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Opinions of Sunday, 19 March 2017

Columnist: James Kofi Annan

MTTD, NRSC, and DVLA; Ghana’s acronyms of pain

Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) logo Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) logo

By: James Kofi Annan

In the year 2001, while I was about bringing my national service to a close, I was on my way to Achimota for a job interview when the trotro vehicle on which I was travelling was stopped by a group of MTTD Police officers. The driver of our vehicle refused to leave his seat while the police also failed to come close to our vehicle.

At that point the passengers were divided; some of them who were in a hurry shouted on the driver to go and satisfy the policemen, others thought he should not go. They thought it was the duty of the policemen to come to the car to check whatever was needed to be checked; that is road safety, right? You check the vehicle and you check the papers.

While the argument waged on, one of the policemen, who I later got to know, as Kennedy came to the car, and asked why there was so much noise but no one minded him; there was dead silence. He asked several times but no one said ‘fi.’ So I offered to explain to him what was happening.

Without any provocation, Kennedy punched me heavily on the nose. Instantly blood started gushing out from my nose but he carelessly followed up with another blow to increase the blood carnage.

He attempted to pull me out of the car through the window and in the process tore my shirt. He ordered everyone out of the car and everyone who tried to defend me got a hefty slap. The driver came out protesting, insisting that I was innocent but he too got arrested for obstructing public duty.

Eventually Kennedy took me to the Tesano police station, locked the driver and me up and left us in the hands of the police at the charge office without charging us for any crime; still in my blood-soaked clothes and battered body.

The police made sure that anyone who witnessed the incidence, and who wanted to help us, was driven away from the scene, or with a threat of an arrest; so one after the other, all the would-be witnesses left.

The National Road Safety Commission (NRSC) and the MTTD are both saying passengers should speak up, we should speak up when the police is failing to carry out its duty properly. How do you expect anyone to speak up under such an intimidating environment when the police can frame you up easily and obstruct your day?

We will all keep quiet, and we will all get killed; no one will be spared, whether you drive V8 or V1, we will all come under the same risks. The articulated truck will knock down the innocent pedestrian, but it will also collide with the V8, and it will kill whoever smuggled that unqualified person into the police service – we will all die.

Anyway, I remained behind bars, hungry, thirsty, drenched in blood from morning until 6pm when Kennedy returned and ordered my release. I tried to report the case but none of the policemen were willing to take my report. Kennedy had prevented me from a job opportunity, destroyed my phone, torn my clothes, and drenched me in blood.

I wanted justice, so I did everything possible to, at least have my case recorded but no one was interested, the law simply did not work and Kennedy went unpunished. Sometimes I wish it had happened now. I would have gone all the way to the Supreme Court to seek justice.

A year later I heard in the news that Kennedy had a motor accident and died. He was part of President Kufuor’s motorcade which had an accident and he died on the spot. I was sad, very sad, that Kennedy died, but his death brought a closure to the justice that I sought, that what eventually killed him was a road accident, exactly what he should have helped to address.

Last year, on my way from Asamankesse, just at the outskirts of Agona Swedru, a group of MTTD police officers stopped me. They checked all my documents, driver’s license, insurance, fire extinguisher, and road worthy certificate, all were fine.

The officer then asked; “do you know I can still arrest you?” I asked “on what basis would you arrest me?” Then he asked “but you know you have to carry first aid?” I said yes, thereupon I brought out my first aid box. “Now I have arrested you, some of the medicines in the box have expired”, the officer said excitingly.

While all the drama was unfolding, there were several visibly road unworthy vehicles passing through their hands; some rickety taxis and 207 buses passed quickly as they kept collecting something that looked like one Ghana Cedis: none of those vehicles were inspected. I saw at least two wobbling articulated trucks whose number plates barely existed, but they too passed.

A few weeks ago, at about 11pm, I was driving from Kwame Nkrumah Circle towards Kaneshie when I saw this charcoal truck in front of me. I deliberately drove pass it a couple of times then I started videoing it. This truck had a number plate that could hardly be seen, it had absolutely no functioning lights, except the lights from the oncoming vehicles and it was loaded with charcoal twice its own height.

He drove right pass the police barrier at the Awudome Cemetery toward Kaneshie. The police stopped it, but the interaction lasted for less than five seconds and the truck was gone. I got down and showed my video to the police on duty, but they were not interested. They threatened to arrest me for obstructing police duties. I challenged them to arrest me, knowing that arresting me would raise the profile of the situation, but tried as I did, they refused to arrest me.

If we want to know what is causing the carnage on our roads, that is exactly the story; importers are importing nearly dead vehicles, they are importing dead tires and unresponsive spare parts; the DVLA is issuing proxy, fake and unverified driver licenses and road worthy certificates and blaming same on goro boys and this is allowing some real lunatics to have access to Drivers’ Licenses. It is allowing ‘dead on the road vehicles’ with no brakes, no lights, driven by unworthy drivers to ply our roads, to kill, to maim, and to create orphanages in this country.

Last month the headmistress of my school lost her sister and the husband in an accident. Here was a man who loved his wife. The woman fell ill so as would be expected of a responsible man, he took his wife to the hospital. This man was driving his pregnant wife to the hospital when a 207 bus just dashed onto his lane, resulting in head-on collision, killing the heavily pregnant woman instantly with the husband dying a few days later.

How much more road safety education do we need in this country to spot this senseless ending of lives? Come on! We no longer need you, NRSC to tell us what causes accidents on our roads. You are only using road safety education to cover up your incompetence and to draw your salaries.

What we need is fairness in the enforcement of our road laws, what we need is incorrupt police and competent, non contemptuous and not politicized DVLA. Scrap the NRSC; it is a waste of space. Get your police and the DVLA staff recruitments right, give them the right training, allow them to have the right leadership, and our roads will know peace.

Hardly a week passes by without the news of one or two fatal accidents on the Accra-Cape Coast road. Between December 7, and December 10, 2016 alone, 44 people were killed through road accidents. Last week we witnessed such carnage at Gomoa Mprumeimu, when 14 people died on the spot, five student nurses lost their lives in Brong Ahafo and the list can be endless, and we still have NRSC and MTTD Directors still at post?

Don’t worry, the orphans that will be created as a result of the road carnage will take arms and ambush the police patrol team; they will ambush the families of those who matter and they will shoot them to avenge the brakes that failed for which reason their parents were killed in that gory accident. The children of Bismark Bebli will find a way to avenge whoever failed in his duty to check that driver; that driver with the faulty brake – whoever failed to properly inspect the roadworthiness of that truck that eventually ended up killing a young father, wherever that truck was coming from that no police officer could notice that it was a dead car on the road. There will be justice one day, whatever the form that justice will take, the blood of that innocent soul will speak.