Cookie's Bliss Observations

Out of the Ashes, Saturday Morning Bliss Moment #1

This morning I received my first bliss moment when Bob pointed out that investigations into the construction of the fated Ahimota Melcom were already being called for. He had come across an article exposing the building contractor as a “night builder” in which the President of the Ghana Institution of Architects, Osei Agyemang was demanding immediate pragmatic steps to prevent another disaster. I’ve pasted that story in below.

On Wednesday morning, as the employees of the Melcom mega-store in Accra were saying prayers prior to opening for business, the six story building collapsed. Three days later, crews continue digging through the rubble, finding people both dead and alive. It is still unknown how many were inside at the moment of collapse.

As facts fall into place, we learn that the building was constructed in only two months and was opened to the public in January, apparently without a certificate of occupancy. In my personal research I also came across stories about a nation-wide cement shortage. Here’s an interesting blog post regarding local construction practices, written by a Canadian geologist currently living in Accra: Melcom building collapses in Achimota (Accra)

My obsession with tragedy is not for the tragedy itself but lies within the hope for the prevention of future tragedies. The second article below is a commentary calling for a change in building regulation attitudes. Out of the ashes I hope to see rise improved building inspection standards for Ghana.

In a parallel story, the CEO of Antrack Air is being relentless about getting to the bottom of the Kumasi runway potholes. He’s gone so far as to hire a team of experts to inspect the runways. “Alhaji Banda said: “The safety and convenience of the travelling public is the issue here and cannot be the subject of long drawn of review.”  You may recall the potholes which caused the airport to close for a week this September which I wrote about here: Welcome to Kumasi. Have a Nice Day!

It pleases me that people like Osei Agyemang and Alhaji Banda and are willing to swing away until they effect positive change. They are the Ralph Naders of Ghana. People willing to obsess on what’s wrong in order to make it right. They will eventually, relentlessly kick up the dust until they make the world a better place. Nice way to start a beautiful day!

Melcom Tragedy: Owner Of Building Is A Night Builder
8 November 2012 By Jeffrey Owusu-Mensah News

It has emerged that the owner of the Melcom Achimota building, which collapsed on Wednesday has a record of putting up buildings at night to avoid attention.

Some residents close to the multi-storey department store told Myjoyonline that the Achimota edifice, for instance, “sprung up all of a sudden”.

They claimed during construction, the site was fenced so residents could not tell exactly what was going on. “We only saw lights in there and sounds of machines and people working,” one of them recollected.

Nana Buadu, the owner of the Melcom building, has a similar building in Kumasi which engineers in city have warned that it is not good for housing people.
Luv News’ Erastus Donkor reports that he had confrontation with city authorities for building at night and also having no permit for the building.

Our correspondent was told that Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly had problems with Nana Buadu’s five-storey building which is close to the Asokwa Interchange in Kumasi, because it has some structural defects.

“It is a huge edifice sitting on small pillars that is my layman view of it,” he said.

Erastus said the Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly confirmed to him that its engineers did not give the owner permit to put up the building.
Even though he observed that the structure looks like it has been abandoned for several years, about four persons are currently occupying the building which is fitted with a lift.

Mr. Clement K. Kegeri, Special Assistance to the Kumasi Mayor remarked: “Our records indicate that our Assembly has not granted him any permit. The information we also gathered from our engineering department indicates that our engineers didn’t supervise the building.

“I can tell you on authority that our engineers are not satisfied with the structural nature of the building, they are of technical view that the building has some structural defects. For that matter they have not approved the building to be used to house people.”

Meanwhile the immediate past President of the Ghana Institution of Architects, Osei Agyemang is demanding immediate pragmatic steps to prevent another disaster.

He also called for “a certain rigid of professional procedure” in putting up buildings in the country, regretting “unfortunately” that most contractors do not submit themselves to due process.

“We are not respecting the regulatory framework, we are not abiding by the regulations and procedures that we need to go by.”


The Achimota Melcom Tragedy Must Change Our Attitude To Building Regulations

By Kofi Thompson

One’s heart goes out to the families of all those who died and were injured, when the building housing the Achimota Melcom superstore collapsed.

An enquiry into this disaster is crucial. It is important that the authorities learn important lessons from this tragedy – and ensure that they are incorporated in Ghana’s building code.

One wonders whether the filling-in that was done when the section of the Achimota-Ofankor highway that runs in front of the collapsed building was being constructed, might somehow be a contributory factor to the tragedy.

Perhaps it might be prudent to carry out an inspection of all the nearby buildings, to avert another tragedy – if the ground in the area isn’t properly drained and thus soaking up run-off storm-water.

Those public officials charged with enforcing building regulations must carry out their work more diligently – as such tragedies will be averted if they carried out on-site inspections more frequently during the construction of buildings in Ghana.

The Achimota Melcom superstore tragedy must change the attitude of all stakeholders in the building industry, to building regulations in Ghana. A word to the wise…


Alhaji Banda Brings In Foreign Experts To Look At the Kumasi Airport Problems.

Alhaji Asuma Banda, Chairman of Antrak Air Ghana, has invited international aviation inspectors to come into the country and offer their expert opinion on what is causing the damage on the Kumasi Airport runway.

Alhaji Banda, who is not happy with three closures of the Kumasi Airport runway, something which did not happen over the previous years of operations at Kumasi, since the problems at Kumasi would soon surface at other domestic airports sooner or later.

To save the situation, he has invited inspectors from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the United States of America and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) at his own expense to look at what is causing the problem.

According to him, the heavy jets with Aircraft Classification Number (ACN) over and above the Kumasi runway’s Pavement Classification Number (PCN) of 15 are the ones damaging the runway.

“It is important for the public to note that active runway has been shortened this week for two days to allow further repairs, resulting in fewer seats available for the travelling public,” he said.

“We wrote to the Civil Aviation Authority on October 4, 2012 requesting that they immediately restrict operation by heavy jets onto domestic runways pavements that were not built to support such weight of aircraft,” he said.

He further said: “In spite of the safety issues, severe inconveniences and serious economic damage caused by the repeated closures, they replied only on October 16, 2012 that they are ‘studying issues’ raised in our letter and will ‘revert in due course’”.

Alhaji Banda said: “The safety and convenience of the travelling public is the issue here and cannot be the subject of long drawn of review.”

“If I am wrong then the costs will be for my account. But if I am right and it is the heavy jets that are causing the damage, I will take appropriate actions against the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority for commercial losses arising from the repeated closures as well as all costs associated with bringing the inspectors from the USA,” he warned.

According to the business mogul, who is also a member of the Council of State, he does not have anything against anybody but “I want the right thing to be done”.

“Even if I am not running an airline, I will not sit down as a statesman for such a thing to happen in this country,” he added.

Alhaji Banda said: “Some heads must roll if what I am saying is the truth and I know it is the truth.”

“Under the NDC one administration, the Americans were made to take control of the aviation management and that made Ghana to be recognized as ‘Category One’ country and I will welcome that thing today,” he added.

By Camille Armantrout

Camille lives with her soul mate Bob in the back woods of central North Carolina where she hikes, gardens, cooks, and writes.