Accra, Feb. 8, GNA - Hundreds of hawkers, whose structures were destroyed by a taskforce from the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA), on Monday night, expressed the hope that the exercise to decongest the national capital would be a nine-day wonder. Some of the traders, who arrived for normal business on Tuesday morning and noticed that there was no place for them to sell their wares, condemned the exercise.
They also accused the government for not fulfilling its electoral promise not to drive them away from the streets. "How do we fend for our families," one of the traders shouted, as day broke and they found scores of policemen and city guards on hand to prevent them from selling their wares on the pavements and other unauthorised places.
Kwaku Wusu, a desperate looking petty trader, said: "Madam, what do I do? How do I support my family and pay my bills? Anita Serwaa, a petty trader, said the petty traders would demonstrate very soon to show their displeasure at the decongestion exercise.
Others said they supported the idea to decongest the city but they do not have anywhere to sell their wares and called on AMA to come to their aid.
The city centre was without the usual heavy vehicular and human traffic, after the exercise.
Mr Dan Nortey, a pedestrian, congratulated the AMA for a good job done. "For this to last, it should be consistent and monitored to ensure its complete success," he said. The exercise began on Monday with the pulling down of unauthorized structures along designated streets and pavements within the centre of the capital.
The decongestion exercise, which started from the street in front of the General Post Office, went through the Pagan Road, Kojo Thompson Road, Liberty Avenue, Independence Avenue and the streets on the sides of the Rawlings Park.
The decongestion also took the AMA through the Central Business District, around Cocoa House, Kwame Nkrumah Avenue, Merchant Bank, Old Parliament House and Swalaba.
At about 1030 hours when the Ghana News Agency visited the city centre all debris from the broken chairs, tables, stalls and wooden structures, had been carted away. The exercise is expected to last for two weeks after which an effective enforcement team would be maintained to ensure that the hawkers do not come back. During the period hawkers who defy the order would be arrested and sent to a special court.
Speaking to journalists, Mr Noel Arcton-Tettey, Public Relations Officer of AMA, said the Assembly would not be deterred and would go all out to make the exercise a success.
He said the exercise was in accordance with the byelaws of the AMA, which stipulate that it is an offence to sell on pavement or outside the areas designated for marketing or trading purposes. This therefore make hawkers and squatters illegal tenants.
Asked why AMA collects tolls from illegal tenants, he replied that the tolls are collected from all traders.
Mr Arcton-Tettey said AMA was not obliged to relocate the traders because the city authorities did not put them there. "They came on their own but they can contact AMA for help." The task force carrying out the decongestion were admonished by the Chief Executive of AMA, Mr Stanley Agyiri Blankson to go about the exercise without violence or threat to human life.
"Do not use any cane, belt and gun, for these are not the times of the 'Aaaba ei' when guards molested and harassed people who sold on the streets," the Mayor advised.
He said as part of the exercise, all choked gutters would be de-silted, while the defaced walls in the business district would be repainted to give the city a facelift.
Mr Blankson said the exercise had the support of the Ga traditional chiefs and the churches.