Editorial: Are those staying in Accra’s skyscrapers safe?

Accra, our national capital, is being transformed into a modern city as seen in the advanced countries. A drone shot of some parts of the national capital will reveal the total transformation of our skyline. Skyscrapers, though not comparable to those seen in Manhattan, New York, are rapidly springing up in the prime areas of the city.

These skyscrapers can be seen in Cantonments, Ridge, East Legon, Airport Residential Area, North Dzorwulu and other prime areas in Accra. The idea is not bad because apart from beautifying Accra’s skyline it also helps to economise the use of land. But much as we welcome these new developments, are we, as a state, having the fire tenders that can reach the last floors of these tall buildings?

Somewhere in September 2019, the Minister for Interior, Ambrose Dery, stated in Kumasi that an order had been placed for the purchase of two new fire engines with aerial ladders that could reach 10-storey buildings in the retooling investment in the internal security services.

The engines, he said, are to complement existing ones, which are nearing retirement, after they were procured in 2004 for the Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS). The Chronicle is unable to confirm or deny whether these fire engines were purchased as promised by the minister or not. But granted that the engines were procured by the state, they have, in our opinion, outlived their usefulness because some of the buildings are now having as many as 25 floors.

This is the reason why some few years ago, we used this column to warn the authorities that we are playing with fire. As a matter of fact, those staying in these tall buildings, though it is a prestige, have put their lives in serious danger – because no fire tender in Ghana can reach the top floors, in case there is a fire outbreak.

Unfortunately, we are reluctant to blame the various municipal assemblies in Accra for issuing permits for the construction of these tall buildings. If we are being described as a Lower Middle Income Country, then our level of development should match it. The blame, we dare say, lies squarely at the doorstep of the government.

It is the duty of government to always think ahead of time. When our own version of the skyscrapers started springing up, it should have prompted the government of the day to start thinking about how to procure some of these fire engines that have ladders to reach the top floors of the buildings.

Regrettably, this was not done and has still not been done, though the constructions of these modern buildings are going on unabated. What has even exacerbated the situation are the reports that most of the fire engines in the pool of the Ghana National Fire Service are not working. The GNFS itself admitted to the problem when its representative appeared on one of the television morning shows in Accra recently.

Now the big question is: if the fire tenders are not even enough to handle fires that occur in two or three storey buildings, what will happen if, and may God perish our thought, fire occurs in these skyscrapers that are being patronised by the affluent in our society?  We are, therefore, repeating our previous statement that Ghana is playing with fire.

Yes, the economy is not doing well and we all admit it, but that does not mean we should relegate this important national issue to the background. The Chronicle is grateful to the government for the numerous vehicles she has procured for the police and the Ghana Immigration Service. The population is rapidly increasing and the security agencies need these equipment to bring down crime.

We think the GNFS must also be treated in the same way. We cannot blame them for failing on their duties when we, as a state, have not provided the needed equipment for them to work. For those staying in the tall buildings, this is the time for them to also mount pressure on the government to procure the right equipment for the GFS for their own safety.


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