Twenty-four hours to the celebration of Christmas, Accra, the capital city, is reeling under heavy traffic jams making it difficult for last-minute shoppers to gain access to the Central Business District (CBD).
Traffic jams on all major roads and those leading to the city are common sights at this time of the year, but this year although the popular refrain is that sales are not good, shoppers are milling to the shopping centers in Accra.
The story appears to be the same in other cities in the country.
Conservatively, the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) estimates that about one million people visit Accra every day to pursue all kinds of interests, including vending of wares, contracts with officialdom at the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) and window shopping.
Human traffic at this time of the year peaks as shoppers who ordinarily would not visit Accra come on visit to buy merchandise such as clothes, food items, toys, Xmas paraphernalia, including fire crackers for their children.
As a result of the gridlock, making it difficult for the free movement of people and goods, commercial vehicle operators have taken advantage of the situation to reap off commuters.
The trips from Mallam to Accra are made in peace meal form to Odorkor, where commuters have to look for another vehicle to Kaneshie and then a third vehicle to Accra.
This way, commuters pay about double the fare.
In the melee on the road, commuters eager to get home, walk for quite a distance to be able to catch a vehicle to their destinations.
Operators of motorbikes for commercial purposes, known as “Okada”, which has been outlawed are also cashing in on the situation to make the best takings.
Traders have even increased the prices of wares not associated with the celebration to make the best takings to celebrate the Xmas with ease.
Thus even dealers in floor tiles, doors, iron sheets, napkins, table cloths, foodstuffs, cooked food, potable water such as sachet and bottled water have adjusted their prices.
Hawking in the CBD is back in full swing, although the AMA not too long ago was able to hold back the vendors form the pavements.
Now they have taken over the pavements, forcing pedestrians to struggle for space on the roads, creating a chaotic sea of human and vehicular traffic.
The roads from Mallam to Accra, Achimota to Accra, Adenta to Accra and Tema to Accra have become choked, particularly during the rush hours of the day over the last one week.
The traffic situation form Adenta through Madina, the Atomic Junction and the Tetteh Quarshie Interchange to the Liberation Circle is one of a constant fleet of red tail lights, as well as from Kaneshie through the Graphic Road and from the Kwame Nkrumah Circle to Accra.
Vehicles from adjoining routes have a rather tough time joining the main road, as drivers, in their bid to arrive at their various destinations on time, give no room for others to join the traffic.
OUTSIDERS INVADE ACCRA
On a visit to the CBD, it was observed that a good number of people who were busily making purchases were persons who had travelled from the villages and towns.
They had virtually besieged the CBD to make their final purchases of the year for the upcoming celebrations.
While some were busy putting their bargaining skills into practice, others only stretched their necks to observe the various items that were on display in the markets.
Traders from the villages who had turned the markets into their new homes were seen chasing customers in an attempt to woo them to buy their items.
Some Nigerian traders had adopted the Akan language, as it was obvious that their pidgin English and Yoruba were not sufficient to pull the crowd towards their goods.
The traders shouted, rang bells and made all kinds of noise to attract shoppers, while others played loud music to catch the attention of passers-by.
The ‘dum sor’ effect was at play, as the deployment of generators added to the cacophony completing with the sound of music being blasted from stationary vehicles.
Some evangelists and pastors seized the opportunity to preach about the birth of Christ, using megaphones and public address systems that were excessively loud.
Pedestrians fought for space with vehicles as the former attempted figuring out ways to navigate through the crowd because traders had practically taken over the pedestrian walkways.
To that effect, some military men were spotted directing pedestrians to use the walkways in order to east eh traffic on the streets.
Guards of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) were also seen trying to control the human traffic by moving traders who sold on the pedestrian walkways.
Vehicular traffic was very slow and in some cases, at a standstill in the steamy heat.
Hawkers took advantage of the opportunity offered by the traffic jams to sell their goods.
Beggars also made sure they were not left out of the Christmas bonanza, as they positioned themselves at vantage points in the hope that shoppers would drop some change in their bowls.
As traders and shoppers haggled over the prices of goods, transport station managers were faced with the challenge of providing buses for passengers to convey them to their various destinations.
At the Opera Square Metro Mass Transit Station, for instance, many passengers were stranded. Those travelling to the northern part of the country told the Daily Graphic that they had been at the station since morning but no bus was available as of 12 noon.
Most of them were female head potters who had come to Accra to earn a living but were travelling to their home towns for the Christmas holidays.
An official at the situation said although the buses were available, the traffic situation on the roads leading to Accra had caused the delay in the arrival of the buses.
The situation was not different at the Liberty Station where hundreds of passengers were seen sitting under sheds while others stood in frustration waiting or buses.
Although the CBD was choked with people from all walks of life, traders still complained of low patronage of their wares.
Madam Sarah Kyei, a hawker who sells children’s dresses, told the Daily Graphic that sales were slow as people only came to do window shopping and hardly bought anything.
“I came to town at dawn and as of now I have not made profit from the items I have brought out to sell yet. People only ask of the prices but hardly buy the items,” she said.
Another business owner, Auntie Yaa Yaa, who sold assorted food items such as rice, oil, tomatoes, said compared to past years, the purchase of food items was too slow.
She was, however, optimistic that she would make enough sales by the end of the season.
Putting her beautifully designed gift hampers on display, Madam Afi Bibah observed an earlier ban on the sharing of hampers by government officials had affected its patronage.
“This year I have regretted selling. No one seems to be interested in it anymore. But I hope to make my money by the end of the year,” she said.
Madam Bibah said a hamper that was sold at GHC 70 last year was now GHC 100 and the ones that sold at GHC 100 was now GHC 120 and GHC 130 depending on what the customer needed.
Source: Daily Graphic/Ghana
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