Koforidua’s unending battle with hawkers

BY: Naa Lamiley Bentil
The streets of Koforidua are back to their usual congestion
The streets of Koforidua are back to their usual congestion

Koforidua serves three roles; as regional capital of the Eastern Region, the traditional seat of New Juaben and as a municipality. With a population of about 214,300, the city is also the commercial centre of the region.

Koforidua has made remarkable strides in its development, particularly in the areas of education and health. It is currently home to over 70 basic schools and a number of prominent senior high schools (SHSs), including Pope John Senior High School and Minor Seminary. The Koforidua Technical University, the Nursing Training School and the Colleges of Education are providing life skills to many young professionals who live in and outside New Juaben.

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The 305-bed capacity regional hospital is by far one of the cleanest in the country and it is supported by the St Joseph Orthopaedic Hospital with a bed capacity of 152 and the 30-bed Police Hospital.

Evergreen city

On Thursdays, many bead lovers troop to the Koforidua beads market to trade in all types of beads, enhancing the economic activities for the area.


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Nsukwao, Adweso, Asokore, Effiduase, Anlo Town, Jumapo, Koforidua-Ada, Akwadum and Suhyen are among the 16 suburbs of the municipality, with New Juaben as the oldest district in the region with a land area of 110 square km. The city shares boundaries on the north-east with the East Akim Municipality and to the south-east with Akuapem North Municipality, Yilo Krobo Municipality on the east and the Suhum Municipality on the west. The cascading hills and mountains that border the municipality give it a warmth that beckons all to the evergreen city. That is why every effort must be made to ensure that the environment and ambience of Koforidua befit its status.

Unfortunately Koforidua, which is administered by the New Juaben Municipal Assembly (NJMA), placed 180th on the Sanitation League Table. The District League Table is a social accountability tool that ranks Ghana's 256 metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs) in terms of health, sanitation and socio-economic indicators.

Path of growth/Protracted challenges

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Undoubtedly, Koforidua is on the path of growth and development. The rapid urbanisation of the city is, however, presenting fresh and sometimes protracted challenges which can stifle the city's growth if not dealt with decisively and promptly by the city administration which exists to, among others, give direction, supervise and provide guidance to all local administration authorities in the municipality.

One of these challenges which this special report seeks to highlight is illegal street hawking.

Hawking

Dealing with illegal hawking has become a nightmarish experience for many chief executives who have administered the city. The agenda to clear traders selling on the streets is one that has been planned by almost all, as its ramifications easily stare in the face. Poor sanitation: littered streets, choked and stinking drains and vehicular congestion are but a few. The NJMA is located at the centre of the central business district and heads the share in the negative ramifications and the hustle and bustle of commercial activities, including hawking. Sustaining decongestion exercises has become both a political and economic issue.

Failed attempt/ Traders have their way

Officials of the NJMA, led by its Municipal Chief Executive (MCE), Madam Comfort Asante, are re-strategising to get hawkers off the streets of Koforidua after its failed attempt last year.

The assembly had defied threats of demonstrations from some youth and carried out the exercise in July 2017.

The exercise was so successful that even first-time visitors to Koforidua, the city known as “Koforidua Flowers”, saw the cleanliness and orderliness in the small but fast-growing municipality, particularly in and around the central business district. After the decongestion exercise, pedestrians had access to the walkways and the road shoulders were free, reducing vehicular congestion drastically.

However, in a swift response just few months into the exercise, the youth, led by One-man Campaigner and Chairman of the Traders Association, Mr Theodore Aboagye, made good their threats and hit the streets of Koforidua, after which they presented a petition to the Eastern Regional Minister,  Mr Eric Kwakye Daffour, and copied President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.

Soon after, the streets of Koforidua were back to their usual congestion.  The traders have once again taken over the walkways and road shoulders to sell their wares. The traders have had their way but Madam Asante says the assembly will not relent.

Accusations

The disgruntled youth in the New Juaben municipality demonstrated against Madam Asante on December 7, 2017 on the streets of Koforidua.The demonstrators, numbering about 100 and made up of both men and women, were clad in red t-shirts and headbands. The traders, in a letter sighted by the Daily Graphic, stated: "She is driving women and men who are selling on the streets to a place where there is no toilet and urinal and also not more than two plots.

“Drivers also are not handled well in the municipality and as such they are blaming President Nana Akufo-Addo.

“Koforidua is an NPP stronghold and as such, we will not sit down for the MCE to spoil our votes. She does not listen to advice."

The letter was copied to the central police commander, the Eastern regional minister and the chief executive of the NJMA.

MCE’s position

“Everything I have done since I assumed the office of the Chief Executive of the New Juaben Municipal Assembly is to ensure that sanity prevails,” Madam Asante stated. “After the exercise, there was free flow of traffic, especially at the central business district, and sanitation also improved,” she observed. “I come from here. I spent the best and longest part of my life here. As an educationist, I spent 20 years teaching at the Ghana Senior High School (GHANASS) and I do have good plans for this municipality,” she stated.

Madam Asante, who made history by becoming the first woman to administer the municipality, said on assumption of office, her resolve was to first and foremost tackle sanitation, which also fell in line with the President's vision of making the country the cleanest in Africa.

Sanitation

“Sanitation is key because currently we are placed 180th on the Sanitation League Table for district assemblies, and it is not good,” the MCE said.

“We cannot achieve sustainable sanitation without solving the problem at the roots, hence the need to decongest,” she added. She explained that the decongestion was done with the support of all affected traders. It was also the collective decision of the general assembly that the exercise was carried out in order to keep the municipality clean, she added.
According to Madam Asante, the traders were fully involved in the exercise before, during and after the decongestion, and she saw no reason why she should be attacked afterwards.
Several correspondence made available to the Daily Graphic attested to the claim that the traders’ representatives were involved in the exercise.

A letter written on July 31, 2017 and signed for the MCE by Mr Bart Scott Nkrumah for instance, stated: "As discussed, you are please informed to invite all those who do not have a selling place, those who sell on the streets, those who sell on pedestrian walkways and those who have erected containers on lanes meant for emergency use to a meeting." The agenda for that meeting held on Tuesday, August 1, 2017 was decongestion.

Madam Asante said she was not perturbed as she was focused on upgrading the municipality in all spheres.

Markets

The NJMA does not have a data on the number of traders. However, it has four major markets which are Agatha Market, Central Market, Juaben Serwaa and Zongo Market. "When you are sick, you go to a hospital. For education, you go to a school so why can't our traders go to our markets and sell?” Madam Asante asked.

“Recently, the Ho Market was rehabilitated but the traders have refused to stay there,” she stated. "As we are clearing the old hawkers, new ones are coming. We have been thinking about it. It's worrying," she said.

New strategy

The assembly, aside from its regular city guards who are expected to continuously keep hawkers at bay, has constituted a 27-man decongestion task force. Among others, members of the task force comprise representation from the assembly, police, fire service, Ministry of Information department at the assembly, and Metro Mass Transport. The Head of the decongestion task force, Mr Joseph Badu, told the Daily Graphic in an interview that its members were poised to clear the Koforidua Central Business District streets of all hawkers. "We started with public education and sensitisation earlier this year and per our schedule, the time to take action is near,” he said.