Market amenities being razed to the ground by fires – from Tamale through Kejetia and Asafo to Koforidua and Makola – is becoming a normal feature of our national life. This is despite the role of the informal economy in socio-economic development.
Soon after we receive such reports, the next thing is the Ghana National Fire Service coming in to investigate and the politician, too, to give assurances – scooping money from the national coffers to provide some social protection support.
While the investigations on the part of the Fire Service personnel and support for the thousands of traders are necessary, the responsibility of sanctioning and punishing, or better still, preventing future occurrences are left to the convenience of the landlords of the facilities, who are the local government agencies or MMDCEs, as we prefer to address them.
As far as we are aware, most of the reports that have been made available have had cause of the fires being arson, faulty electrical wiring and presence of cylinders and gas stoves in parts of the markets.
It means that we already have an idea as to what are likely to cause such fires and are therefore positioned to deal with the matter, particularly when we are required to have data on persons eking out livelihoods on the markets and, particularly, those who use gas cylinders and stoves.
Additionally, because we know, by the regulations of the respective local government agencies, that because the markets are owned by the state, it is the MMDCEs and their men who ultimately manage the facilities, though they are required by the same laws to share management functions with leaders in the markets.
That is why it shouldn’t be a very challenging task protecting our markets, especially when we pay night watchmen to act as sentinels when everybody has left the market.
And that is also why market supervisors, who have working relations with the respective informal sector unions heads of the markets, ensure that such issues like faulty wiring and keeping cylinders and gas stoves are not tolerated because it poses danger to the amenity.
In that case too, we should have minimum difficulty finding out who is liable and therefore who should be sanctioned and punished, surcharged or given outright dismissal when such disasters strike.
We may also finger the item leaders, the caterers, the watchmen and the market supervisors for questioning first, before we move to the next level of investigations till we settle on the last layer of liable officials.
We believe the fires keep recurring because we haven’t set examples in firing market supervisors or asking item leaders to pay for damages, depending on levels of responsibility and powers we have given as partners on the facility.
Support for affected victims
The New Patriotic Party administration believes in the state initiating social support systems to enhance productivity in growing the economy, as a philosophy. That is an unquestioned truth.
And that was the reason behind the Vice-President promptly visiting the site of the Katamanto market, which was gutted by fire on Tuesday, to assess the situation and commiserate with the victims.
Considering the number of people operating in the market and the volume of support needed to redeem them, we trust that leaving the case hanging as we tend to do most of the time would be irresponsible on the part of the nation, as market landlords, as unions as well as citizens because of the recurring nature of the outbreaks.