A night market has sprung up on a section of the Graphic Road where some traders, including pregnant women and nursing mothers, have taken to sleeping on the streets of Accra in order to sell their wares before daybreak.
The traders, some of whom are fishmongers, come from coastal communities outside Accra, including Senya Bereku, Winneba, Biriwa, Mankessim, Takoradi as well as parts of the Eastern Region, including Nsawam and Suhum, begin to line up under the traffic light leading to Kantamanto as well as the entrances to the Graphic Press House from 10 p.m.
Numbering more than 200, the traders sell wares such as fish, second-hand clothes, electronic gadgets, fruits and vegetables.
Some of them are accompanied by children, some as young as 12 years whose parents claimed they had no one to leave them with.
However, the market begins to shape up at midnight, as the women pull and drag their wares to the roadside.
“When you don’t come by 12 a.m., you won’t get a good spot to sit and sell. Here, there is nothing like a spot that belongs to someone so you have to come early,” one of the traders who only gave her name as Gina said.
The traders, she said, were forced to relocate to their current locations because of ongoing works at the railway yard at Kantamanto in Accra where rehabilitation work is ongoing on the Eastern Railway Line from Accra to Nsawam and Accra to Tema.
On a typical night, Gina says she leaves home with her sisters at 9 p.m., and joins a hired sprinter that brings her and other fishmongers from Senya to Accra.
When they arrive in Accra, they immediately move their wares to their selling spots.
Last Monday and Friday, the Daily Graphic tracked the operations of the fish night market on the Graphic Road, notorious for its rush hour traffic and its quietness at night.
By 12.30 a.m., a sprinter bus arrived with welcomed cheers from the early birds who had arrived before 11 p.m. They are a mixed group— pregnant women, nursing mothers with babies strapped to their backs. Others arrived in taxis and trucks.
An hour later, most of the traders had succumbed to sleep laying clothes by the roadside, oblivious of the buzz and bite of mosquitoes and the potential dangers, including being run into by vehicles.
That, Madam Nancy Ghartey told the Daily Graphic, was a daily routine.
“We sleep at that time to be able to stay awake at dawn when the market begins.
You don’t want to be dozing off behind what you brought to sell,” she said.
The real business buzz at the market begins at about 4 a.m. when the buyers begin to arrive.
At this point, it is not different from any other market as the customer calls blend with the cacophony of sounds from street preachers.
Although the AMA market toll is GH¢1 and the city’s revenue collectors do not start working until 8 a.m, some of the traders told the Daily Graphic that some men who claimed to work for the city authority come to the temporary market as early as 5 a.m. to collect GH¢5 every day without issuing the ticket or receipt for it.
The Daily Graphic did not spot any of the revenue collectors but more than three traders confirmed the allegation.
“They say they were asked to sack us from this place but they allow us to sell so we have to pay for it,” Gina said.
Some of the female traders who spoke to the Daily Graphic said they did not fear attacks because the streets were well lit but indicated that there had been a few cases of thievery.
“Thieves come around to steal from us. They do this when we are asleep.
Yesterday someone’s phone was stolen. Because we sleep in groups there has not been any reported case of attempted rape or physical violence,” Madam Tina Frimpong said.
Asked about whether they did not have any fears of vehicles running into them, she said “as for that, we don’t think about it.”
By 7 a.m., the market is over and the traders sweep the streets,an arrangement that does not leave the piles of refuse that most markets in Accra are noted for.