Investigative Journalist, Anas Aremeyaw Anas has blown the cover of City Guards with the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) who are specialized in taking bribes and extorting money from hawkers in his latest exposé dubbed “Abayee’
The city guard system was meant to maintain order and make our metropolis, our malls and massive markets more civil and modern. However, by their mercenary manners and dubious modus operandi, the men, mandated by the Metropolitan authorities to make the measures work, have rather made things matchlessly murkier and life more meaningless for many a motorist, merchant and major patrons of our many mushrooming markets.
The Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) rolled out a very laudable initiative, “Sustainable Smart City” among others to rid the Accra city of chaos, congestions and inordinate buildings and filth by hawkers, traders and other people as one of the means of cleaning up Accra and needed everyone’s effort.
Already existing institutions were enhanced with vehicles and other tools while new reforms such as the Sanitation Metro Guards were instituted to see to the success of the initiative.
Personnel, City Guard (Abayee) and Sanitation Metro Guards (Asamanasaman), mandated to see to the successful realisation of the Assembly’s initiatives, have been rather using their power and mandate to extort money and gifts from people who break the assembly’s bye-laws instead of helping to bring them to book. As a result, the nemesis we claim to be fighting, keep staring us in the face all the time.
The City Guards (Abayee) mandated to rid the city of people selling and putting up structures at unauthorised places such as the streets and pedestrian pavements, were on several occasions caught taking money from the very people they are to police to allow shield them to go about their illegal activities.
There were instances where the Abayee would seize goods from hawkers and ask them to meet them at the place where they wrap up their daily activities, usually, opposite Kinbu, for negotiation and payment in order to retrieve their seized goods.
Tiger, posing as a hawker selling slippers in a wheelbarrow had his wheelbarrow and goods seized on several occasions. On one of the occasions, the Abayee that seized the Tiger’s goods demanded more than the GHS =5 they often collected from owners of seized goods. The guard eventually took Tiger’s GHS 5 and an extra GHS10 from another coconut seller and returned their goods to them to go about their activities.
On another occasion, another Abayee, after seizing Tiger’s wheelbarrow and collecting GHS 5 from Tiger, released his goods and allowed him to freely sell in the street with a cautionnot to get caught by other guards.
There was also an incident where an Abayee seized items from a Nigerian hawker at Tudu claiming that he was selling at an authorised place despite repeated warnings to the hawkers. This Abayee later takes GHS 10 from the Nigerian and another GHS 5 from Tiger, in the presence of some of their leaders after which the seized goods were released.
The negotiation to retrieve seized goods could also involve the affected hawker parting with some of the seized goods to the Abayee.
Those who are unable to pay either in cash or with some of their goods get their items transferred into a much spacious operation vehicles and transported to the AMA office near Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum.
In some situations, Tiger also posed as a customer or relative to some of these hawkers and negotiated with the Abayee on their behalf for payment of between GHS 10 and GHS 40 to be made to the Abayee and the goods of the hawkers released for them to continue their hawking without further interruptions.
On one of such occasion, the Abayee, who were undertaking their usual goods-seizing expedition, came upon some hawkers selling at unauthorized places. With the hawkers defying the Abayee, the latter only asked the offending hawkers to choose whether they should seize some of the goods and leave the others. The Abayee refused the bribes given them not to seize the goods being sold at the unauthorized spots. They would not budge even when Tiger tried to intervene, rather asking him to come over to Kinbu where they send all the seized goods and where wrap up their daily activities.
At Kinbu, they demanded GHS 50 from one of the hawkers who said she could give only GHS 5 because she had made just GHS 10 sales all day from which she also had to take her lorry fare. Tiger then negotiated on behalf of this hawker with one of the leaders of the Abayee group who later demanded for GHS 20 to release. Eventually he accepted GHS 15, withy Tiger topping up the GHS 10 the GHS 5 the lady was offering. The goods were then returned to them to go and sell again.
In a related development, a hawker accosted by another City Guard offered to give the City Guard GHS 5 as he had sold nothing and always gave that particular City Guard money. Although the City Guard confirmed the claims of the hawker that he has been giving him money, the Guard demanded GHS 50 from his “old friend”.
Tiger, posing as a relative of the hawker , decided to add an extra GHS 5 to the hawker’s offer it GHS 10, but the City Guard, who had reduced demand to GHS 30, stood his grounds. He asked the hawker to either pay the GHS 30 or go to their office and pay there as he claimed the hawker knows they won’t accept the GHS 10 at their office. He later agreed and took the GHS 10 from Tiger upon persistent pleadings.
Another instance, Abayee also took GHS 20 from Tiger to release a hawker’s seized goods to her after initially demanding for GHS 30.
A pregnant trader also had her 9 dummies in which he had placed in front of a shop seized by these City Guards who asked her to follow their moving operation vehicle to their parking spot to sort it her issue. The trader however said she could not do so due to her condition. They then asked to go with her brother (Tiger had posed as such), and they later took GHS 20 from her at Kinbu before releasing to her the dummies. Did she go? Or Tiger went?
There was also an instance where a coconut seller who had had two of his coconuts consumed without been paid by the Abayeewho also asked the seller to “pay something” to avoid having his coconut being seized. The beleaguered seller told Tiger that the Abayee guys usually took money from him on Saturdays and on that particular day they took GHS 10 and two coconuts from him. He explained that he doesn’t resist , as by doing so, he’s allowed to go about his work with no disturbances from the Abayee.
According to him, they sometimes take the money when he’s going home and mentions one Asafoatse as the main culprit. He also said he sometimes don’t give them the money especially when he’s not sold much of the coconut.
There was also an instance where an Abayee furiously threatens to beat the hawker for throwing away a ticket they gave to him as a daily routine in the business center which he, the Abayee, sees to be disrespect. Another Abayee explained to Tiger that every hawker or trader needs to get a ticket everyday and license to sell in the streets. This was after a hawker was asked to pay for his ticket fee for the whole week by the Abayee and that of his license as he always dodges when they meet him and ask him to produce his ticket and license. The hawker then pays them GHS 5 as they requested and he also paid for the so-called license but nothing was given to him but rather released his seized goods to him to continue selling in the street.
Also a perfume hawker had his goods and warned by the Abayee who detained him they would go with his goods if he doesn’t give him, the Abayee, the requested money before they decide to leave. The hawker fearing for his goods gives the Abayee a GHS 10 sale he’s made the whole day and was asked to leave before the Abayee operation vehicle arrives.
Again an Abayee was filmed demanding and taking GHS 2 after some time of pleading and convincing from some cassava sellers on the street who claim another Abayee called Red had already come to take money from them and asked them to stay and sell there as the Abayee won’t be working that day. He takes them.
Hawkers encouraged to sell on streets and pavements by abayee
The statement that by the PRO of the AMA, Nii Ankrah, that said the AMA’s “Sustainable Smart City” initiative was to enhance free movement at the Central Business District (CBD), and free the city from the chaos, congestions and inordinate buildings might have been misunderstood by the City Guards deployed for the course.
This is because City Guards, mandated to ensure that the streets, pedestrian pavements and any unauthorised place for marketing are cleared for easy passage of vehicles and humans as well as enhance cleanliness in the city, rather aided them to sell on the streets as in their presence, hawkers display their goods for sale in the streets, on pedestrian pavements and unauthorised place with no prohibition from the City Guards.
They, the City Guards, even sometimes help the hawkers display their goods on the pavement, helps them sell the wares, sits and chats with them when they are supposed to clear them from the place and helps them pack their goods in the evening for money and gifts as some of them, the City Guards, claim they hate harassing the hawkers, hence, whatever they ask grow them must be given for their, the hawkers, freedom.
This sometimes results in argument among the City Guards as some of them don’t approve of this practice by their colleagues. In some instances, the leaders of the City Guards even ordered the hawkers to just clear a pile of rubbish so they can go on selling in the streets and on the pavement while goods of other hawkers in the streets and on pavements are being seized some few meters away.
At Kantamanto, an Abayee has been mandated to collect GHS 10 from each street trader/hawker every Saturday as their contribution to be given to Nat, the leader of the Abayee group at the place to prevent their goods from being seized or they the hawkers been harassed.
A hawker was also filmed taking money contributions from fellow hawkers under the authority of one of the Abayee leaders at the place (Kinbu) to be given to the Abayee and their leaders to prevent their goods been seized and harassments according to the hawkers. Hawkers further discuss who does the authorization for the collection of the money and the fact that there’s always chaos after collection of the money as all the top men wants to be given the money
One of the Abayee later came to take GHS2 from Tiger as her contribution while a hawker, who the Abayee took GHS5 from her child rained insults on her child because she asked the child to give the Abayee only GHS2 as their money contribution. The hawker then asked the child to go for a change from the Abayeewhich the other hawkers advised against as they said it would make the Abayee hate the child and harass her all the time.