Food operators found dipping their diseased hands in chicken sauce for public consumption. The popular delicacy, plantain and beans being prepared under the stench of a nearby public toilet, and gutters filled to the brim mostly with plastic waste. 

These images are not conjured, but they are what environmental officers of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly chanced on in their unannounced inspection tours of some eateries in the national capital. 

These inspection tours, the brainchild of JOYNEWS and in partnership with the AMA, dubbed the Clean Ghana campaign, brought to light many of the capital’s dirty and often hidden secrets – people cooking under unhygienic conditions for mass consumption and the disposal of human waste without any concern for environmental safety, among others. 

The Clean Ghana campaign which kicked off in September 2019, was an initiative that sought to help enforce waste management laws and educate the general public on how to manage waste. The idea, simply put, was to educate citizens and make them take responsibility for their actions. 

These two measures would help curb the menace to its barest minimum after previous campaigns and initiatives proved futile.

Of course, it wasn’t the first time the AMA was embarking on such inspections. Far from it. Before the JOYNEWS Clean Ghana campaign, it was a regular feature of their activities, but one that failed to garner the desired results, as offenders of the law were hitherto never caught on camera and continued to break the law with impunity. 

The camera did the trick. It was the differentiator. This time round, JOYNEWS reporters accompanied the environmental officers to carry out their duties.  

Emboldened by this, the officials didn’t hesitate to arrest offenders many of whom felt embarrassed after they were exposed in the full glare of TV cameras.

Television viewers and radio listeners became accustomed to the voices of lead environmental officer Florence Kuukyi and her assistant Joseph Asitanga who closed their ears to the plea of offenders and ordered their outfits to be locked up or their wares confiscated or destroyed. 

Over time many begun to see the impact of the campaign after it became clear that areas which were hitherto strewn with plastic and other waste were cleaner than before.

Gutters filled with sludge were transformed into drains with clear running water and food vendors made a conscious effort to ensure meals they prepared for the public were done in a hygienic environment. So the campaign had its successes.

But it also came against some opposition. On one of the team’s rounds, a former assemblyman for Jamestown Joseph Addo incited residents against the Clean Ghana campaign team.

His reason? He feared the shutdown of some businesses flouting the environmental bye laws in his area could make him unpopular, and with the district level elections in sight, he could not afford to lose their much needed votes.

So incensed was he that he assaulted JOYNEWS photojournalist David Andoh, destroying his camera. But police securedsummons for his arrest and the team continued its work. 

The onset of the coronavirus pandemic meant the campaign had to be suspended. With the lockdown in force, there was very little to inspect, and additionally, the environmental officials of the AMA were tasked to bury bodies ravaged by the virus.

The decision to suspend the campaign was in the interest of both parties and to, as much as possible, reduce the threat of transmission. 

But after a one year hiatus the Clean Ghana campaign is set to return. Offenders of the city’s environmental bye laws will be targeted once again as the campaign resumes, focusing on the impact of environmental waste in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

It’s important to reiterate that the task of keeping the country clean is not the sole responsibility of a media house or a government agency.

It is critical for everyone to come on board to complement their efforts in ensuring that we make Ghana clean, one community at a time.