Henry Quartey, the Greater Accra Regional Minister has earned plaudits for some tough actions he has taken since assuming the role and arguably stands tall among the list of regional ministers in the second term of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.
He has a grand objective of making ‘Accra Work Again’ and has set off with the right steps largely securing confidence and pride in residents of Ghana’s capital.
Making Accra Work simply implies that ridding the capital of some of its biggest challenges that have engulfed it for decades.
Filth, flood, congested markets are but a few of the challenges Henry Quartey has to overcome to realize his lofty dream of making Accra work again.
So far there have been demolitions and decongestion exercises, there have been raids on sellers on pavements to make movement in the city much more easier.
But currently confronting Henry Quartey are two very controversial and dicey issues that if not well navigated could torpedo his plans or affect the chances of his party in the next elections.
Relocation of onion sellers
The issues are the planned relocation of onion sellers at Agbogbloshie and the relocation of Accra’s biggest spare parts hub at Abossey Okai.
Henry Quartey in his capacity as regional minister gave the onion sellers six weeks to vacate to Adjen Kotoku where a more spacious and tidy place has been reserved for their activities.
At Adjen Kotoko there is a spacious market complex which was started in 2008 and completed in 2011. It was originally built to accommodate traders in the Agbogbloshie Market to ease congestion in the area.
“Whatever happens, there is going to be a massive decongestion exercise but we don’t want to apply force and that is why we are using concerted efforts. There is time for everything and this time around, we won’t take any excuses,” Mr Quartey said. The Minister on May 20, 2021, gave the traders a six-week ultimatum to move and the Chairman of the Ghanaian Onion Sellers Association, Alhaji Tijani Mohammed, confirmed that there was an agreement.
“We will make sure that we will make all the necessary preparations to move our wares,” Alhaji Mohammed said.
That agreement however appears to have vanished with reports that the sellers have gone back on their words and vowed not to move before the July 1 deadline.
This sudden u-turn is believed to be fueled by political elements who are using the issue to score political points despite having been engaged previously by Henry Quartey on the need for the exercise.
On May 25, Henry Quartey made the revelation that some colleague MPs are scheming to sabotage his plans and pit the traders against him.
“When something goes wrong during the relocation, I will disclose the names of the MPs; they are about seven and blame them for any unforeseen situation. The MPs want to hide behind the onion sellers because of their political ambition, but if they (Onion sellers) don’t move, we will move them,” he assured.
Abossey-Okai Spare parts dealers
Then there is the case of Abossey-Okai. As per a news report, the decision to find a new place for the spare parts dealers was actually based on a recommendation by the executives of the Abossey Okai Spare Parts Dealers Association.
But now there appears to be a stand-off with a rival group declaring that they will under no circumstance move to Afienya where they minister has directed them to.
In an interview with GhanaWeb, the leaders of the new group which seems to challenge the position of the known executives said they never requested to be moved.
“I’ve rented this store for 20 years and I pay over GHC30,000 every five years, so if I’ve rented the store for 20 years does it mean the Minister will pay for the lease and give me another store. This is what I want to know,” a trader stated.
Another trader, Kwame Donkor said: “First of all this area is not government land, we’ve had an agreement with the landowners who have leased out the land for 50 years and the owners have received compensation. I’ve also built and rented out the shop until the lease expires so what do they expect us to do after they move us out of here.”
The dicey issues
Though not backed by any data, Abbosey Okai has always been said to be a decider in Ghana’s election, especially for the NPP where it is believed that majority of the traders tilt towards.
Agbogbloshie on the other hand is place that predominantly votes in favor of the main opposition National Democratic Congress and an drastic action could further plummet the chances of the NPP of getting some sizeable amount of votes.
Already the General Secretary of the NPP, John Boadu has hinted of how the party’s electoral fortunes could be affected by Henry Quartey’s actions. John Boadu got reprisal attacks for those comments but it will be out of place to think that within the governing party there are concerns about this line of action especially when Abossey Okai spare parts dealers are involved.
Anyone who knows Accra and aware of the filthy and congested nature of the two places would welcome the decision by the Henry Quartey to relocate the two sets of traders but when the need for good clashes with the need to win political votes, would the minister muster courage to rid Accra of two of its biggest problems?