10 January 2013

Ghana: Circle-Odawna Traders Accuse AMA Boss of Bias

FIVE MONTHS after the Circle Odawna pedestrian mall was razed by fire, the new structures being put in place to restore the market have been abandoned at the roofing stage, even though the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) had pledged to complete them at the shortest possible time.

In an interview with The Chronicle, the traders, who lost goods worth millions of Ghana Cedis to the freak fire, said the AMA boss, Dr. Alfred Okoe Vanderpuije had deliberately reneged on his promise, because he perceived the Circle-Odawna traders as New Patriotic Party (NPP) sympathizers.

After a severe fire outbreak destroyed property at the Circle Odawna pedestrian mall, the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) Boss, Dr. Alfred Okoe Vanderpuije pledged to rebuild the structures in the shortest possible time, to enable the traders to continue their business.

But he failed to submit to his promise because he perceived the traders as New Patriotic Party (NPP) sympathizers and, therefore, refused to complete the structures, which is currently at the roofing stage.

The spokesperson of the traders, who pleaded anonymity, said the non-completion of the pedestrian mall had forced the traders to be exposed to the vagaries of the weather. The spokesperson also lamented that the traders have dependants to feed.

It had been five months since the fire outbreak occurred and has taken their livelihood away, with some of them opting to do business in harsh weather conditions, which is not good for their health and that of their customers.

The market area, which is well known for hair dressing and other beauty enhancement products, is now a pale shadow of its original self.

The Chronicle, in an interview with some of the traders, who were deeply affected, have indicated that the last time the Accra mayor visited the scene, he made another promise that the sheds would be completed when he returns from his journey from the United States of America.

This, the traders described as a lie, because he had long returned from the trip and the elections are also over, and he hasn't fulfilled the promise.

"The mayor was here twice to visit the scene when the tragedy happened and to inspect the structures, but as you can see it has come to a stand still for political reasons," they added.

The then Greater Accra Regional Minister, Nii Armah Ashietey was alleged to have also added insult to injury by bragging that unless the National Democratic Congress (NDC) wins power, the structures would not be complete, when he paid a working visit to the scene.

"After the mayor's visit, Hon. Nii Armah Ashietey also came to disappoint us big time, and said that the structures would not be completed due to some NPP posters and colours that have been used to decorate the market walls," the traders hinted.

Some traders, who could no longer rely on the assembly for the completion of sheds before doing business, have mounted canopies to provide shelter for themselves and their clients.

Others have also put-up temporary structures to enable them earn daily bread for their families, "we can't wait on the assembly anymore to provide shelter for our businesses, so we sought to provide ourselves these containers and kiosks," they asserted.

Even though the cause of the raging fire has not yet been established by the Ghana Fire service and the Ghana Police service, traders, however, attribute it to unattended fire, electrical fault or some traders who fail to switch off their gadgets.

The traders are of the view that being affiliated to a particular political party is a right spelt out by the constitution of the country and they must, therefore, not be denied of their constitutional right.

"We are Ghanaians who pay our taxes just as any ordinary Ghanaian, so the assembly needs to treat us fairly," they pleaded. They also begged the government to give them financial support to boost their business, since their capital and wares had been destroyed, and they also took loans from banks to revive their businesses. Efforts to get the Acting Public Relation officer of the assembly, Numoo Brafo to respond to the traders' accusation proved futile.

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