June 3 Disaster: Four Years On, No One Held Accountable
June 3rd 2015 marked a black day in the history of Ghana, as rainfall turned into a devastating fire and flood catastrophe. 154 people died and hundreds suffered severe burns resulting in permanent physical disabilities which severely undermines their suitability for the job market.
It is disheartening and disappointing that to date, no public or corporate officials have been held accountable for failure to discharge their duty of care to the people of Ghana and especially the victims. It is even sadder that a disaster of this magnitude has been treated like those before it; official speeches laced with empty platitudes followed by loud silence.
The report of the Ministerial Committee that investigated the disaster attributed it to the floods, poor safety practices at the GOIL filling station and a cigarette spark by a person who has since been identified. The floods were attributed to blockages in Accra's main storm drains, resulting from the non-desilting of the drains, as well as the building of settlements and habitations of squatters in the storm drains. The lower parts of the Odaw River in the area known as “Sodom Gomorrah” had been blocked by settlers who had reclaimed substantial portions of the Odaw channel and built houses, mosques, churches and a market on it, thereby reducing the discharge capacity of the Odaw Channel into the Korle-Lagoon.
It should have been obvious to the relevant public institutions and officials, that the inevitable consequence of allowing human settlements on storm drains, is that the drains will become even more silted and unable to help prevent flooding. It is a regrettable irony that such a dereliction of duty has led to the death and incapacitation of citizens, on whose taxes these same officials are sustained. It will therefore be a travesty of justice that successive governments sit on and allow persons who have traded political expediency for the discharge of their duty of care owed the public, not to be held personally liable for the losses their irresponsibility has caused.
Besides according blame for institutional failures, it is high time public officers are held responsible in their personal capacities for breaches of duty which occasion injury, damage to property and death. It is our view that institutionalizing such a culture will compel public officials to discharge public functions in a manner they will handle their own individual affairs. We expect the courts to incorporate this important paradigm in their methodology for dispensing justice involving state officials.
The failing by the managers of the GOIL filling station to ensure that the hatch of the underground tank was properly closed, allowed the flood waters to displace the fuel to the surface; leading to the
eventual fire disaster. The investigative report noted that the station, and by extension the managers of GOIL, had been previously warned about their poor safety practices. It is clear that GOIL, by failing in its responsibility of duty of care to the public, contributed to the loss of lives. It is also instructive to note that the Shell Filling Station opposite the GOIL station, did not have its fuel displaced from its underground tanks even though it was also flooded. The failings of every official at GOIL, must definitely be brought to book and justice secured for all victims.
JUSTICE FOR JUNE 3RD VICTIMS - J4J3 CAMPAIGN
On 2nd June 2017, two years after the disaster; the OneGhana Movement, in accordance with its citizen responsibility and policy accountability objectives, launched the “Justice 4 June 3 (J4J3)” Campaign, to pursue justice for victims of the June 3 avoidable disaster. The major objectives of this “Justice 4 June 3 project” are to secure equitable compensation for victims, and to hold corporations, public officials and institutions accountable for their actions and inactions.
The victims and the OneGhana Movement have since through their lawyers, (Darko, Keli-Delataa & Co.) and (A-Partners @ Law), commenced a class action suit against Ghana Oil (GOIL), National Petroleum Authority (NPA) and the Accra Metropolitan Authority (AMA) for their complicity in the disaster.
While the court case continues, it is our expectation that, the pursuit of justice will not only result in fair compensations to victims and their families and punishment to culpable officials. Even more importantly, it will drive the sense of accountability and responsibility on the part of citizens, corporate Ghana and public officials. In so doing, the citizens shall be emboldened not to allow their rights and privileges to be trampled upon, and public servants and politicians alike shall realize that they will be held accountable for their actions.
As we press resources into service to ensure justice for the victims and their families, we humbly request media organizations and other public-spirited entities to join us in this fight for justice and a better show of responsibility by our public service institutions.
Long Live Ghana!
Emily Kanyir Nyuur