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Opinions of Friday, 5 June 2009

Columnist: Adofo, Rockson

Could we Blame the Ghana Police

for the Numerous Lorry Accidents? Part II

The Ghana police are duty-bound to ensure the drastic reduction in motor accidents on our roads. It is known to be an insurmountable obstacle for the police to secure a total eradication of lorry accidents on Ghana roads. The police guaranteeing the instance of accident- free transportation system in Ghana are never feasible, if not impossible. However, by making amends in their present deplorable unprofessional outlook for the better, motor accidents on our roads can concomitantly be greatly reduced.

Most of the factors contributing to the menacing lorry accidents have been specified under Part I of same titled article published on Ghanaweb on Friday, 15th May 2009. This then makes it irrelevant reproducing them under Part II, but to proceed to justify why the police must be accused of helping not only to perpetrate but perpetuate the numerous lorry accidents in Ghana. The Ghana police have advertently reneged on the tenets of their professional calling. They are employed to ensure the safety and security of Ghanaians; by protecting their lives, protecting their property and preventing crime. Are they doing exactly as stipulated when found on the roads as Motor & Transport Union (MTU) police? This branch of the police is to check the compliance of motorists and commercial drivers with road safety statutes. For unknown reasons but "sakawa", all the other police departments do join in the duties of the MTU as and when they feel like. They do this just to extort money from the drivers. The money so exacted goes into satisfying their probably capricious or steady competitive quest to purchase their own saloon cars, better their so-called meagre salaries, or build houses of their own. Should bribe taking by the police be a justifiable way of supplementing their salary as seemed to be put forward and supported by some like-minded corrupt Ghanaians? I am afraid not!

The police stand accused of any would-have-been preventable lethal lorry accident that occurs due to their failure to have checked for defects on the vehicle from which they have simply let through after taking bribe from its driver. They never check to see the vehicle is roadworthy; it has all its lights functioning, tyres in good working condition, driver at the wheels is sober, the vehicle not detrimentally overloaded with passengers etc. All they desire is to have the driver get off his arse and flip GHC 1 or 2 in his driver's licence, hand it over to them to retrieve. The vehicle could be a coffin carrying passengers to their grave in the next few minutes, for that they care?

I was sick and tired to the bone and marrow seeing the police shamelessly but overtly accepting bribes as if it was a certified road toll. Many a time had I intended to challenge them but was pleaded with to stop by either the driver or the passengers evoking flimsy excuses. Challenging the police in that instance will save the driver from not paying the bribe but afterwards, his vehicle is marked to become a target for police harassment on daily basis, they say. The police can in future conduct a detail road safety inspection on his vehicle and surely will find a minute fault for which the driver can be charged to court. I was told in the absence of the police finding any mechanical fault with the vehicle, they will ask for the "First aid equipment" in the car/lorry. When provided, they can ask, "Where are the paracetamols in the kit? They had better ask for water as well, I suppose. They do all these just to ensure the driver is punished to serve as a scapegoat, or a warning to those intending to have their loud-mouthed all-knowing "Burger" passengers intervening to stop them taking their daily "Cedi-vitamin" supplements. The money deficiency in their pockets or the greed for bribe dictates that they have their way whenever they desire. They can as well hold the driver to ransom for not having a fire extinguisher on the vehicle.

It must be sounded in the average 130 decibel pain level into the tympanic membrane of our Ghana police force as follows: * What is the "first aid kit" on the vehicle for, when, why and how is it to be administered and on whom? * Who administers the first aid and what should be the contents of a first aid kit? Being a trained First Aider at work I know and understand the implications and complications of administering first aid to a casualty. Unless things are done differently in Ghana in the usual sensual parlance of "Ghana de saa", no untrained person has the right to attend or administer first aid to a casualty. But I will give my people and the police the benefit of the doubt. There being a dearth of ambulance and trained first aiders throughout Ghana, both the police and the drivers without the least knowledge in first aid course may be allowed to carry out such medically essential task. Does one know that the wrong handling of a casualty can even endanger his/her life or kill him/her at worst? Do the police know that some people react badly or are allergic to certain medications, be they paracetamols, APC, chloroquine etc? Do you know that a first aider cannot by their initiative administer drugs to a casualty? Do you know that parting with paracetamol to a casualty is worse than self-medication which is clinically not advisable? Oh, Ghana police don't let the urge to exact bribe from drivers or people let you do the unthinkable.

Likewise, one has to be trained in order to use the fire extinguisher. It is well understood that Carbon dioxide (CO2) extinguishers are the ones to go on vehicles. Why? Do you know that we have various sources of outbreak of fire and each has to be fought with a special fire material hence, having assorted fire extinguishers? The sources of fire can be oil, electrical, paper, wood etc. Do the drivers understand that the nozzle of a CO2 fire extinguisher is not to be hand-held when in the process of fighting fire? Why? This is an assignment to the police and the drivers. Do you know that your safety should not be at the expense of fighting any fire? I would love to engage a bribe taking police officer who will use the lack of the above equipment on a vehicle as an excuse to compel a driver to offer him/her some money.

There is this sad but true story that may be of interest to you. A taxi driver in Kumawu-Bodomase is understood to have recently been sentenced to five years imprisonment all for intending not to stop to offer the police their usual road toll-bribe. This guy had three days earlier, in the early morning been stopped and compelled to part with his only two Cedis on him. He had barely started work without having collected a pesewa from any passenger. The police as usual were parked at a dangerous curve at a point between the Bodomase Zongo and the Bodomase roundabout. When his only money had been taken away from him, he became disquieted. He drove off a confused person and within meters away, he ran down one of a herd of sheep crossing the road. He could not avoid killing the sheep. It was a critical situation of either killing the sheep or getting the taxi into some other form of accident. He was forced by the owner of the sheep to pay GHC 80 for killing the animal. Three days after the incident, this driver who plies the Bodomase-Kumawu and or Effiduase road was stopped again by the police. He refused to stop knowing they were as usual going to collect bribe from him. He was still having imp at the police for causing him to pay GHC80 out of silly frustration by killing the sheep. The police gave him a chase, crossed his car and got him stopped. They pulled him out of the driver's seat and questioned why he refused to stop. Having explained why, they decided to arrest him. When he resisted arrest, they started laying their bloody hands on him as it was and is fond of Ghana police though the NPP government tried to stop their public unfriendly brutalities. It became a scene of "Give and Take" between the police and the poor taxi driver. The driver was defending himself but this was used against him when he was charged and arraigned before the Kumawu District/Magistrate's Court. The police tackled him, flung him into their vehicle like a piece shit or meat and taken to the police station. A charge was prepared against him for assaulting the police. It must be noted that in Ghana and maybe elsewhere, it is a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment for assaulting a police officer in uniform. The Judge should have read sense into the fact that the police started the scuffle. There is no self defence when a police officer in uniform is assaulting you. It is a do before complain situation. Let him beat you blue and black before complaining. In Ghana, who do you complain to? This is a food for thought for my readers.

I suggest among other solutions as follows: * The New IGP should insist on stringent code of conduct for the police, making extortion an offence. Any officer found flouting it should be disciplined. * The police should not be intimidating but public friendly. * Passengers should be able to challenge the irregularities and excesses of the police without the driver being marked down as target for constant police victimisation or persecution. * The public must be made conversant with the law on police brutalities being unacceptable and hence, illegal in Ghana. This should be through education via our radio stations, TV stations, the news print, and telling it to children at school. * The Judiciary can assist by imprisoning some of those police officers found to misconduct themselves in the execution of their duties to serve as a deterrent to others.

Finally, a difference and great improvement on the road accidents can be made should the police be up and doing the very gospel task for which they were employed.

Rockson Adofo, London