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Time up for Sodom and Gomorrah   
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Sodom and Gomorrah, a sprawling slum within the central business district of Accra, has been labelled a risk to national security and so should be pulled down now.

The government has, therefore, taken the firm stand to evict the more than 40,000 squatters there without any form of compensation or relocation as earlier envisaged.

The reports indicate that squatters at the slum, who are sharply split along a complex mixture of political, ethnic and chieftaincy lines, also engage in illicit acquisition of small arms and light weapons with which they engage in periodic clashes, often with tragic consequences.

"We will not allow an illegal activity to become legal. It is a huge problem but we will take the bull by the horn," the Greater Accra Regional Minister, Nii Armah Ashietey, affirmed Thursday, shortly after a three-hour tour of the area to expose journalists to the real danger that the slum posed.

Actually called Old Fadama or Ayaalolo, the place became a shelter for some displaced northerners fleeing the Kokomba and the Nanumba war in the 1980s.

A small population then, Sodom and Gomorrah is now home to some 40,000 Ghanaians living in "a small four acre area, some of whom are allegedly hardened criminals and prostitutes, whose activities have, now become an environmental nightmare for residents in the national capital, Accra.

"Indeed, we in government, REGSEC and the AMA will be doing the citizens of this country a lot of good by tackling this problem without fear or favour," the minister said.

Ejecting the squatters and demolishing their illegal structures are mandated by law, according to Mr Ashietey, and explained that the squatters took the AMA to court but lost both the initial case and the appeal.

He said thereafter, they wrote to the AMA to give them sometime but they had been living there up to date.

Mr Ashietey said getting rid of Sodom and Gomorrah had also become crucial because of the poor sanitation situation prevailing in the slum and its impact on the Korle Lagoon Ecological Restoration Project (KLERP).

Indeed, one project that continues to suffer from the activities of squatters of Sodom and Gomorrah is the KLERP.

The project, which started a little over a decade ago, has not been able to achieve its objectives of restoring the lagoon to its former state, where fish could be harvested, because it is continuously filled with garbage, sawdust and human excreta.

The inadequate and poor condition of places of convenience in the slum compel many inhabitants there, including children, to defecate openly into the Korle Lagoon.

Sawdust transported from the Timber Market near the slum has also been used to stabilise the banks of the lagoon to allow for the construction of new structures which are increasingly changing from wood to concrete structures.

The government, according to Mr Ashietey, spends 5,000 euros daily to desilt the drain.

Already, the government has sunk more than $89 million of its scarce national resource into the project and continues to spend "5,000 euros per day just to remove, transport and dispose of solid waste that ends up at the interceptor," he said.

Earlier, a team made up of Mr Ashietey, the AMA boss, Mr Alfred Vanderpuije, the Greater Accra Regional Police Commander, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Rose Bio Atinga, and a host of security personnel, visited the slum for first-hand information on the recent clashes and assess the level of encroachment at Old Fadama.

As they entered the area, they were immediately greeted with the nauseous smell of uncollected garbage, choked drains and effluent from places of convenience which run along shallow drains to unknown destinations.

"This place is not fit for human habitation," Mr Ashietey said in utmost disgust at the spectacle that greeted them.

The owner of a single storey structure, which served as a classroom for some children, was asked to demolish the structure because of the danger it posed to the children.

The building had a very steep staircase and had no windows. The area allocated for the nursery classroom looked nothing more than a hen coop.

A medical practitioner at the Plange Memorial Hospital, Dr Joseph Plange, said residents suffered constantly from malaria, skin infections and other illnesses associated with poor environmental conditions.

After the press briefing, members of the REGSEC and the AMA held their first meeting to strategise for the way forward to evict the squatters.
Source: Daily Graphic

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