Tema fishing tragedy: Where is the report?

On July 27 last year, an incident at sea in Tema in the Greater Accra Region involving a security patrol boat and a fishing vessel claimed the lives of two local fishermen. 

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The incident gained national attention amid threats by the Tema Manhean local community to hold the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) responsible for the alleged recklessness of its patrol boat which the locals said had rammed into the fishing vessel, killing two of the 12 fishers on board.

As we revisit the incident nearly a year after it occurred, there is no certainty about what exactly happened on that Thursday dawn, at least in terms of an official communication to that effect.

The failure to make full disclosure of the incident is most troubling on account of the assurances by officials to initiate investigation into the matter. Indeed, the Tema Municipal Security Committee set up a five-member committee to probe the circumstances that led to the incident.

That committee was made up of the Criminal Investigations Department  of the Ghana Police Service, the Ghana National Fire Service, the National Investigations Bureau, the National Disaster Management Organisation and the Tema Metropolitan Assembly.

Intriguingly, the probe committee had just five days to submit its report. Up until now, no such report has been made public. The units that formed the investigative group individually possess the capacity and competence to complete an investigation into the matter on their own.

Merging their competences was ostensibly to give credibility to the findings and overall report of the investigation process. Why the report has been kept under wraps up to this day does not speak well of bodies that formed the committee.

It does not also speak well of the Municipal Security Committee that set up the probe team. Probing incidents such as what happened at sea in July 2023 is not necessarily a measure to settle scores, but to find ways of avoiding unnecessary disasters, particularly those that end in fatalities.

It helps to heal the pain of affected families, and brings some form of closure to such disasters. It is crucial to bring finality to the matter, given the accusation and denial that characterised the whole incident.

While the Tema Manhean community members, particularly the traditional authorities and the fishing community, accused the GPHA patrol team of complicity in the incident, the port authority flatly denied the claim, stating that the patrol boat involved in the incident did not belong to the GPHA.

Almost a year on, memories of the incident will be reawakened in the minds and hearts of surviving families of the boat incident casualties, fellow fishermen who survived, friends, relatives, acquaintances and community members.

 They will not need a memorial service to be reminded of the dead. The occasion will certainly bring back those memories. The incident happened at the end of the closed fishing season, which itself ushers in the traditional rituals of the people of Tema Manhean towards the celebration of the Homowo festival.

The fishermen, it was claimed by the Manhean community and the traditional authorities, were on a sanctioned mission to catch fish for traditional rituals preceeding the Homowo festival.

 If that is true, another team is likely to embark on that mission in coming weeks for the same purpose. That mission cannot be entertained in the face of uncertainty about the application of tact and sophistry by security operatives in the handling of matters they encounter in the line of duty.

While it is time to release the probe report for all the good reasons the committee was set up, it is also time for the Manhean community, the GPHA and other security agencies to engage with one another for a peaceful Homowo festival if some of the rituals are intended to be maintained.

We encourage this kind of harmonious relationship among stakeholders at all levels and areas of national business in order to preserve the peace of the country.

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