The Yapei and Buipe bridges, two of the northern regions' link to the south are in the news for all the wrong reasons.
They are reported to be in poor shape, with gaping holes all over their expanses. Officials said the bridges pose a threat to the travelling public and as such have taken the necessary precaution of shutting them down.
When the bridges will be opened to the public again is up in the air. The blame lies squarely on the ministry of roads and highways. I have always wondered why public officials put in charge of maintaining our roads and bridges very often fail to discharge their duties efficiently.
The closure has inconvenieced many a traveller; it has caught them unawares, thrown them out of gear and compelled them to reroute their journey to the north through Yeji at further expense.
Indeed, the predicament of these travellers, running the gamut from business men and women, students, to visitors, is one that could have been largely prevented if only our public officials had been up to par.....doing exactly what they were put there for.
Let me be blunt here: yes, I understand the government has spent boatloads of cash money on the bridges. However, the abrupt closure of the bridges and by extension the Kumasi Tamale road, is a blanket indictment of the ministry of roads and highways. Oh, and it is a sad commentary on how we in this part of the world pay scant attention to our public infrastructure.
The roads and highway ministry which I presume is full of engineers and other technically savvy workers should have kept a close eye on those two bridges, given their strategic importance to overall commerce between the south and the north and the neighboring countries of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.
A constant vigilance would have done a whole world of difference to the ministry's reputation, but above all, it would have spared the travelling public the needless agony it has been forced to go through.
Amid all the handwringing, some fundamental questions need to be asked. Why did it take authorities such a long time to figure out that the Yapei and Buipe bridges were in such bad shape? The holes didn't just materialize overnight. It took a while to get them to the stage where they posed a danger to the longevity of the bridges and thus a danger to the travelling public.
Didn't the roads and highways ministry realize that bridges are such delicate constructs that they need 24/7 watch? That is, work has to be done on them constantly, indeed, everyday, if they are to be kept in top shape and in a safe condition for the travelling public.
And, what about using PSAS --- public service announcements ---- on radio, TV and social media, to alert the travelling public that the bridges would be closed for this number of days, or weeks or months, until things are corrected.
A deputy minister for roads and highways lamented the state of affairs, and promptly offered a feeble apology to those who had been inconvenienced. Well, Mr. deputy minister, what about creating a permanent bridge workforce? That is an idea worth considering, don't you think?