By Gifty Arthur
Various assemblies in the Greater Accra Region, have disregarded President John Dramani Mahama’s directive to allow children of school-going age to use public places of convenience, free of charge.
The directive by the President, was issued on Saturday, September 30, 2014, when he “symbolically” joined the people of James Town to clean and desilt, choked drains. The President at the time of the directive believed the gesture could help reduce the alarming rate of cholera cases in the region.
But almost a month after the directive which was issued in the presence of the Chief of Staff, Prosper Douglas Bani, Greater Accra Regional Minister, Nii Laryea Afotey Agbo, Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) Mayor, Dr. Alfred Oko Vanderpujie, Member of Parliament for (MP) Odododiodio and Deputy Minister for Local Government and Rural Development, Edwin Nii Lante Vanderpujie and Greater Accra National Democratic Congress (NDC) Chairman, Joseph Kobina Ade Coker, the assemblies are yet to order operators of the public toilets to implement it.
In issuing the directive, President Mahama noted that it was inappropriate for the Assemblies to charge the children, since they are unemployed and so ordered that the Assemblies ensured that the directive was carried out to the latter.
But as has been the stock in trade of some state officials to flout directives of the president, operators of these facilities, who manage them on behalf of the Assemblies in the national capital, tell this paper that they cannot implement it, unless they are directed by their partners who in this case are the Assemblies.
They made this known to “The Herald”, when this reporter visited them last Wednesday and Thursday, insisting they are unaware of the order.
Places visited by this reporter include, two facilities at Tema Station in Accra, Kwame Nkrumah Circle and Teshie.
In a brief chat with the managers, especially those at the Tema Station and Teshie, they revealed that they charge children between 20 and 30 pesewas.
Kojo Buabeng and Nana Aboagye, who are managing toilets at Tema Station under the auspices of the AMA and Augustina Makwai at Teshie Mangoase under the Ledzokuku-Krowor Municipal Assembly (LEKMA), insist that the children will have to be charged a fee, until they are ordered by the Assemblies not to do so.
However, one other at the Obra Spot at Kwame Nkrumah Circle, said though he was unaware of the directive, he does not charge infants, except those of school-going age.
The operators manage the facilities on a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) bases and according to insiders, the business is one of the main avenues through which the Assemblies get funds, since it has been found to be very lucrative.
Meanwhile, in an interview with the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the AMA, Nuumo Blafo, he confirmed that the operators were still charging the children, because they cannot force them to comply. According to him, even before the President’s directive, the AMA, had been in discussion with the operators but the private operators have refused to comply.
“We have been telling them this thing for a long time before the President came in with that directive, but because they are private entities, it isn’t something you can compel them to do”.
He said, “even if it – toilet – is for the AMA …. a private company is handling it that is what …so we can’t compel them. We can discuss with them and tell them to do what the President has directed, but we cannot force them. We can [only] convince them”.
The Chief Executive Officer of LEKMA, Seth Badu Tawiah, in a telephone interview with this reporter on the subject, read out a memo which he had received from the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development signed by the Minister, Julius Debrah, ordering him to implement the president’s directive.
Mr. Badu assured this paper that by the end of this month, communication will be issued to all operators to comply with the President’s directive.
Since the outbreak of cholera some four months ago, over hundred affected people have died and over ten thousand cases have been reported countrywide with poor sanitation and lack of toilets facilities at homes, said to be the main drivers of the communicable disease.
Meanwhile, statistics on the Cholera reveal that in 2008, there were 823 cases with no death recorded; 2009 had 431 cases, with 12 deaths; 2010 had seven cases with no death; 2011, recorded over 9,000 cases with 72 deaths; in 2012 there was close to 7,000 cases with 48 deaths; 2013 recorded 22 cases with no death.