Tema Station: A mixed bag of commercial and transport activities
Hundreds of retailers, mostly women, make a living here by procuring and adding their own profit margins to products and consumables sourced from different locations in and outside the capital city.
Although visitors from far and near do business within the space, it appears goods, and services are targeted at workers in government ministries and agencies within the enclave.
Items ranging from food and drinks, vegetables, jewellery, clothing, skincare products, stationery, electrical appliances, and many others are readily available.
After all the shopping is done, head potters (Kayayei) are on standby to serve shoppers, who are unable to convey items purchased.
The name ‘Tema Station’ and its adjoining market is so popular that even first-time visitors to Accra would easily find their way in and around the terminal that stretches towards the Theodosia Okoh Hockey Pitch.
Moving towards the market, there are stalls and sheds, but there is also a spillover of floating traders, who occupy pavements around the trading centre.
Some of the businesswomen seem aware of their encroachment on walkways, but they are not ready to budge. The refrain has always been that the market is choked and spaces in the market are too expensive to afford.
‘’Lots of people do business inside the market, but we have been occupying the pavement for some time now. Although the authorities do ask us to vacate the premises, we don’t have a choice,’ a tomato seller said.
Apart from the overflow of commercial and transport activities, a recurring scene is how some used clothing dealers ‘battle’ for space with commercial drivers at the terminal.
At the La-Burma Camp terminal for instance, women display heaps of used clothing in-front of vehicles waiting to convey passengers to their destinations.
The situation is such that drivers, who are ready to set off after waiting long hours for passengers, would have to expertly maneouver their way through the narrow spaces available.
A handful of traders, knowing the challenge the drivers face moving their vehicles, would then re-adjust or shift completely for the ‘trotros’ to move.
A driver, who did not speak on record, says the ‘scramble’ between them and the traders was worrying, but there is little they can do as the traders protronised their services after the day’s activity.
The Tema Station terminal and market which, according to occupants, falls under the jurisdiction of Klottey Korley Municipal Assembly (KOKMA), serves hundreds of commuters from different locations and has a number of driver unions.
Mr Emmanuel Ankrah, Secretary of the Good Shepherd Driver’s Union at the terminal, says there are about 80 separate driver unions at the terminal with his association alone having about 30 members.
He tells the Ghana News Agency that members of the association are doing well to make ends meet, but a major setback to their operations has been frequent “pursuit” by officers of the Motor Traffic and Transport Department (MTTD) of the Ghana Police Service.
He complains there are many check points to and from various destinations, adding that commercial drivers under his jurisdiction do not earn much income, therefore, the police should tamper justice with mercy when drivers commit minor offences.
‘’We struggle to get passengers daily so, imagine the situation where a police officer stops you due to a fault on your vehicle and commands all the passengers to alight. It is very disturbing, and it means the driver would have to go back and start from scratch.
‘’We know the police are implementing the law for good reason, but they need to be considerate in their decisions at certain times,” he says.
Mr Ankrah says many drivers may be pushed out of the business if they are persecuted all the time.
Speaking about general sanitation at the terminal, he says the situation has improved and that in years past, heaps of garbage were left unattended at the terminal.
He commends KOKMA for being proactive in tackling the situation, indicating that their meagre financial contributions are yielding results.
‘’We pay GH¢5 at the gate after we’ve loaded passengers and are ready to set off. I believe this is making the terminal cleaner than before.”
Beyond the congestion and everyday hustle at the Tema Station, traders and drivers always find a way to cool off, occasionally.
Funerals and ‘one-week’ celebrations provide the opportunity for them to jam to music played through loudspeakers. To a large extent, the community here believes life has to be lived to the fullest, in spite of daily hurdles.
Those who spend the night at the terminal are entertained by amateur Disk Jockeys (Djs), who operate on tabletops at night. They charge small fees for transferring selected MP3 music to mobile phones and also become the first point of call anytime there are jamborees within the enclave.
Despite the noisy environment, dwellers at the terminal appear happy and comfortable, and seem to be having a ”home away from home’ experience.
By Ernest Nutsugah