ACP Angwubutoge Awuni, MTTU Commander
Investigations conducted by Today has revealed that the Greater Accra Regional Office of the Motor Transport and Traffic Unit (MTTU) of the Ghana Police Service has been reduced to a den of bribery where personnel engage commercial drivers and car owners in severe bouts of haggling over the illegal charges.
According to information available to Today?s investigation team, the police of the Accra Central Unit of MTTU collect, on the average, bribes worth GH?4,000.00 (?40 million) every hour from nervous drivers who are more than willing to pay any amount than be dragged before court for violating road safety rules and regulations.
The police officers demand GH?50.00 from each driver they stop or arrest for committing bookable offence(s) as inducement for his release, Today can authoritatively report, and they arrest drivers in droves each day. And the drivers receive no receipt for the payment.
When Today contacted him, the Deputy Commander of the MTTU of the Ghana Police Service, Chief Superintendent Samuel Tetteh, denied the allegation.
Sources told Today that the actual offences for which the police arrest most drivers are so minor that the police, under normal circumstances, should simply cautioned and allowed them to go their way. The police, however, have other ideas; they threaten these drivers with arrests.
?When we [drivers] are arrested each is made to pay a lump sum of money to the police officers,? says a tro-tro driver of the Kaneshie Main Station. ?At times they [police] accuse us of offences we did not commit. When you plead they sometimes decide to forgive you, but only after you pay [a bribe of] GH?20.00.?
The drivers that refuse to grease the palms of the police officers on the spot are often arrested, accused of higher offences they have necessarily not committed and dragged before court.
The ?stubborn? ones among the so-called offending drivers are sent to the MTTU station and detained, and the unrepentant ones among them are sometimes detained for more than 72 hours, Today learnt.
When a driver refuses or is unable to ?honour? the bribery contract,? his vehicle is impounded, said a source who pointed to the increasing number of impounded vehicles at the MTTU offices at Accra Central.
Our sources gave us information corroborated by some commercial drivers, that the policemen who conduct such illegal activities do not wear their name tags lest they be easily identified.
It will be recalled that when he was Interior Minister, Dr. Kwame Addo Kufuor, made it mandatory on all police personnel to wear their name tags when in uniform.
When our investigation team hit the streets, they observed that when the police arrest drivers they give the latter paper to write down their (drivers?) bio-data, including car number and house number. But the police have other ideas.
The modus operandi of the police in tracking down targeted drivers include hiring private vehicles or even using tro-tro vehicles for their operations, since commercial drivers easily recognise police vans and most of the time succeed in outwitting them.
Surprisingly, most apprehended drivers prefer paying bribe irrespective of the magnitude of their offence, because ?we don?t want to waste time attending court based on summons made with police reports that more often than not are not a true representation of the issues. We are likely to lose?, said another tro-tro driver at Odorkor Main Lorry Park.
A police source disclosed to Today that money accruing from the MTTU extortion spree is sent to certain high-profile police officers for sharing at the end of every week among officers on duty that week. No one at the Accra Central MTTU keeps records of such monies, our source said.
Talking to Today at the Tema Station in the Central Business District, another driver said, when we are put before court, the judge or magistrate ?focuses on the charges levelled against us and ignores the unlawful arrest by the police officer and we cannot talk about it because we have no evidence.?
Chief Supt. Samuel Tetteh also further refuted allegation that police personnel go about without their name tags, explaining that he always checks all traffic personnel assign to duty at areas prone to traffic jams and congestion.
?We? receive reports of? extortion of monies by? police personnel from drivers, but our investigations into the matter indicate that such allegations are completely blown out of proportion? Mr. Tetteh said.
STORY: KORYEKPOR AWLESU FREEMAN