Government officials appear busy to hang the various fires in the market on the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC).
An arrest has been made in the Volta Region, in connection with the Kantamanto market fire outbreak in Accra about a week ago, and pro-New Patriotic Party (NPP) newspapers, including Daily Guide, have in a coordinated manner reported that the alleged arsonist, is a supporter of the opposition NDC.
NPP activists and Deputy National Youth Authority boss, Akosua Manu, on Metro TV, on Monday, December 21, 2020, painstakingly pushed the arson on the NDC and directly accused the party’s National Chairman, Samuel Ofusu-Ampofo, as the one behind the fires, insisting that the alleged audio recording which has him in a criminal trial, has elements of market burnings, murders and kidnapping among other criminal activities.
Interestingly, the Mayor of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA), Mohammed Adjei Sowah and the Public Relations Officer of the Ghana National Fire Service, Ellis Robinson Oko, did not mention arson, but suggested that the fires are due to illegal electricity connection in the markets.
The AMA boss in particular, said the illegal connections in the markets, are being addressed with an arrangement with the Millennium Development Authority (MIDA) to redevelop the markets, adding procurement procedures are ongoing.
Both the Accra Mayor and the Ghana National Fire Service, Ellis Robinson Oko, separately spoke from the scene of the fire.
Indeed, in the Kantamanto market fire, it is emerging that a contract has been awarded to a private company, Gold Coast Contractors to modernize the market.
It is unclear, whether the company deliberately set out the fire in the densely populated market as a means of clearing the place ahead of the construction, which is likely to meet some resistance from the traders.
But, ahead of the arrest in Ho, the Deputy Director-General of the National Disaster Management Organization (NADMO), had alleged arson against the NDC, although he did not provide any basis.
Abu Ramadan, had taken to Facebook, hours before the arrest “Fire under control. You want to be President but yet burning markets and peoples investments lost. NDC a curse to Ghana”.
The newspapers, including Daily Guide, The Searchlight, the New Crusading, the Finder and others, have in a syndicated publication claimed that the man was arrested in Volta the Regional capital, and the police sources gave his name as Daniel Dah Kormlah, 41.
According to the newspapers, police sources have disclosed that Daniel was identified through police investigations into the Kantamanto fire incident.
The reports said that police and other intelligence agencies had begun arresting persons believed to be linked to recent arsons in some markets across the country.
In November the Odawna Market in Accra, got burnt, followed by Kantamanto market then followed by the Kaneshie market, Ghana News Agency (GNA) reported that some nine shops got burnt.
The Liberty House branch of the Ghana Commercial Bank (GCB) also got burnt. In Koforidua in the Eastern Region, a fire incident occurred.
The newspapers claimed that a joint team of Police and Intelligence operatives left Accra on Thursday, December 17, 2020, in pursuit of the suspect.
The suspect was arrested at his hideout in Ho in the Volta Region on Friday evening December 18, 2020, at about 10 pm. It said that upon further interrogation, it was realized that the suspect was an active member on various political platforms, namely NDC Group Administrators, Renaissance Agenda 2020, among others.
The report said phone records showed several conversations with other persons aimed at incitement to riot and possible conspiracy to attack other state institutions.
It claimed that the suspect had admitted to the said conversations and to engaging with like-minded persons to execute some acts with the potential to breach the peace of the nation, sources say. The security agencies are carrying on with their investigations to apprehend more suspects in the coming days, one source stated.
The NDC’s Lawyer, Edudzi Tamakloe, fired back at Abu Ramadan in another Facebook post, saying “Ordinarily, I won’t give this further publicity but this is the Deputy National Director of NADMO making a serious allegation of arson against a political party without basis”.
“In any serious country, the Police should be inviting him to give a statement. But nobody will call him because he is the in-law of Dr Bawumia. In 2012, Let My Vote Count did a rally in Taifa with many speakers”.
One young man who spoke at the event stated clearly that “they (NPP members) should burn the markets and bomb schools to attract international attention.”
Abu Ramadan was a member of that group. They think others will do what they possibly did in the past. A deputy NADMO boss, do a fire incident report to the Police. This is shameful”.
Indeed, there are suspicions that the NPP is using the fires to demonize the opposition NDC to defuse the ongoing demonstrations against the irregularities that the party is complaining about with respect to the 2020 election.
The Police service is yet to officially speak on the matter of the arrest and the extent of its investigations.
The GNA reports that he Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS) has called on the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) to undo illegal connections at market places to avert the increasing incidence of fire outbreaks at such places.
Ellis Robertson Okoe, Divisional Officer II, Head of Public Relations, GNFS, said such checks were important because investigations into the fire incidents showed that most fires were caused by electrical faults.
The call followed another fire outbreak at the Kaneshie market on Saturday, after similar incidents were recorded at the Kantanmanto Market in Accra and other markets in the Eastern and Central regions.
He said the markets had witnessed congestion over the years with new power connections, some of which were done illegally and haphazardly and must be checked.
“So until these issues are checked, the fires will continue.”
Mr Okoe said a Fire Service personnel had an electric shock when fighting the Kantamanto Market fire a few days ago, and stressed the need for illegal connections to be checked.
“This disrupted fire fighting for about 30 minutes because we had to call ECG to cut off the power before we continued.”
“This made some people to conclude that the Fire Service came to the scene to watch if there was an outbreak before bringing our fire tenders to start fire fighting, which was not the case” he added.
Mr Okoe advised ECG to as a matter of urgency deploy a task force to check and undo illegal connections at the markets.
The PRO also called on traders to ensure that they always extinguished naked flames after cooking in the markets.
The Kaneshie Market fire, which occurred in the late hours of Saturday night, engulfed nine fabric shops, which also served as a tailoring shop and a warehouse.
Out of the nine shops, six were totally burnt and the remaining, partially salvaged.
Mr Okoe said the fire was brought under control at midnight and totally extinguished within 30 minutes.
He said the cause of the fire was not immediately known but suspected electrical faults.