All hell broke loose on the Takoradi STC highway yesterday when police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse hundreds of protestors who had gathered in the middle of the road to embark on a peaceful demonstration against the city authorities for doing nothing to improve the bad road network in the area.
The police's action infuriated most of the demonstrators who threw stones at the police before running for cover.
Innocent school children of Wiawso Road and Perry Hayford schools, situated in the area, were caught in the crossfire, forcing the school authorities to send all the children home.
Unconfirmed reports said four of the school children collapsed after inhaling the poisonous gas and had to be rushed to the hospital.
Prior to the tear gas incident, the Sekondi-Takoradi Metropolitan Chief Executive (MCE), Capt (rtd) Anthony Cudjoe, who visited the Kokompe area to calm the demonstrators down, was nearly beaten up by the angry protestors.
According to an eyewitness, after the MCE had finished with what he went to do at the place and was leaving, he was heckled and pushed into a nearby gutter allegedly by the mob and but for the timely intervention of the police, the MCE would have been subjected to severe beatings.
The protesters were mainly members of the Western Regional branch of the Ghana National Association of Garages, as well as carpenters, food vendors and taxi drivers operating at the Takoradi Kokompe-Light industrial area.
Some of their placards read, 'Mills Do Our Gargantuan Road', 'Who Is In Control?', 'Our Road Needs Attention', and 'What Do You Use Our Taxes For STMA' among others.
According to the demonstrators, the road network, which is about 13 kilometers, was in such a bad state that customers who visited the area to service their vehicles returned with some other problems, allegedly caused by the poor road network.
The demonstrators, mostly clad in black and red T-shirts with red wrist bands, blocked the main road from the Agip round-about to the STC station in Takoradi.
They also blocked the STC-Kokompe road with tyres, blocks and big logs and burnt some of the tyres to block the roads.
One of the mechanics, Baba Mohammed, in an interview, noted that the bad nature of the road had led to their customers resorting to other alternatives by taking their vehicles to shops and garages located at unauthorized places in the metropolis.
'The situation has led to a drastic reduction in business for the garage owners and spare parts sellers to the extent that the turnover of many of us has dropped sharply,' he told DAILY GUIDE .
He added, 'I believe the part of the gargantuan money which had been given to Alfred Agbesi Woyome can be used to repair the road'.
In an interview, Joseph Oppong Sarpong, regional chairman of the Garages Association, revealed that there were about 5,000 garages in the area that engaged in all manner of artisanal works ranging from auto mechanics, welders and sprayers to blacksmiths.
He pointed out that the Kokompe area served as the leading automobile servicing and spare parts centre for both the Western and Central regions.
Mr. Sarpong lamented that as a result of the deplorable road network, most of the garage owners had relocated to other parts of the Sekondi-Takoradi metropolis, leading to the springing up of garages at unauthorized places with its attendant environmental problems.
He indicated that other businesses such as banks and insurance companies located in the vicinity were threatening to relocate.
The assembly member for the area, Edward Ampong, who claimed he supported the action of the demonstrators, mentioned that improvement in the nature of the road network and other social amenities would encourage greater participation of the private sector in providing enhanced service centres within Kokompe and make the place a one-stop shop for customers.
He mentioned that the resurfacing of the entire 13-km road network at the Kokompe light industrial area would bring about significant boost in the businesses of garage owners and help create jobs.
From Emmanuel Opoku, Takoradi