materilise.
Recently, the Upper East Regional Chairman of the NPP, Lawyer Anthony Namoo, in a radio interview, said the government made some payment this year to the contractor to continue with the project, but because the Mahama-led administration could not clear its indebtedness regarding the Tamale Airport project, the contractor used the money to settle those areas.
On Monday, a group calling itself Concerned Users of Bolgatanga-Bawku road in the Upper East Region, threatened to stop all government officials, including the Regional Minister, Municipal and District chief executives and members of Parliament, from using their official vehicles in the region to conduct official duties if the government fails to fix the road before January 30, 2019.
Many lives have been lost on the road, either through accidents or robbery attacks, due to its bad nature. Frequent vehicle breakdowns are countless. All these occurrences have affected families and businesses in diverse ways. Productivity has been affected.
The threat by the group is a clear indication that the two political administrations, led by the NDC and NPP, have taken the people of the region for granted. However, one cannot guarantee the length at which an angry man can go.
From the threats by this group, it is clear the people of the region are fed up with the two administrations, but since the NPP is in power now, the challenge to fix the road is on the NPP-led government, and the time to do that is now!
This is a social contract the government of Ghana has with the people of the region, and anywhere it will secure funding to fix this road, which links the country to its neighbouring ECOWAS countries to save lives and properties, it must do!