Market women had warned of plans to burn markets

Tue, 2 Jul 2013 Source: Gye Nyame Concord

In a case that backs up claims that some of the fire havocs across Ghana could be the handiwork of deliberate action by arsonists, Gye Nyame Concord can reveal that traders at the Makola Market in Accra publicly alerted the nation that they had heard of plans to burn the market long before the burning of two markets at the Central Business District occurred.

Strangely, despite the occurrence of the event, long after the public warning by the market women, some Ghanaians still insist without leading any evidence to the contrary that none of the abnormal fires across the country could be the handiwork of arsonists. Instead, advocates of such theories want Ghanaians to believe without evidence that the fires could only be the result of electrical wiring gone awry, and in some instances rats chewing up wires.

But a January 14, 2013 Metro News Page report in the Daily Graphic suggests that traders at the Makola Market warned the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) that they had picked up rumours that some people were preparing to burn the market.

According to the report, the leader of the Cloth Sellers Association at the Makola Market, Nana Kraku Ohene, who confirmed reports of arsonist plan to burn the market to the Ghana News Agency also noted that “some rumours come true occasionally” and that since they did not know whether this particular rumour was going to happen or not, national security and the AMA should beef up the security personnel at the market.

“We were scared when we heard this serious allegation because of the strange market fires that have become rampant in the country” she said in a GNA-sourced report carried by the Daily Graphic seven days after the inauguration of President John Dramani Mahama into office on January 7, this year.

Incidentally the Graphic report also quoted “the Chairman of the Second-hand Cloth Sellers Association at Makola, Mr. Justice Amarlia Tetteh,” as having told the GNA that “when we heard of the rumours we quickly alerted security officers in TS section to be more vigilant, especially on Sundays when the market is not open.

Significantly, months after this warning was directed to the AMA, which pledged through its spokesperson, Nuumo Blafo III, to put in place effective measures to protect property, both the Makola No 2 and TS parts of the market were razed down by fire around May this year. A victim of the TS fire who was of the firm belief that some of the fires are indeed the work of professional arsonists and who drew this paper’s attention to their earlier revelations, told this paper on condition of anonymity that those urging Ghanaians to overlook the evidence and blame rats and electrical faults are simply afraid of looking the truth in the eye.

“Look I’m not that educated but common sense tells me that while some of the fires may be natural, it defies logic that quite a number of the market fires begin only after the sound of a blast between 12am – 3am. Is it the case that the so-called rats coordinate their chewing around the same time and manage to start fires with a blast between 12am- 3am? Why haven’t we found the burnt residues of these rats? And what kind of telepathy allow rats at Sodom and Gomorrah, Agbogbloshie, Makola No 2, Katamanto, TS, Kaneshie, Kinbu, Konkomba Market, Madina Market, Dome Market, Suame Market in Kumasi to coordinate and start fires either simultaneously or sequentially? Do some of you take us for fools just because you can make noise on radio?” he asked the Managing Editor of the paper?

Madam Patience Debrah, a second-hand clothes seller, who lost her wares in the Katamanto Market also believed that incident was not an accident but “a calculated attempt by some people who want to destroy Ghana”.

“Why shouldn’t l accuse people? First, it was Kantamanto, then the Kinbu Market, followed by the Konkomba Market and now Makola. God will punish them one by one,” she noted in another media interview.

The MP for the Odododiodio Constituency, Alfred Nii Lantey Vanderpuije, is also on record to have stated that God will rain down "fire and brimstone" on suspected arsonists responsible for the fires that have destroyed several markets in his constituency.

According to him, "six fires in one month, all at night", was not natural and has thus called on the security services to step up efforts to arrest the culprits as soon as possible.

He called on the traders to "come together and travail and cry unto God. It’s too much!" "This is not a natural occurrence. I think some people are out there to sabotage our government and create uneasiness, fear and panic among the public. This is unacceptable!"

The people of Ghana cannot continue to endure this intentional sabotage and cruel attitude of people," he added.

Deputy Information and Media Relations Minister, Ibrahim Murtala Mohammed, recently announced that the security agencies have arrested suspected arsonists involved in some aspect of the market fires.

The suspects have been identified as Yakubu Tahiru, Fatau Ibrahim and Mustafa Adamu. Their arrest followed the questioning of eight security personnel after the fire outbreak at the Makola Number Two Market.

But the opposition NPP through its MP for Kwadaso, Dr. Owusu Akoto Afriyie, have alleged witch-hunting by the NDC government in the arrest of the three suspects, alleging that the suspects are members of the NPP in the Bawku Constituency currently living in Accra.

Deputy Minister of Information and Media Relations, Felix Kwakye has, however dismissed his claim, insisting that the government was not in the business of witch-hunting.

A Security Analyst, Justine Bayor also recently asserted that the frequent fire outbreaks together with labour unrest could be the “handiwork of some individuals in the society with the aim of creating an atmosphere of insecurity.”

“We have new and more volatile communities and regions; for instance, the Ashanti Region is currently the hottest region in the country, especially as we’ve witnessed in the first quarter, these cases of armed robbers as well as the political tension currently witnessing in the country; if we add these cases of fire outbreaks, which are seen to be cases of arson, then it is one thing that we should be very much worrying to us.”

The President, John Mahama and the Ghana National Fire Service have both indicated that arson cannot be ruled out as the cause of some of the recent fire outbreaks in the country although investigations are still ongoing to determine the cause of these fires.

According to the Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS), the nation has recorded 2,201 fire outbreaks nationwide between January and April this year, claiming the lives of 18 people, injuring 19 and causing damage to properties estimated at GHc16 million.

Source: Gye Nyame Concord

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