A community has fallen into a state of shock and is infuriated with government following the death of a 14-year-old who drowned while swimming in a deserted “One-Village, One-Dam” project.
On Sunday at around 3PM, Alhassan Arisu went out to play with friends in Samini, a suburb in the Northern region, recounts the victim’s brother Seidu Damba Abdulai.
As the sun began to set and hours passed by, fear set in when Alhassan never returned home.
“We were worried,” Abdulai told Myjoyonline. “We began going to houses and one guy said [Alhassan] had gone to the abandoned dam site. It was at that moment that we knew something wasn’t right.”
At around 6 pm, search teams frantically searched for Alhassan’s body, which was discovered limp from excessive water in his lungs. A local nurse assessed the body and realized he was still alive.
But while en route to the hospital, Alhassan died.
Abdulai blames government for his death. He says when contractors initially made plans to build the dam under the ‘‘One-Village, One-Dam” initiative, residents argued that the dam would hamper on their living conditions.
“The community raised two legitimate concerns,” said Abdulai. Some suggested that the land earmarked for construction was too close to their homes and they feared it would overflow.
Alhassan’s body was buried not too far from where he drowned.
“Others said the land was all they had left from their ancestors. Residents, he added, requested compensation for use of the land – land taken from them without any recompense.
The government never responded to our calls,” Abdulai continued.
He says many speculated that the only reason why the East Mamprusi Municipal Assembly (the municipality where Alhassan died) began constructing the dam was to appease President Akufo-Addo, who visited the town earlier this year.
The “One-Village, One-Dam” project was an initiative implemented by the Akufo-Addo administration in 2016. Its aim is to provide a continuous water supply for irrigation and agriculture productivity.
Abdulai says that as soon as the President left his visit to Samini, contractors discontinued construction. It is unclear who the municipality hired to build the dam.
“Politicians are playing with people’s lives,” Abdulai said. “One would think that they would mobilize the community to ensure that our voices are heard.”
The East Mamprusi Municipal Assembly did not immediately respond to requests for comment, but on its website, it states that the municipality was “created to promote developments.”
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According to Abdulai, it is customary in his culture to bury a deceased body close to where the death took place. After the burial of his brother near the dam, the area has become a ghost town.
“The place has become a scary place to go. People are frightened to go there to fetch water,” adding that “we didn’t need a dam. We already have places to go for water. We need fertilizers, chemicals and seeds for our farmers. If we had that, the story of our poverty would be very different.”
Abdulai has rallied a group of residents who are raising funds to hire a lawyer to sue the contractors of the project, but “in this part of the country where we are struggling to put food on our tables, where are we going to get the money?”
While they struggle to get funding, all Abdulai has left is memories of his loved brother who is immensely missed.
“He was one of the most brilliant students in his class,” Alhassan’s brother recalled. “He was an excellent boy who has passed on because of our government.