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General News of Saturday, 24 May 2003

Source: Chronicle

Living Quarters Death Traps for Residents

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THE LIVES of residents at the Kaiser flats residential area at Community Four in Tema hang in the balance as the buildings in which they live could collapse on them at any time.

Investigations by the paper at the area have revealed that four of the residential blocks within the area have become death traps.

But the irony of the matter is that the Tema Development Corporation (TDC) under whose jurisdiction the area falls, and whose responsibility is it to ensure that residents in the area in particular and Tema in general live in a well-organised environment, has either been slow in dealing with the situation or has not shown interest at all.

Chronicle underground investigations have unmasked that 10 years ago, the TDC declared four of the four storey flats namely; 407, 408, 410 and 415 as "Condemned Blocks", meaning they were not good for human habitation.

As per the declaration, Chronicle learnt that the TDC made available some parcels of land at Sakumono, near Tema for the affected residents to provide accommodation for themselves and their families.

We gathered that the council, as a result of the offer, gave the affected residents a three-year quit order to leave the 'condemned blocks' so as to forestall any disaster that could rock the area and broach the peace of the Tema township, and the nation as a whole.

But as we go to press, the occupants are still alive in their 'condemned blocks' and are living as though nothing serious is at stake.

We also discovered that some of them have rented out some of the rooms in their apartments to other people.

Most shocking is the revelation that most of the affected tenants have already sold out their share of the land, collected the money and used it for other things.

A visit to the area by this reporter uncovered that the blocks are in a deleterious shape.

Not only that, we also unearthed that the state of the other blocks which were not declared 'condemned' are nothing to write home about.

This reporter saw that most of the windows and doors of the blocks are begging to be replaced and the walls pleading for fresh paint.

Almost all the staircases for the blocks are falling apart, with the rusted iron rods showing and the concrete roofing of almost all the blocks leak profusely into the top and middle rooms, sometimes, dangerously, along the electric lines, when it rains.

The protective walls on top of the blocks have also developed big cracks, posing a big threat and danger to the occupants, especially the children.

These cracked concrete particles, sometimes fall of unexpectedly, Chronicle learnt.

Another serious problem, the paper discovered was the existence of about 60 squatters who have taken over the Kaiser flats residential area.

The squatters who, our investigations revealed, descended on the area from Obuasi and its environs in the Ashanti region, are mainly shoeshine boys, second-hand shoe sellers, barbers and auto mechanics.

The squatters have turned the concrete roofing that stretches on the almost 150meter long garage strip into sleeping places.

They have created bathhouses at some obscure places attached to the garages, some of which have been turned into residential rooms, stores and workshops.

"We go to the bush over there," was the answer from one of the squatters to a question we posed to him. "Where do you attend to nature?" pointing to the Assemblies of God Church area.

We also discovered that the area has now become untidy, congested and litter was seen all over the place.

One of the tenants we talked to told us that he and his family are still occupying the flat because he has still not been able to put up anything on the piece of land which he received from the TDC.

Meanwhile, the Tenant Association of the Kaiser flats residential area has appealed to the Greater Accra Regional Minister, Sheikh I.C. Quaye to personally intervene on their behalf to bring pressure to bear on the TDC to speed up action on the removal of squatters from the vicinity.

The leadership of the association made the appeal in an interview with the paper.

According to them, they have written several letters to TDC to complain about the illegal activities of the squatters in the area.

In one of the letters dated March 16, 2001 and signed by the chairman, secretary and six other members of the association to the acting managing director of TDC, Miss Mansah Banson, the association drew the attention of TDC to what it described as 'appalling, insecurity, inconvenience, noise and harassment being visited on its members by the activities of the squatters in the vicinity.'

We learnt that one month later, the TMA task force visited the vicinity and only managed to inscribe on some parked trucks "remove by TMA" and that was the end.

So on January 21, last year, another letter signed by the chairman, Mr. Amonoo was sent to TDC in which the letter stated "stealing of electrical appliances and accessories, car batteries, parts and accessories in the garages and parking area is the order of the day, while filth and noise making, even into the dead of night have become our lot."

In its reply, in a letter signed by the director of estates, Mr. Joe Abbey and dated February 12, 2002, TDC stated that a management sub-committee had been formed to critically assess the situation, adding that the committee had been given a two-week duration to complete its work.

However, nothing concrete has been done about the situation as the squatters were seen going about their usual activities at the time of going to press.

The assembly member for the area, Mr. Ofori Atta, painted a gloomy picture about the situation when he spoke with the paper on phone.

He pointed out that the umpteenth number of times he had raised the issue about the 'condemned block' have been met with stiff opposition, with some of them calling him names.

He disclosed that some of the affected residents have gone ahead to harbour enmity against him for raising the issue up, accusing him of trying to get them thrown out of their home.

According to him, he held discussions with one Col. Topa, who was a former management staff of TDC, whereupon tons of promises were made, but no action was taken.

On the issue of the squatters, the assemblyman hinted that since last year, he has put in every effort to ensure that something was done about it but to no avail.

All his visits to TDC in connection with the issue have not yielded any result as the authorities there have not demonstrated keen interest in the matter.

Chronicle's attempts to contact the acting MD of TDC, Miss Mansah Banson to comment on the issue has proved futile.

Two months ago, we reached her on phone, but she told the paper to book an appointment before meeting her, as she had not consulted her files yet.

A week later, we caught up with her at the Tema General Hospital, again she hadn't got her diary with her so could not give us an appointment.

After the meeting, all attempts to reach her at her office have not worked as anytime we called, we were told she had not come to the office or had gone out.

We also tried to talk to some of the management staff but we discovered that they have been given strict instructions by the acting MD not to grant an interview to the press without clearance.

However, sources inside TDC have it that a TDC sub-committee was set up to investigate the circumstances that led to the influx of the squatters to the area and how to handle the situation, but after one long year, the committee has not been able to submit its report.

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