Ruralization of the City of Accra

Feature Article Ruralization of the City of Accra
AUG 21, 2003 LISTEN

It is very gratifying that the president in his infinite wisdom has ultimately appointed a minister for the “modernization” of the city of Accra in no other person than the man who hails from the city himself Jake. The portfolio is Minister of Tourism and Modernization of the Capital City. I also read with great disappointment a statement made by an official of Chrag saying that vendors who have taken over the streets of Accra should resist every effort by government to remove them from the streets because they the vendors need a place to carry on with their trade. This in my mind was a very unfortunate and irresponsible statement from an officer of his standing, irrespective of the fact that he was looking out for the welfare of these hawkers. People from the rural areas who come to settle in Accra cannot be allowed to bring with them their way of life in the rural areas where there are little or no laws to adhere to and impose their way of life on the rest of the citizens. With the government’s decentralization policy, every rural community ought to enact its own laws, collect tolls and other levies to be able to undertake certain minimum projects in addition to the regular allocation of the common fund disbursements for other projects to enrich the lives of its citizens. Laws in Accra have to be enforced to the letter to make it possible for these rural folks to know the difference between living in the city and living in the rural area. If laws are not enforced in Accra then what we are saying is that there is no difference between living in either of these areas, city or rural. Capital City Accra is a capital city and as such should be accorded that status. As a capital city, and the seat of government, we come to find that many international organizations, foreign embassies and high commissions, head quarters of many corporate institutions and the likes are located there. It is the first and in most cases the only stop where visiting foreign dignitaries come when they visit the country and as such we cannot leave it to the rural folks to destroy it by bringing to it their way of life in rural areas. As a capital city, there should be certain laws, rules and regulations that the national government or for that matter the local government from the mayor’s administration should be able to enact and strictly enforce to make the people who live in it and those visiting to abide by and conduct their businesses in accordance with as they go about their daily lives. I have not visited or lived in many African countries capital cities, except a few but I will decline to comment on the ones I have visited or lived, because they are nothing to write home about, but certainly I have visited and lived in some of the world’s best european and western countries capital cities and I know the difference. We should never try to sell ourselves short by saying that this is Africa and so we should be different in terms of being mediocre. A capital city should always reflect the status of a capital city. Some of the things that are fast causing Accra to become rural area are; proliferation of kiosks, hawking at unauthorized areas, litter of signboards, the menace of polythene bag littering, litter of broken down and rotten vehicles at road sides, broken down street light posts and street lights that don’t work, uncontrolled bad driving habits, chocked drainage systems, half tarred and untarred eroded streets, tarred roads taken over by sands and trash and the habit of urinating anywhere and anyhow, undocumented amount of beggars from both the country and the sub-region and above all many uncompleted and abandoned houses all over the city particularly along some major streets like Kwame Nkrumah avenue and Kojo Thompson road. Proliferation of Kiosks The creation of many small businesses which is a good sign of entrepreneurship have brought with it the proliferation of so many kiosk businesses ranging from the sale of ice water to on the heads of little girls at many traffic intersections to the mom and pap businesses, seamstresses and tailors. I would think that these businesses if properly located both the city and national government could properly account for them to be able to adequately tax them for national reconstruction activities. To rid our cities of these proliferation of kiosks, we need to create what I will call ‘village malls’ in our neighborhoods to group all these kinds of businesses in one locality so that it would be easier to account for them and at the same time rid our cities of all the proliferation of kiosks to give way to the construction of proper drainage systems to take care of flooding problems and the construction of adequate sidewalks. Hawking at unauthorized areas Hawking has fast become the main stay business activity of most of the boys and girls who throng the cities from the rural area right after finishing junior high schools. These boys and girls instead of going on to finish their senior high school education rather are brought in to the cities to be engaged in hawking even at areas where there are clear signs posted as no hawking, (take for instance the traffic light that leads to Achimota school from the Achimota highway, there is a big sign there that says NO HAWKING HERE) but right under the sign you see hawkers selling all kinds of things from live dogs to their chains to make money for their sponsors to the detriment of the nation. We are losing most of our potential future leaders to street hawking activities and thereby creating illiteracy in our nation. In my opinion there should be a national legislation to ban all forms of hawking on our streets and any culprit, be it the hawker or the sponsor punished. The sponsor should be punished for cutting short the education of these boys and girls to their own self enrichment and the hawkers be sent back to school to complete their most needed education to become better citizens. Litter of signboards There is a litter of signboards choking our street corners and many of our intersections. These signboards are so many that they tend to obstruct the view of and create potential dangers to drivers. Any little kiosk business wants to put up a signboard on the street corner. This menace has made our sidewalks and streets very ugly to the sight. Just as we should rid our sidewalks of all kiosks so should we get rid of these unwanted signboards. The menace of polythene bag littering It is an eyesore to just take a walk or drive through some of our streets and see how much of these used polythene bags from the sale of ice water to imported apples are littered around. I sincerely believe that if AMA wants to get rid of this menace they could by just imposing a tariff on the importers and manufacturers of these items that use the polythene bags. They should also be made to pay certain amounts of levy to AMA for the cleanup. Broken down and rotten vehicles Driving through the city of Accra, Tema and its environs as well as traveling along any major highway in Ghana, one can see a grave yard of broken down and rotten vehicles all over the place. This is as if when the vehicles first broke down the owners simply abandon them because that is where they were supposed to be buried. In some cases the owners just remove certain parts necessary to them and just leave the rest of the vehicle to rot at where they are. This is a menace and something seriously should be done about them. Owners of such vehicles should be identified and stiff penalties levied against them in addition to forcing them to remove their vehicles from such places. Broken down street lights posts and lights that don’t work The Electricity Company of Ghana charges a certain amount of levy on everyone’s light bill. Just take a good look at your light bill and you see a levy for streetlights. The collection of this streetlight levy gives the electricity company huge amounts of money at the end of every month and yet there are many streets in Accra including my neighborhood that don’t have streetlights. In spite of this there are a lot of these streetlights that are either broken down or the lights simply don’t work and yet the electricity company has not done anything to either fix the broken light posts or get the ones that are not working in proper working order working again. Electricity Company of Ghana, is it poor management problem or you simply don’t care and taking Ghanaians for a ride. Uncontrolled bad driving habits The driving habits of most of our commercial vehicle drivers and some of the private ones are just as bad as the word itself. One wonders how most of these people were able to secure their driving licenses. The trotro and taxi drivers are the worst. It is a known fact that most of them are illiterates and can hardly read any street sign let alone have some etiquette in their driving habits. The Vehicle Licensing Authority and the Motor Traffic Unit of the Ghana Police Service seriously need to do something about this menace. I would suggest that there should be a recall of all trotro and taxi drivers nationwide to undergo a certain amount of testing and education before being re certified to go back to their trade. How can we pay for this exercise? through the re certification process, we can charge a certain amount to pay for all the logistical set up and have the process decentralized to be implemented through out the regions, districts and townships. Choked drainage systems There are many drainage systems in and around Accra and Tema that are virtually chocked of weeds and sands to the extent that water cannot simply pass through. This has in many cases contributed to the constant floods being experienced in Accra during the rainy seasons. I believe that if each community is empowered to undertake regular cleaning exercises once a month it will eventually rid our city of choked drains and also create jobs for some of our city folks. Half tarred and untarred eroded streets Most of the streets in Accra are either half tarred or untarred and these are virtually eroded by either running water from rainstorms, bust water pipes or sand wind. I believe the local governments collect property rates and in addition the central government also allocates their part of the common fund to be used to undertake such maintenance projects in the communities. The citizens of Accra need therefore to rise up and demand accountability from these elected officials as district assemblymen and women. These kinds of attitudes on the part of the elected assemblymen and women need to be brought into account. It is also pathetic to note that even some of our tarred roads are being taken over by sands, trash and weeds. I believe it is the duty of the district assemblies to make sure of proper cleanliness of the neighborhoods and part of the common fund allocation is to undertake such road works and other maintenance activities within the community. The habit of indiscriminate urinating It has become the habit of most people to just urinate indiscriminately anywhere and everywhere they find themselves being called upon to attend to nature’s call. I once noticed a middle-aged woman just right in the glare of the public eye pull up her clothes behind the Methodist bookstore and in front of the Ghana Law School to urinate. I found myself very dumbfounded and confused. I said to myself ‘what has become of this society, is something wrong with our morals or I am the odd one here’. People urinate just about anywhere and anyhow and this act of indecency must stop. I call upon the city authorities to institute stiff penalties for offenders of such acts and also all petrol stations should be legislated to provide places of convenience for the public even if they have to pay a fee to use them. Undocumented aliens and citizen beggars Beggars are finding it very convenient to strategize themselves at various vantage traffic lights. From the Gold House traffic light to the 37 Hospital to TUC to National Theatre and other vantage points, the beggars are taking their trade everywhere. Sometimes you see the parents of minors relaxing under a tree nearby and the children begging for them. Interestingly most of these beggars come from other countries in the sub region. In other cases some of these beggars are also fake who like to pray on society’s weakness. The AMA has to do a thorough research into the begging society and rid our cities of these people, the fake ones exposed and the disabled ones rehabilitated into some kind of trade to make them become useful to themselves and society as a whole. The undocumented ones from other countries in the sub region sent back to their countries of origin and reunited with their families. Uncompleted and abandoned houses Prime real estates are being wasted with the litter of uncompleted and abandoned houses in very prime areas of the city. This is a shame. A careful drive through the airport residential area, Dzorwulu, Adabraka, Asylum Down and other prime areas and you see a lot of uncompleted and abandoned houses, most of these houses were started some years ago and the original owners have either died and pass on the ownership to the children and these siblings are locked into a lengthy litigation as to who is to take the first step to develop it. This leaves me to suggest that if the potential owners cannot agree on the development of such properties or cannot agree to put such developments into a trust for the benefit of all concerned then the city government should take the initiative to confiscate them into the city and develop them to generate income for the city. I believe we live in a society where order should be the buzzword and only if we would do the right thing and take back our cities we would only be doing the right thing to have that needed POSITIVE CHANGE. I believe this will be one of the assignments of the Minister for Tourism and Modernization of the Capital City. Kwaku Yeboah (Washington DC) Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

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