Market women at the Old Bolgatanga Market located at the heart of the Upper East Regional capital, are grieving over what they say are broad day light extortions of their occasional incomes by the Bolgatanga Municipal Assembly.
The traders say for the past couple of years, sales have declined because most patrons prefer to do business in the new market which is also being constructed under the Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) arrangements with the Municipal Assembly.
Meanwhile, most market sheds at the renovated old market are yet to fully occupy they place. Traders who poured out their frustrations and anger when members of Social Accountability Media Network (SAMNet), took their campaign on environment and sanitation to the old market on October 14, 2016, said the assembly has completely neglected their plight but still harass them to collect market tolls.
SAMNet encompasses media practitioners who are supported by the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development to undertake campaigns on selected issues of assemblies, highlight them and create public awareness on such issues. The network works in only in Bawku and Bolgatanga Municipal Assemblies. In its past campaigns, the network’s focus was on composite budget but in collaboration with the Bolgatanga assembly, this year’s campaign is on environment and sanitation.
One of the female traders said; “It is about commitment; if they want to do it, they can do but all that they do is to bring sacks and collect money from us, buy nice shoes and ‘Pajaros’ and go and sit somewhere and enjoy themselves and we are still sitting here suffering. Last week, they came with an information van threatening us to pay or else they would lock our sheds and so we had to pay meanwhile we don’t make sales here”.
One of the women who pleaded anonymity said most of the traders at the new market own sheds at the old market but because of low patronage as a result of the insanitary condition at the old market, they have all locked up their sheds and ran to the new market where their goods are patronized. She lamented due to low patronage of her wares, she has withdrawn her children from private schools to government schools because she could no longer pay their fees.
She said sometimes, the assembly taskforce on revenue collection will come with the police to harass them for market tolls. Each time this happens, those who fail to pay are either whisked to the police station or have their sheds locked up.
According to her, in a meeting sanctioned by the Bolgatanga Assembly they sought to enquire what the money they pay was used for but the administrators of the assembly ignore the could not answer her question. She questioned the rationale behind the expansion of the new market which is why most traders abandoned their sheds at the old market.
Currently, the stench that emanate from the sheds and every undeveloped portion of the market is enough to ward off potential patrons. ‘Weed’ smokers and mentally impaired persons have also turned the place into their domiciles. They defecate and urinate in the same vicinity.
From their lamentations, it was obvious that aside the issue of low patronage, there is no security at the market and as such, miscreants take advantage of the situation to harass traders. According to the traders because of the large size of the market, each time they confront them (‘weed’ smokers), they relocate and later resurface.
One of the traders also questioned why the assembly sold parts of the new market to companies to occupy but will not relocate those there to the old market. “You have sold the new market to companies so why won’t you let the people (traders) come back to old market”, she questioned.
She also said even the design of the new market with access roads being developed is now attracting people from Burkina Faso, Baku, Tamale and other far places all to the neglect of the old market.
The plight of the traders was is evident from the silence that heralded SAMNet members into the old market even though it was a market day. With the exception of vegetable sellers who sat under their improvised umbrella shades, or exposed themselves to the scorching sun, most of the shades were locked and keyed. Animals could be seen staying in some corners.
Though the assembly has provided two toilets in the market and they are manned by attendants, some individuals will rather choose to do open defecation (free range) than to pay a fee of 30 pessewas to use the facility.
Source: Top News Ghana/www.topnewsghana.com