Residents of the Upper East region are up in arms against government over the delay in completing the Bolgatanga-Bawku-Pulmakom Road Project as travellers continue to wail over the distress being experienced on that road and armed robbers also are taking advantage of the terrible condition of the road to unleash terror on drivers and passengers.
A frustrated Paramount Chief of Bawku, Naba Asigri Abugrago Azoka II, is asking government if his traditional area is not part of Ghana as he talks about the efforts he has been making all to no avail to get that busy international road fixed.
“During my visit to Accra, I contacted certain key personalities in government who gave the assurance that government was serious about it (the road) and was going to release Gh¢10 million to the contractor to continue with the work but we didn’t see anything. After waiting for some time, the contractor came and collected most of his equipment away. You can see for yourself the work that has been done and what has not been done. From Bawku going to Pulmakon, it has not been touched.
“They (the construction company) have repeatedly complained that they were forced to evacuate finally because they were waiting indefinitely for the funds to come and their equipment was [wasting away at the site]. My personal plea is that government should take the matter seriously and tackle the road matter for the development of this part of the country. It’s a very important commercial road which links Ghana with neighbouring countries. One would wonder why serious attention is not being paid to this road and it makes me ask if my area is not part of the country,” fumed the extremely disappointed-looking Kusaug monarch.
He spoke to Starr News at his palace, surrounded by his council of elders and his long-serving secretary and interpreter, Naba Thomas Abilla.
It is almost a year since the Brazilian construction company in charge of the Bolgatanga-Bawku-Pulmakom road reconstruction project, Queiroz Galvão, withdrew its equipment from the project site to its Bazua campsite over nonpayment of arrears on the part of government. The project, awarded at a contract sum of Gh¢612 million by the Mahama Administration, started with a sod-cutting ceremony on Monday July 11, 2016. And it was scheduled to be completed in 910 days— which is two and a half years. It implies the project should have been completed on Monday January 7, 2019, and handed over thereafter. But the portion done so far is only about a quarter of the 116-kilometre-long international road.
A massive slice of the highway, which is yet to be worked on, is so potholed and thick with dust even dark-skinned people who travel on it do alight from the vehicles with an annoying ‘blonde hair’ on their heads, faces, arms and in their nostrils. Travellers wearing involuntary ‘hijabs’ or changing themselves into ‘ninja passengers’ with a veil tied around their mouths and noses by themselves against their will just to avoid looking blonde at the end of their journey is commonplace especially on the cheap commercial minibuses (trotros) that ply that busy ECOWAS road.
Drivers, travellers, students, workers and several traditional authorities are among residents and road users who are clamouring strongly in the region for government to settle the debts owed the acclaimed contractor so it can resume work.
How stalled project is pushing armed robbers to unleash terror on public
Of utmost worry to residents and travellers is the state of insecurity along a diversion the contractor had created before arrears nonpayment forced him to abandon site.
Bordered on both sides by dense forests, the diversion zone has become a ‘goldmine’ for armed robbers who unleash surprise attacks on road users especially at night for cash.
A number of robbery strikes have taken place on the alternative route, some resulting in life-threatening injuries and deaths besides the loss of personal treasures to weapon-wielding gangsters. The withdrawal of the construction company from site makes it even more uncertain for the nervous public as to when the project would be continued and completed to put an end to the reign of terror in the diversion area.
“The road issue is a big problem to us here. Government has done a lot concerning the road. One of the areas which are yet to be done are in the forests. Armed robbers are taking advantage because the vehicles are going slowly along the diversion. So, they snatch motors, attack vehicles and rob people.
“The current issue is that if they stop your motor and you try to run away, you may end up losing your life. They may fire you. That is the problem we have now. But the police are patrolling. We are trying to make sure that there is protection for the travellers on the road. They are monitoring our movements to strike. At times, they succeed. At times, we chase them away. There are many robbery issues, though I cannot give you offhand statistics. But that’s the problem we have now,” the Bawku Divisional Police Commander, Chief/Supt. Yao Tettegah, told Starr News.
Drivers, passengers clamour for continuation and completion of road project
Aside from the ECOWAS highway being used for transportation of goods through the sub-region, it is also a major road patients from across the region use when given emergency referrals to Bolgatanga or Bawku.
Sometime ago, a pregnant woman died on that road shortly after delivery in Bawku. She developed complications and was put on an ambulance headed for the Upper East Regional Hospital in the regional capital, Bolgatanga. She did not make it.
Doctors said she could have lived longer had she not spent more hours than necessary on the way owing to the bumpy, slow-motion nature of the road. Another woman, a nurse, was reported dead in similar circumstances along the road not too long ago.
“The road is so terrible. The past government did well; it started constructing the road. But when this government came, we don’t know why they stopped the project. Nobody is saying anything and the road is very bad. Imagine from Bawku to Bolgatanga, you spend two or three hours, when you could even use forty-five minutes if the road were good.
“As we are entering the rainy season, you can’t even pass the diversion area. The vehicles will get stuck; they cannot pass. You travel and you get to Bolga or Bawku and you look like you were buried in the ground. All the things you are wearing are very dirty. The politicians are not helping us,” a passenger, Charles Ayambire, told Starr News on a minibus heading for Bawku from Bolgatanga.
At Pusiga, a crowd of frustrated drivers, flanked by distraught passengers, chorused a plea in public on government to bring back the contractor to site without further delay. Earlier, the Chief of Pusiga, Naba Tambiss-Baalug Konwiag Ke IV, had grieved over the dreadful state of the road, saying it had been causing auto-crashes and inflicting untold torture on the sick and persons with disabilities.
“Last year, I carried a pregnant woman to Bawku. She delivered even twins inside my car. It’s because the road [is not] fine. If the road is fine, from Pusiga to Bawku, is how many miles? During rainy season, our road is like culverts— big, big, big potholes!” cried Amir Sani, a commercial driver at Pusiga.