The death trap has claimed several lives Authorities in a dilemma; can't act to protect the rest
Reports reaching Weekend Agenda's news desk indicate that the Tema Meridian Hotel, once the pride of the Harbour City, has become a yawning death trap. Information gathered by this paper on a fact finding mission to the location, revealed that, the huge, dilapidated edifice, is now home to over 50 squatters, several of whom are reported to have fallen to their deaths from various floors of the building in the last six months.
At about 2:00 am on Sunday, November 7th 2004, a man believed to be a Nigerian, fell from the sixth floor and is said to be currently on admission at an unidentified hospital in Tema.
The recent fall is the third in three months, making it an average of a fall a month.
From the information gathered, it appears that more deaths have occurred at the location than have been reported, as the occupants of the ramshackle structure fear that, they would be ejected if the deaths are reported and as a result, draw the attention of the authorities.
Explaining the circumstances that led to the fall of the Nigerian, one of the squatters said the victim was drunk and had gone to urinate, when he missed his step and fell through the shaft that once accommodated the hotel's elevator. “ Some Nigeria guy who booz, dey go piss, wey he loose guard and missed step and fall.” He remarked in pidgin English.
The hotel, Week-end Agenda's investigations have established, has been sold to Octoglow Sdn Bhd, a Malaysian Company, which has abandoned the building since 1999, ostensibly, after discovering that rehabilitating it was going to cost more than they had anticipated.
Due to the failure of the relevant authorities, including the Divestiture Implementation Committee, to secure the building after it was placed on the divestiture list, doors, windows, rails and other fittings have been removed by recalcitrant elements in the Tema Municipality.
The ground floor of the hotel serves as a market for the squatters, who sell food, vegetables and alcohol there. Drugs are peddled in the open, making life comfortable for them there, as they need not travel distances to get their supplies.
The squatters lived there with their families including children as young as two years, and occupy as high as the tenth floor of the abandoned building, exposing them to the risk of falling.
“Those who fall, are those who are fairly new in this place.” Said one occupant, in response to the suggestion that the building was unsafe for human habitation.
It would be recalled that Prime Investigator, an Accra weekly newspaper reported on the front page of their Thursday 30th September – Wednesday 6th October 2004 edition, the sad story of the death of a two-year-old girl, Farida Awudu, who crashed to death from the 8th floor of the hotel.
The Paper in the same story also reported that, a male adult also fell and died instantly. The squatters confirmed these reports during Weekend Agenda's visit to the site.
Acting Municipal Coordinator at the National Disaster Management Organization, Abraham Reynolds, told this reporter that, efforts by the TMA to eject the squatters from the place has been fraught with difficulty, as the consent of the owners of the building, who are presently not in the country, ought to be sought. He said several attempts have been made without success to locate the current owners.
Prior to the divestiture of the hotel, the building was used as offices of clearing agents, who were ejected on the excuse that the building was structurally weak, and not fit for habitation.