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12.09.2005 General News

Castle out of coverage area

The Statesman

TIMELY gathering and dissemination of information is vital to a nation, and the telephone is the most effective tool to that end. Telephone and Communications systems generally are a sine qua non for the private institutions, public institutions and security operations of any state. But what happens when these systems fail, are tampered with, or destroyed?

This is exactly the scenario in which a significant section of Accra, including, perhaps, the most important part, the Osu Castle, the seat of government, finds itself. Information reaching The Statesman reveals that Ghana Telecom has lost its underground cable that serves over 7,000 telephone and telecommunications system users connected to the Cantonments Telecom Exchange in Accra.

Included among those 7,000 system users are a number of governmental offices. This damage to the communications infrastructure could, over the coming days and weeks, turn the running of the country into a Herculean task. Offices that have most likely been directly affected are the National Police Headquarters, the Ghana National Fire Service Headquarters and the Bureau of National Investigations. Understandably, given the implications on national security, the police are being tight-lipped over the matter.

Collins Antwi, a bull dozer operator, who was working on a large plot of land close to the Guinean Embassy, is the man alleged to have dealt this rather damaging blow to GT's Cantonments Telecom Exchange area.

Currently in Police custody at the Criminal Investigations Department Headquarters for unlawful damage to state property, Mr Antwi is alleged to have torn apart the underground cables Friday, while using his bulldozer to uproot a neem tree he was contracted to uproot from the land owned by one Mr Nunoo, a self-proclaimed “fabulously rich Ghanaian returnee” from the United Kingdom. However, police sources say that Mr Antwi, in his official statement given to the police, has denied that the incident, which occurred more than ten feet outside the boundaries of the land he was working on, was intentional. The land, as learnt by The Statesman, was being cleared to make way for an estate development project to be undertaken by Mr Nunoo.

This is the second time that issues relating to the land, which Mr Nunoo is reported to have bought at over ¢10bn, have drawn police attention. Mr Nunoo, as it turns out, is currently being investigated by the Kwabenya Police for allegedly issuing a death threat about three weeks ago, to a contractor (name withheld), who he had earlier contracted to clear the same plot of land for him.

After completing work on the land, the contractor reportedly went to demand payment from Mr Nunoo, who then allegedly pulled out a double-barrelled assault rifle and threatened to kill him, if he and the friend who had accompanied him did not immediately leave Nunoo's Haatso residence.

Police sources told The Statesman that Mr Nunoo allegedly “got mad” at the said contractor over his failure to uproot the same neem tree that has now caused damage to GT's underground cables and left thousands of Ghanaians without telephone service.

Telephone communication to and from the National Police Headquarters' information room has, according to police sources there who spoke to The Statesman, “collapsed as a result of the damage.”

“It will take over two weeks of day and night repair works by our engineers,” say officials of Ghana Telecom, “to restore the affected lines.” However, as of Saturday, GT was, as a temporary measure, making efforts to place the National Police Headquarters and other affected institutions on a radio telephone system. Whether or not this has actually been done could not immediately be confirmed by press time.

Other areas affected by the cable damage include Ako Adjei interchange, Labone, Circle, and parts of Ridge.

It is estimated that it will cost Ghana Telecom over ¢2bn to restore the cables. Company officials estimate a loss of revenue of over ¢3bn due to the damage to the cables.

Victor Kwame Adoma, the Cantonments Telecom Area Manager of Ghana Telecom, told The Statesman that was the third time that “negligence” on the part of workers on that plot of land had damaged cables belonging to the company. Mr Adoma said work on the land had earlier destroyed some overhead cables of the company but those cables have since been replaced.

He said warnings were accordingly issued to Mr Nunoo and his workers to be mindful of their activities on the land so they did not cause further damage to the cables, most of which are located outside the boundaries of the land in question.

Asked why measures were not taken to prevent damage to the underground cables when in fact same was earlier visited on the company's overhead cables by the same group of workers, Mr Adoma said contrary to construction regulations, Mr Nunoo failed to notify GT of his intended project.

As at the time of going to press, attempts to reach Christian Nunoo, a relative of Mr Nunoo, who was at the site at the time of the incident, for his side of the story proved futile.

More on this in the Wednesday edition of The Statesman