Thinking Aloud: Relief for Kantamanto victims

BY: Arku Jasmine

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.  Cicero.

In the good book, we are told that after Jesus Christ healed 10 lepers only one of them returned to express his gratitude and appreciation for the gesture. Jesus enquired the whereabouts of the others. It means that indeed, we have to show gratitude at all times to give meaning to actions that touch the heart of humanity. That is why on behalf of the 14 customers of Stanbic Bank, who were affected by the Kantamanto Market fire, there is the need for Ghanaians to say thank you to the Stanbic Bank for the great relief it has brought to some of the victims.

Whatever it is, the gesture has underlined the fact that Stanbic Bank is willing to share in the joys and agonies of its customers.  Yes, the number may not be big but the gesture has a depth of meaning in the face of the continued trauma that the hapless traders have been subjected to from both the Accra Metropolitan Assembly and the Ghana Railway Development Company.

For, against the fact that the traders have a valid lease on the land for 50 years from the Ghana Railway Corporation, which fact has not been invalidated, both the AMA and the Minister of Transport have emphasised the point that they are going to redevelop the Kantamanto Market into an edifying structure.

The irony, though, is that to date, none of the public authorities who have asserted their authority over the land, has mentioned anything about paying back to the traders whatever they paid for the lease.

At the time that the Ghana Railways was unable to pay the salary of its workers, the management thought it wise to lease the land, which was of no productive use, to the traders to raise money for its operations.  The contract has not been declared void or invalidated, yet the authorities are making statements as if the traders do not have any accrued interest in the land.

At the time that the lease agreement was signed, if the Ghana Railways had the authority to enter into the contract and it was formally entered into, then anyone who genuinely seeks the interest and welfare of the traders must be keen about protecting their right and interest for the tenure of the leasehold agreement.

That is where the Stanbic Bank offer, gains meaning and significance as the most productive effort to soothe the anguish of the traders.  If all the banks who have contracts with the traders would act in similar manner, to bring greater relief to the traders, that would represent part of their corporate social responsibility to give meaning and function to their claims of being there for the customer.

While  talking about  the Kantamanto Market traders and Stanbic Bank gesture, the other day a number of insurance company representatives were heard explaining why it was risky to provide policy for the traders even as public officials from time to time express dismay as to why the traders do not take insurance cover.

Insurance is about risk and how to ensure that those who suffer accidents are not left alone but supported somehow to overcome their predicament.  That is why the insurance companies need to be proactive and innovative to devise means of supporting the traders.  If Stanbic Bank has been able to do that because of an insurance cover of less than a percentage point of the face value of the loans, then the insurance companies can do something meaningful.

That is the thought of a Vandal mate, suggesting that the insurance companies could get involved with the Kantamanto traders in the redevelopment of the market, so that basic infrastructural requirements and safety measures are taken on board.  His view was that with the active involvement of the insurance companies, they would put forward the requisite safety measures, including the required materials for construction, electrical installations as well as alleys for movement of goods and services and in times of fires to allow for movement of firefighting equipment.

He is of the opinion that the insurance companies and the traders could agree and contract the necessary service providers to make our markets less prone to fires.  The experiment with the Kantamanto traders, in his opinion, would work because the traders have expressed their readiness to cooperate with the authorities to rebuild the market, except that they have proffered their readiness to undertake the exercise on their own, while they remain open to support and assistance from any quarters.  What the traders are against is any public authority, body or government agency usurping their interest in the land for unilateral development.

For now, Stanbic Bank has shown that there is a functional and productive way to sympathise with the traders and ease their pain.  That is what we had anticipated from the other public authorities, including the Accra Metropolitan Assembly and the authorities of the Ghana Railways.

As long as the traders have the means to redevelop the market, we should motivate and encourage them to do the right thing.  That is where Stanbic Bank takes the pride of place for putting the interest of the customers beyond and above profit.  For those beneficiaries of the Stanbic Bank, they may be few but the gesture can pull them back.  That is a human-centred and humanised policy.

Article by: Yaw Boadu-Ayeboafoh