Roads are essential in the development of every village and town and the case of Sirigu is no exception.
Sirigu, a town in the Kasena Nankana West District of the Upper East Region is one of the major towns in the district. It has a large market which can be considered the biggest in the district and the second largest in the entire Kasena Nankana area only after the Navrongo Market in the Kasena Nankana Municipality.
The community is home to the oldest Senior High School in the district, and the only Orphanage in the district. It also hosts the offices of World Vision and Afrikids Kasena Nankana area development programmes. The famed Sirigu Women’s Organization was the centre of attraction that brought then sitting United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the Upper East Region.
Aside from serving as a revenue hub for the district due to its large market size which attracts traders from neighbouring communities including Kandiga, Mirigu, Natugnia, Zorkor, Manyoro, and Yua, it also receives traders from Navrongo and Bolga as well as others from neighbouring Burkina Faso who throng to the market every three days to do business.
However, the nature of the roads in the community leaves much to be desired as residents wonder if all they deserve as a community is to serve the needs of others and not be served.
Today, our lenses are spot on three of the five major roads that provide linkage between the community and others, the Sirigu – Kandiga road, Sirigu-Bolga and Sirigu-Yua roads.
Sirigu- Kandiga Road
Serving as the major link between the community and its Western neighbours including Navrongo and the second major link to the regional capital, Bolgatanga through the TRANS-ECOWAS Road, the Sirigu-Kandiga road has had its fair share of neglect. The road links the Sirigu community to its Western neighbours, the direct entry point to SWOPA, Sirigu Senior High School and the Martyrs of Uganda Health Centre, the largest health facility in the community.
All the above important facilities serve the nation in varied capacities but their access is now hanged on a brittle stick waiting for a breath of pressure from the rains to lay bare.
A contract that was awarded to asphalt the road from the Kandiga Junction on the TRANS-ECOWAS Road stopped a few kilometres away from its starting point and never reached the community and has since been abandoned for reasons best known to the authorities. Countless efforts by the residents of the communities to get something positive done about the road have all failed.
About two years ago, a culvert which was constructed over a small stream begun to break down. Community members led by their Chief, Naba Roland Atogumdeya Akwara III put blocks and stones to block the hole that emerged on the middle of the culvert to prevent road users from accidentally falling in it. That failed and logs were put on it to enable vehicles to pass and during the dry season, the vehicles used a diversion beside the culvert to cross. That is totally impossible when it rains as the place is occupied by water.
That was then followed by reports to the district assembly seeking a remedy to the emerging death trap on the road. Countless attempts to earn support proved null and according to people closer to the situation, the district assembly said there were no funds as they [Assembly] owe many contractors and no contractor is willing to commit money to the project.
According to residents, the ‘No Money Syndrome’ has been the excuse from the authorities whom they had hope of earning support for the project. This according to Raymond Atanga, a member of the community who is leading the charge to rehabilitate the culvert by championing a fundraising campaign to fund the project and as well leading community youth to provide labour to reconstruct the culvert left them with no option than to resort to Self-Help in order to save the community from being isolated due to the bad roads.
“Many times people are falling here and with injuries and all that. We think that is not good enough. So we have a duty and especially now that the rains are coming and the remaining part of the culvert is breaking every day. So we think that if we don’t do this some time to come the whole thing will fail and no vehicle can use it,” Mr Atanga stated.
According to Mr Atanga, the Chief of Sirigu, Naba Atogumdeya involved himself in the project by holding discussions with authorities in a bid to harness support for the reconstruction of the culvert and another bridge linking Sirigu to Bolga through Zorkor but not even a journey to Accra to have such discussions with the national Feeder Road boss yielded positive results.
The fruitless encounters thus informed the community to think of another solution and that is to do it themselves as best as possible. He noted that the district Engineer offered to support them technically by advising on the project. According to Mr Atanga, the Engineer was on site on Monday to assess the project and identified the flaws with the previous work and offered guidelines on what to do to avoid a repeat of the collapse.
Another community member, Kamara Gideon who was also busy at the project site working said the community feels being detached from Ghana due to the roads situation. That he said has prompted them to embark on this exercise to raise funds from community members to fund the project in order to avoid being totally delinked from other communities.
Akolbire Atanga, another of the youth contributing labour to the project expressed dismay at how during the election season in 2020 top politicians passed over the same bridge, saw its deplorable nature; yet turned a blind eye to it. He said they [community members] are now angry and disappointed in the politicians and government for neglecting them despite being fully aware of their needs. He said the only option available is what they are doing now, ‘Self-Help’ and they can no longer have faith in the government to come to their aid and since they do not want their community isolated, they are doing their bit to make an impact to remedy the situation.
He praised the Overlord of the Sirigu traditional area for supporting the project by supplying them with the tools they are using to work and as well taking the pain to comb the length of the country to seek support.
Another of the youths who identified himself as Nsoh Oluman, expressed disgust at the neglect from both the Assembly who takes taxes from the Sirigu Market and other members of the community who are well placed to assist the community but turned a blind eye to its plight. He lamented how those who own cars and find it difficult to use the road are even reluctant to assist in pursuing the project and rather he and some of his colleagues who own no cars are rather toiling for the culvert to be fixed.
Adding to the reasons why the work needs to be done, he said whenever there is a serious case of health that needs referral to either Navrongo or Bolga hospitals, the ambulances struggle to use the road when they get to that part of the road. He wondered what would be the fate of a pregnant woman in labour or a patient in an emergency case who has been referred to a higher facility outside Sirigu when the road finally becomes inaccessible due to the collapse of the culvert. He reiterated his call for support for the project in order to save lives in the community.
He appealed to indigenes of the community who can assist to do so without delay in order to help them all complete the work they have already started.
An official from the district who spoke to our team on condition of anonymity noted that the District Assembly was aware of the needs of the community and would support it if possible but due to the debts they owed contractors, none is willing to commit money to any projects and that if the community could get any contractor willing to work on the project the Assembly would sign the necessary documents for the contract to proceed.
Touching on the overall outlook of the Sirigu community when it comes to infrastructure, Mr Raymond Atanga said the community has been neglected for far too long. According to him, Sirigu Market prominently stands as the next biggest market in the entire Kasena Nankana area only after the Navrongo market but the market is undesirable and not business-friendly whenever it rains. He said there are no drains to ease water out of the market thus making it flood and serving as a water reservoir instead of a market.
Mentioning the Sirigu Senior High School and a few other notable institutions that are housed in the community, he wondered how the community still looked unimportant to authorities and thus not being looked at when it comes to infrastructure projects.
The Paramount Chief of Sirigu Naba Roland Atugumdeya Akwara III who has led his community on this project was at the project site to inspect the progress of work and also thank the youth for their efforts.
Mentioning a few other things that have been left unattended to by the authorities, he [the Chief] stated that some schools in the community lack study desks and students sit on the floor to study. He added that the market which serves as the cash-cow for the district has been neglected and any small rain turns it into a pond as water occupy every corner of it.
He expressed gratitude to the people of Sirigu for taking this upon themselves to fix the community and assured them that, he will always be for the good of his people as they are his party and priority.
For the full interview and also to see for yourself the extent of damage done, watch the short documentary video below.