Wacam, an environmental mining advocacy non-governmental organisation (NGO), has registered its displeasure at what it says is the ‘lack of transparency’ in the government’s report on the Apiatse Fact-Finding Committee.
The Executive Director of Wacam, Mr Daniel Owusu-Koranteng, who made the observation, was speaking at the launch of a ‘Report on Apiatse Explosion,’ by his NGO.
The study, which spanned over a four-month period, was undertaken by a team of five including a lecturer at the University of Cape Coast (UCC), Dr Emmanuel Tenkorang (team lead), the Executive Director of Wacam, Mr Daniel Owusu-Koranteng, the Associate Executive Director of Wacam, Mrs Hannah Owusu-Koranteng, the Executive Director of Centre for Public Interest Law (CEPIL), Lawyer Augustine Niber and the Executive Director of Centre for Environmental Impact Analysis (CEPIL), Dr Samuel Obiri.
The research set out to investigate what led to the Apiatse accident and interventions made by the relevant government institutions. It also examined the relevant legislative provisions on explosive transport for mining operations and how they were complied with and made recommendations based on its findings.
According to the Executive Director of Wacam, Mr Daniel Owusu-Koranteng, it was worrying that one year after the explosion, the government has not released its Apiatse report.
“This is of serious concern because the Apiatse Explosion is of major public interest,” he said.
He said by launching his NGO’s report, Wacam was demanding transparency for the causes and effects of the incident on the people of Apiatse.
This, he averred, would ensure that duty bearers and the company at the centre of that painful incident are held accountable.
“We are marking the one-year pain of the people of Apiatse some of whom continue to live in tents and on the charity of benevolent people without knowing when they would be restored to their previous life of dignity and social cohesion,” Mr Owusu-Koranteng said.
He said it was public knowledge that following the Apiatse explosion, the government set up a fact-finding committee to investigate the Apiatse explosion which report has since been submitted “but has not been made public.”
According to him, it was imperative that the state uses the Apiatse explosion to look at the weakness in the mining regulations, enforcement lapses and address the negative effects of the actions and inactions of mining companies including those who provide ancillary services.
“We should ensure that the Apiatse Explosion is not treated as one of the serious occurrences relating to public safety in our country that are met with heightened enthusiasm but easily die off with time,” he stated.
Ghana, Mr. Owusu-Koranteng pointed out, has many lessons to learn from the Apiatse explosion.
“…but the hard question is, do we learn from painful experiences like the Apiatse explosion?” he asked.
For instance, he asked what measures had been put in place to hold the company in the centre of the explosion responsible for payment of adequate compensation to the victims for the destruction of their properties including buildings and personal properties, long term health impacts on victims, loss of livelihood, fatalities among others.
Presenting Wacam’s Apiatse Report, the leader of the research team, Dr Emmanuel Tenkorang, disclosed that the study established that although the initial accident occurred as a result of a motorcycle sliding into a truck carrying explosives, the failure of several actors in the chain of transportation of the explosives escalated the impact.
“Had the company acquired escorts to the truck carrying the explosives, which is required by law, the explosion may not have happened. The failure of the company to ensure that the transportation of the explosives was in the company of a competent person, as required by LI 2177, the initial fire which set off the explosives might have been put out, saving the situation.
…In view of the failure of the company to travel with the escort, a question that arises is: was there no police barrier between the point of departure and Apiatse?, the report asked.
According to Dr Tenkorang, the weakness in the enforcement of requirement by LI 2177 was a major contribution to the accident occurring.
“The provisions of the LI 2177 make it mandatory for vehicles transporting explosives to be marked with a clear red sign indicating EXPLOSIVES and the use of red flags on the vehicle to make vehicles carrying explosive easily identifiable by security agencies and other road users. Assuming all these were done on the truck, the Apiatse explosion that has imposed so much pain and suffering could have been prevented,” he said.
Though the laws have adequate provisions for the safe transportation of the explosives, Dr Tenkorang indicated that from their research the regulations failed to provide for strict liability for the cost of an explosion arising from the failure of a company to comply with the regulations.
“The laws also failed to provide procedures upon which a person injured as a result of the explosion can claim compensation from the company that caused the explosion.
...Undoubtedly, the people of Apiatse have their socio-cultural, economic, civil, political and environmental rights violated and need to be promptly and adequately compensated,” he stressed.
In the light of the above, Dr Tenkorang said the report recommended that companies working in all sectors of the economy, and in this case mining and support services, to follow all regulations and legal requirement in undertaking any operations.
“The requirement of the presence of a competent person is necessary, for instance, in the case of Apiatse this person could have put the initial fire under control possibly preventing the second explosion,” the report added.
Furthermore, Dr Tenkorang called on the state to set up, especially in areas of high extractive and industrial activities, an emergency coordinating unit with the District Assembly put in charge of emergency response.
This unit, the report explained, should be trained and given resources to be able to respond appropriately, to emergencies in their jurisdictions.
“The state should create awareness on the dangers of explosives and how citizens should conduct themselves in similar situations.”
“The LI 2177 should be reviewed to include a provision for strict liability for a company that failed to adhere to the provisions of the regulations resulting in an explosion that cause injury to people such as the present case (Apiatse).”
“The LI 2177 should also include procedures upon which persons injured as a result of the explosion can claim compensation.”
The report also recommended that persons injured as a result of the explosion take action(s) in court to claim damages for the negligence of the company for the injuries they sustained as a result of the explosion.