Friday, December 20, 2013

Legal Action in Ghana

In Ghana, we have a very frustrating attitude when things go wrong.For example, when a company promises a service (such as water) and you pay for it, it is only reasonable to expect that you have water consistently.If water is not readily available when you need it, the company has not fulfilled their part of the agreement and they need to face the consequences of breaking that promise.Unfortunately in Ghana, we simple accept the bad service from the company, complaining about it constantly.We complain because a lot of us are not aware of our rights as consumers, or we just can't be bothered to do anything about it.
Even when we know that we have the right to take legal action against such companies, we refrain from doing so with the excuse that the legal system is too corrupt to allow 'poor ol' us' go up against a big rich company.
This same mindset shows up when criminal offenses are committed against us.In November 2012, a big shopping complex collapsed killing 18 people in Achimota, Accra.This was a well publicized disaster, with all the name-calling,finger-pointing and vague promises that such events typically warrant from our leaders.Yet, one year on, nobody has been held accountable for those lost lives.To make matters worse, the families of the victims have not been compensated adequately.They received a paltry amount of money  from the company to cover funeral expenses.
The question that begs asking is since criminal charges have yet to be brought against anyone for this, what happened to civil charges?At the very least, the company running the shopping center, the building management and the city itself should be held liable in civil court and made to pay punitory damages to the victims' families.The cause of the building's collapse has been reported to be the use of poor building materials, and the lack of a building permit.Yet, a big company was able to lease this building for use as a shopping complex and nobody is being held accountable.Clearly, the city, the company and the owner/manager of the property are all liable here.I would hold the city officials  most liable, because they are the ones charged with protecting us from incidents like these, but they  are too busy collecting bribes and lining their own pockets to ensure the safety of such a building and 18 people end up dead. If any punitive damages were to be paid, they should pay at least 50% of it.A young man who had just graduated from the University and was highly admired by his colleagues was killed in this accident.At the prime of his life, when he was just beginning to live his life and support his family for the investments they made in his education, he died.And yet, his family and that of seventeen other victims have not been able to come forward and file a civil suit.

Sadly, such a case is yet to be filed and is unlikely to be filed in court, because the families will take the paltry sum of money they've been given, assume its impossible to fight in court, and say to themselves'Let it go.Its ok.They're dead and gone.Let's move on with our lives'.The problem with such thinking is that it perpetuates injustice in the society.If there are no consequences for negligent actions like these, why would they do the right thing in the future?They will build another mall with bad material, pay bribes to corrupt city officials to get out of a permit, and rent it out to an irresponsible company looking for ways to make more money and not caring about the safety of their space.So next time, it will be 25 people dead, and the cycle will continue.
When we go to the hospital and are treated unprofessionally, we have a choice to keep quiet or to sue.Healthcare professionals elsewhere in the world carry out their duties with some degree of decency, because they know the cost of a malpractice suit.However, we allow anesthologists to show up to work drunk and give us the wrong drugs during critical surgery, and yet we do not take action against the hospital and the person in question.Students die from treatable illnesses in Ghana because they are misdiagnosed consistently in the same healthcare facility, and we do not sue because we are told to 'leave everything to God'.When will enough be enough?Until we learn to make people accountable, injustice will continue, and increase in our society.So the next time you are wronged and consider sweeping the issue under the rug, ask yourself if this is the kind of treatment you want your children and grandchildren to receive.After you answer that question, the choice is yours.Enough said.