Many Ghanaians are familiar with red-letter notices written on buildings and other structures by local authorities in Ghana.
The notice below, written in August 2019 on a structure sited close by the Adenta-Dodowa highway, near Valley View University, got me angry and concerned.
Impunity or Ignorance?
In Ghana, whether it is hawkers occupying pedestrian walkways, squatters blocking major storm drains or galamsey operators polluting rivers, people break the law with impunity because they are able to blackmail politicians by threatening to vote against them in upcoming elections. Often, when it comes to squatters who illegally build structures on public lands, local authorities do not take pre-emptive or timely actions to evict them.
When the need arises for such actions to be taken, there is often pressure on the authorities to put a human face to their actions, in addition to political considerations. As to why politicians cannot do what is right and damn the electoral consequences, it’s a topic for another day.
Coming back to the structure erected close by the Adenta-Dodowa road, there are three possible reasons why I think the owner would put up the structure:
Impunity. The owner is aware s/he may not face any sanctions and indeed the authorities would allow the property to remain there for as long as the owner expects to benefit from the illegal structure.
Ignorance. The owner is totally ignorant of the national zoning guidelines and planning standards with regards to highways, as well as the Adentan Municipal Assembly (Protection of Roads) Bye-Laws 2018, though ignorance of the law is no excuse.
Deliberate act. You may have heard that some people deliberately put up structures near roads when they expect the said roads to be constructed, with the expectation that government would pay compensation for demolishing those structures. The fact that such stories exist in the first place is an indictment on the system that allows such corrupt and frivolous compensation to be paid out of public funds!
There is no doubt that the structure in question has been erected in breach of the road restriction requirements contained in the Zoning Guidelines and Planning Standards and hence the Adentan Municipal Assembly (Protection of Roads) Bye-Laws 2018. Moreover, government has already announced the dualization of the Adenta-Dodowa road, which means this and all the other structures along that road would be demolished to make way for the dual carriageway.
Paragraph 2.8.1 of the Zoning Guidelines and Planning Standards published by the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology in 2011, provides for Road Shoulder 2.5 meters on either side of a highway, plus 3.5 meters as Layby (see Table below).
What the above standards mean is that, from the end of the current tarred Adenta-Dodowa road, a total of 6 meters either side of the road should be free of any structures or obstruction. Enforcement of the above standards are captured in the Adentan Municipal Assembly (Protection of Roads) Bye-Laws 2018, as follows:
Walkways and Shoulders
21. All pedestrian walkways shall remain open at all times to enable free and safe passage of pedestrians.
The following types of encroachments shall constitute an offence;
a) Erection or installation of stationary objects in the nature of tables, wooden kiosks, metal containers, boundary fence wall, etc., on the pedestrian walkway.
b) Dumping of any material (sand, stones etc.) for any purpose
c) Digging through walkways and/or shoulder
d) Driving on a walkway and/or shoulder
e) Digging and placing of signs in any road shoulder and walkway
25. Any person who contravenes any provision of this Bye-law commits an offence and shall be liable on conviction by the court to a fine of 100 penalty units or in default 6 months of imprisonment or to both. In addition to the fine, the Assembly shall be entitled to reimbursement of full cost of enforcement.
Enforcement of the above standards can also be achieved under the Adentan Municipal Assembly (Unauthorized Development) Bye-Laws 2018.
7. Except where penalty is expressly provided, the AdMA shall in case of any infringement or breach of any of the provisions of this Bye-law, abate the infringement or breach with or without notice or impose a fine of 180 penalty units or in default of payment of the fine, to a term of imprisonment not exceeding six months. In addition to the fine, the Assembly shall be entitled to reimbursement of full cost of enforcement.
The Adentan Municipal Assembly must proceed to enforce its bye-laws with regards to this illegal structure without any further delay. Breaking the law with impunity in Ghana must not become a virtue. The Adenta-Dodowa road dualization is an overdue necessity and no selfish and greedy individuals should be allowed to obstruct the project or unfairly gain compensation from taxpayers’ money.
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