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Night Life Is Dying In The Capital   
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The time was a little after 9 in the evening and it was a working day so one would have expected a late night activity in the capital city. Instead, a heavy calm usually associated with the central business district had descended on and enveloped the city.

I was a bit curious. In the days gone by, this type of eerie silence could only be experienced in the areas around the ministries and Makola market, where human and vehicular movement came to an end with the close of work and trading activities. Part of our traffic problem can be attributed to the situation where in the mornings, we all face the same direction to work at the Ministries or to engage in trading activities in the markets, all located in the same geographical area.

It is easy to understand the cemetery-like nature of the two places -- the Ministries and the markets. After all, if there is no business going on there, we should not expect anybody to be there.

However, the phenomenon is spreading and capturing the residential communities that are expected to pick up from where the Ministries and areas around Kinbu, Tudu, UTC, Ghana House and their adjoining areas have left off. And that set me wondering what was happening. By 10 p.m., all shops at Asylum Down were closed. I wanted to buy an electric bulb so I continued the search until I got to the Nyaho Clinic area, where I knew shops and drinking spots continue to operate late into the night.

Here too, uncharacteristically, all the shops and drinking spots were closed. It was the day Ghana walloped Egypt in a World Cup qualification match and, therefore, should be an occasion for celebration. But here I was, on an almost deserted street.

I saw a shop where I thought I could get my bulb. The owner was about closing, so I hurried to make myself the last customer. Luckily, I got my bulb, but out of curiosity, I enquired from him why the place which was noted for brisk and active night activity had become so quite?

He gave two possible reasons. The first was normal. We heard it all the time, especially if there was a change of government or the budget had been read. By now you can guess. He said there was shortage of cash in the system.

I also knew that that only offered part of the answer. Ghanaians have been described as magicians. We always found avenues, fair or foul, to make money. After all life must go on.

Our former President Jerry John Rawlings emphasised this point when commenting on a report which cited some of his appointees for corruption. He reminded us that apart from official income which may not be enough to raise mansions, there was that avenue of lotto. And that could justify the acquisition of properties by his followers whose official salaries may be very small. So money is not the reason for the sudden retreat indoors by city residents.

The shop owner gave a second reason which did not surprise me but gave me a fuller picture of what was happening in this country and eating away our freedom to socialise.

He said these days, you could not tell who your customers were, especially in the night. Granted that you can vouch for your regular customers, it is difficult under the prevailing circumstances to guarantee your own safety and that of your genuine customers with the marauding armed robbers prowling all over the place. So the earlier you close your shop, the better.

Most customers have also advised themselves. They do not want to stay late to be attacked outside while enjoying themselves in the bars or restaurants or to be waylaid at their gates when they got home. So quick, they must dash home for the security of their walled houses with all the security gadgets or at least to be in their neighbourhood before midnight.

So you see, the menace of armed robbery has disrupted the vibrancy of our night life, something that even the curfews of the revolutionary days could not completely take away from us.

These days, you can hardly find any fuel filling station doing business after 10 p.m. The same holds true for the restaurants, pharmacies, drinking spots and other service outlets. Taxi drivers who operate in the night have also become targets of armed robbers so the wise ones do not operate after 10 p.m. The few that operate deep into the night may be exposing themselves to danger or sometimes are part of the problem because some of the armed robbers are in criminal alliance with taxi drivers.

It may not have registered consciously on our minds but armed robbers are driving us to the brink and we may have to do more than we are doing now. I must be the first to admit that there is a limit to what the police or the security agencies can do, no matter how hard they try. All the same, we still have to appeal for intensification of night patrols, especially in areas that have become the playgrounds of criminal gangs.

For now, one thing is clear. We are losing the peace and joy of the night, and Accra, the capital city, is being held hostage by criminals who will not allow residents to relax in a congenial atmosphere after a day's hard struggle for survival.

Source: Kofi Akordor/Daily Graphic/Ghana - [email protected] kofiakordor.blogspot.com

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