The economic importance of the Accra – Tema motorway cannot be over emphasized as it is the main route for transporting goods to the Tema Harbour, and also passengers and goods to the Volta and Northern Regions from Accra, and countries east of Ghana.
I am one of the over thirty thousand (30,000) vehicle owners who use the motorway for our daily commute from Tema and beyond to Accra. The fear and anxiety of traversing the motorway leads one to break into uncontrollable recitations of Hail Marys in the mornings and a constant repetition of Psalm 23 “thou I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil”.
This fear and anxiety puts family and friends on the edge whenever you ply the road. On rainy days you will be left with no other choice than to sing “Lead kindly light amid the encircling gloom…” This might sound comical but this is the sad reality of our time. This is the pitiable state in which users of the motorway find themselves. Danger, Desolation and Death encamp around us! What is our crime?
The 19-Kilometre motorway has 12 toll booths. Commercial vehicles (trotro) and 4x4s are charged GH₵ 1.00, while big trucks are charged GH₵ 1.50 and saloon cars GH₵ 0.50. Whenever you pay your toll to begin your journey on the motorway, it is as if you are consenting and consigning yourself to real and present danger. Do we have a choice? No! For some of us, this is the ONLY road available to us!
Simple arithmeticusing the 30,000 vehicles and an average toll paid daily as GH₵ 1.00 will show that the motorway raises in the minimum a gross amount of GH₵ 30,000 daily and GH₵ 210,000 on a weekly basis.
The gaping death-holes with sharp metals sticking out, bridges without boundaries, and the poor illumination is a perfect disaster-salad garnished with the careless regard of other road users and brazen foolhardiness of some persons who decide to cross the 100km per hour motorway.
Article 41 (g) on the duties of a citizen requires every citizen “to contribute to the wellbeing of the community where that citizen lives”. This is my little contribution in performance of this duty.
The wellbeing of every citizen must also be the duty and responsibility of the leadership of the Country. The Presidency and the Ministry of Roads MUST as a matter of urgency act to salvage the current state of the motorway. We should not wait for a major catastrophe to happen before we put up the usual Ghanaian moment by making speeches and saying“Never again”.
It appears the issue of the maintenance of the motorway is a money issue. So let us trace the money collected from the road tolls. Na Sika no w3 h3n? (where is the money?)
Section 16 of Ghana Highway Authority Act, 1997 (Act 540) mandates the Ghana Highway Authority to collect tolls and subject to Cabinet approval, contract with a commercial body for the management of toll roads. For the purposes of accounting and management of toll funds, Section 16(3) states that:
“The Authority shall pay into the road fund established under the Road Fund Act, 1997 (Act 536) toll money collected from a trunk road financed by Government subvention after deduction of the administrative expenses agreed between the Government and the Authority.”
The object for the establishment of the Road Fund as stated in Section 2 (1) of the Road Fund Act, 1997 (Act 536) is to“finance routine periodic maintenance and rehabilitation of public roads”.
Also, since the road is tolled, the Tolls Act, 1973 (N.R.C.D. 153) regulates the accounting of the proceeds from the toll. Section 6 of the N.R.C.D 153 states that
“(1) The Minister shall cause to be prepared not later than the thirtieth day of August in each yeara statementshowing in detail the income and expenditure incurred in the operation of toll roads, toll bridges and toll ferries in the preceding financial year.
(2) The statements shall be audited by Auditor-General and a copy of the statements so audited shall be published in the Gazette.”
This provision places burden on the Minister of Roads to prepare the accounts of the collection of the road tolls for auditing by the Auditor-General. It is my considered view that this requirement for a statement to be published in the Gazette is a separate statement from the Annual Auditor-General’s report and the duty is on the Auditor-General to cause the publication in the Gazette.
From the above provisions, it is evident that there are elaborate legal mechanisms in place for the accounting of the funds from tolls as its subsequent application for periodic routine maintenance of the roads. The issue cannot then be money or the lack of it – maybe insufficient funds but definitely not the lack of it. If the road had been maintained periodically as required by law, it would not have been left in this abysmal state.
The seeming lack of care and concern from duty bearers on the plight of motorist on the motorway is leaving motorist with little choices – with some resorting to the non-payment of tolls – with its repercussions. Section 7 of N.R.C.D 153 makes it an offence punishable by the payment of a penalty in lieu of prosecution for the refusal to pay tolls.
There is duty placed on government in this our social contract – democracy – to ensure the wellbeing of its citizenry through the provision of basic social amenities and infrastructure from their tax cedis.
The Presidential Oath administered by the Chief Justice to an elected President before Parliament in part requires the President make oath and commit to “dedicate myself to the service and wellbeing of the people of the Republic of Ghana and to do right to all manner of persons”
The President should respectfully intervene and ensure the wellbeing of users of the motorway. There is an urgent need for the road to be fixed to protect the lives of the users of the road. If this requires an increment in the tolls paid, then so be it! I know governments over the years have failed to properly account for funds accruing from the tolls, but if the problem for the lack of maintenance of the road is insufficiency of the funds, then we need to start thinking about possible increments. We cannot continue to live on the brink of life and put our lives and that of our family members in daily danger.
Let’s fix the motorway now before the motorway fixes us! Motorway users lives Matter! Please do right by us!
By: Clement Kojo Akapame