HE HITHERTO serene atmosphere, particularly in the Central Business Area (CBA) of Sunyani, has gradually given way to chaotic scenes typical of some notable overcrowded cities in the country.
As the town transitions into a city status, the CBA has become congested as traders have taken over the shoulders of the principal streets to display their goods.
Sellers of food, vegetables, fruits and secondhand items such as cloth, electrical and electronic gadgets are not left out of this phenomenon, as their products are also displayed in unauthorised places.
To cash in on the present chaos, commercial drivers, particularly taxis, are also picking and dropping off passengers at unauthorised places within the CBA to add to the woes of the town.
In the midst of these activities, the hitherto clean environment which earned the town the accolade as the cleanest in Ghana has been lost.
In a bid to restore the town to its former status, the Sunyani Municipal Assembly (SMA) has inaugurated a 64-member decongestion taskforce to clamp down on illegal activities, particularly in the CBA, to ensure free flow of traffic, sanity and orderliness.
The taskforce comprises 10 officers from the Motor Transport and Traffic Department (MTTD) of the Ghana Police Service, 12 personnel from the Ghana Immigration Service (GIS) and eight from the Ghana Prisons Service (GPS).
The others are four officers from the Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS), five police officers, 24 members from various transport unions, including their executives, two assembly representatives and two assembly staff.
In addition to the formation of the taskforce, the assembly has directed that all drivers, especially commercial drivers, are to pick and drop off passengers at the Nana Bosoma Market popularly known as the Wednesday Market.
Further, the assembly has designated two vantage points – the Whitehouse and National Investment Bank (NIB) frontages, as the only places in town where drivers can pick up and drop off passengers.
Apart from these two approved points, no driver will be allowed to pick and make passengers alight within the town.
The taskforce commenced the enforcement of the new directives last Sunday.
Members of the taskforce are expected to prevent all drivers from picking and dropping off passengers along the CBA of Sunyani, the Bono Regional capital.
In addition, they are to ensure that drivers do not use unauthorised places such as the Whitehouse, Cocobod and around the vicinity of the Twene Amanfo Senior High Technical School (TASTECH) as lorry terminals.
Also, the taskforce members are expected to prevent drivers, including private car motorists, from parking on the shoulders of the main streets in Sunyani, particularly from the Green Light Pharmacy to the Volta River Authority (VRA) and Northern Electricity Distribution Company (NEDCo) stretch.
As part of their activities, the taskforce is expected to guard against loading and offloading of vehicles at the busy principal streets of Sunyani.
According to the assembly, recalcitrant drivers or individuals who disobeyed the new directives would be arrested and made to face the law.
Speaking at the inauguration of the committee in Sunyani, the Sunyani Municipal Chief Executive (MCE), John Ansu Kumi, charged the police to make provision for a towing vehicle to tow locked vehicles when the need arose.
He explained that the assembly would establish a secretariat to look into cases of offending drivers for possible prosecution or fines.
Mr Kumi said members of the taskforce would be divided into two and run morning and afternoon shifts, explaining that the morning session would start from 6a.m.-1p.m. each day, while the afternoon session would continue from 1p.m.-7p.m.
He said the assembly would provide logistics, including reflectors to members of the taskforce for easy identification.
Mr Kumi said the assembly would ensure regular and daily announcement at lorry stations and public places about the new directives before the enforcement date.
He explained that notices of “No Loading” and “No Parking” signs would be placed at the unauthorised places to alert the public and cautioned drivers and passengers to obey the directives in order to avoid punishment and embarrassment.
Mr Kumi charged the taskforce to help identify and propose alternative places for parking in the city and for wheelbarrow pushers and other people who carry out activities in the median of the road.
He urged the taskforce to work hard to decongest the CBA of the town and advised them to exhibit a high sense of professionalism and be guarded against any misconduct that could affect their operations.
On Monday, hundreds of the drivers moved with their vehicles to the Sunyani Municipal Assembly to register their displeasure about the decision and operations of the taskforce.
At the assembly, the aggrieved drivers blocked the Sunyani-Kumasi Highway to prevent their colleagues from transporting passengers along the Abesim stretch.
Drivers who tried to jump the blocked road were pelted with stones and broken blocks for their refusal to join in the protest.
They forced drivers to drop passengers to walk to town, while those who were travelling to places such as Bechem, Duayaw Nkwanta and Yamfo had no option than to abandon the journey.
The situation left some passengers frustrated, as they were unable to get any means of transport to their destinations.
It took the intervention of the police, including the Bono Regional Commander of the MTTD, Superintendent Stephen Tenkorang, to ensure law and order.
A 38-year-old taxi driver, Francis Adu, told the Daily Graphic that they were not against the work of the taskforce, but the policy should exempt them (taxi drivers).
He explained that they were not working from a particular station but rather roaming in the town to pick up and drop off passengers and therefore they should not be counted as part of mini bus drivers that converge on the Nana Bosoma Market to pick up passengers.
A passenger, Milicent Owusua, expressed her frustration to the Daily Graphic about the way she was heckled by some of the drivers.
She explained that she was not aware of the exercise in town, as it took her by surprise and called on the assembly to educate the public about the new directive.