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Big disgrace drivers undress police!

Big disgrace drivers undress police!

The members of the Sierra Leone Drives Union, especially within the Kono District, have on Thursday March 15th 2012 made claim that although President Ernest Bai Koroma led government is aiming at silencing the predominance of corruption in state institutions, officers attach to the Traffic Division of the Sierra Leone Police are adamantly on daily basis extorting exorbitant monies from them for what they described as fictitious and baseless road safety and traffic offences.  (Photo; Executive Director Dr. Ivan Thomas lecturing the traders on Political Motivated Violence)

The aggrieved drivers made this starkly revelation to the Attitudinal and Behavioural Change (ABC) Secretariat executives while on the first phase of their District Level Sensitization on the ABC Concept and Political Tolerance Tour. According to the drivers  police harassments are not only making their profession unbearable, but coupled with hike in fuel and spare parts prices compelling them to raise transportation fares.

These victims of perpetual police fleecing complained that regardless of numerous foreign assistances to help reform the Sierra Leone Police into a ‘Force For Good’, these officers are reluctant to put up professionalism notwithstanding the ramification this is costing the once reputable image of their institution.

Water off a Ducks’ Back

The Police, an essential component of the justice delivering process, charged with the principal responsibility to protect lives and being remunerated from taxpayers’ money, the annoyed drivers noted are totally off tangent in enforcing the real rule of law. This situation brought the drivers and transport users to the conclusion that the giant strides of Keith Biddle and others to polish and buildup a formidable postwar police force that could withstand all forms of temptations were mere pouring of water on ducks’ back.

A justification of this they said is the ineptitude the police showed in the manning of traffic matters to the point of compelling the government to delegate this intricate duty to Sierra Leone Road Transport Corporation by means Traffic Wardens. According to the complaining drivers although the introduction of Traffic Wardens was a novel idea it has not served its intended purpose of maximizing road safety and regularizing revenue collection. The wardens they claim have gone deep-neck in extortion than even the traffic police.

Police: Road Hogs!

Ishmeal Cole Programme Manager ABC talking to the Traders

In the perception of the drivers and commuters the attitude and behaviours of police officers assigned to man traffic need an urgent redress. Their unethical trend the drivers revealed has surpassed extortion to that of introducing fear and favor in the exercise of their responsibilities. These negative features of the contemporary policing of Sierra Leone’s roads brings into view consternating revelations that police officers are fast becoming Road Hogs than persons relied upon to cleanse it of live threatening offences.

The drivers questioned the efficacy of the numerous instituted check points along the highways which they said are not meant to apprehend defaulters, but halting domains to ease swindling drivers and their clients as well.

“At each of these points police officers unlawfully demand between Le 7,000.00 to Le 40,000.00 from us,” said a driver who ply between Kono and other parts of the country and added that “If any driver fails to heed to these corrupt demand, the officers proffer inimical charges, seize driving license and summarily charge the protesting driver to court.” “The court for us drivers in Kono is hell, because unlike other courts that fine minimally for a charge, we here pays an astronomical fine of Le 250,000.00.In order for us to make ends meet most of us prefer to ply the routes during the night when most of the police officers are off the road,” he said.

It is also alleged that as a result of the viability of the transport industry most police officers have and becoming potential investors. Although not a crime to break new money making grounds, but the presence of police officers in the transport business the drivers went on to intimate has strangled the perfect competitiveness of the industry by bending the rules for their own vehicles at the disadvantage of those not owned by police officers.

Cartel of Injustices

At the peril of drivers and its ripple effect directed on the common man, major actors within the justice system are forming a cartel that is lining their pockets with millions of Leones  on a 24/7 basis. And interestingly the drivers have the sitting Magistrates as kingpins in this unholy act. The drivers made known that the Magistrates, who should be in a position to recall the devastating rebel war the pervasiveness of injustice caused the country about two decades ago, are working hands in glove with police officers to intimidate drivers into fleecing them. The drivers described this connivance as a glaring manifestation of corruption on two key players citizens highly depend on for the dispensation of justice.

What Is I.G. Munu Doing?

In retrospect the Sierra Leone Police have been factored out in a public perception survey that was conducted by the Anti-Corruption Commission quite recently as is the most corrupt institution in the country. Although certain quarters of the police force despise this notion, some objective officers accept this fact and squarely blame the traffic section of their institution for this mishap.

However, since the release of this widely acclaimed ACC Report much have been expected from those at the helm of the police force to attack, arrest and transform the negative occurrences that marred their image in this kind manner. And this expectation remains unfulfilled even though there have been changes in the higher managerial stratum of the police force.

As the drivers keep shouting for justice, the public keep reprimanding what actually the current Inspector General of Police, Francis Munu is doing to rebrand the image of his institution. He is relied upon as the drivers indicated to weed out bad officers within the traffic division and other sectors of police force because his managerial prowess remains under the intense focus of the public.

The reason for I.G. Munu to stop at nothing to ensure that normalcy returns to the traffic division is that his constituents maintain that they have the right to be corrupt.

“We are poorly paid,” said a police officer attached to the Tankoro Police Station in Kono to substantiate why they are corrupt. “It is the drivers that give us monies to turn blind eyes to their offences,” stressed another traffic police.

ABC Secretariats’ Heavy Load

Nanette Thomas National Coordinator and Second-in-Command lecturing the traders on road ethics and attitude

The aggrieved drivers and blamed police officers have called on the ABC Secretariat to help address the attitudinal and behavioral   problems they are facing.

Responding to the complaints the National Coordinator and Second-in-Command of the ABC Secretariat, Madam Nanette Thomas recommended for the police to stop assigning personnel that have not serve the institution for more than five years to a traffic division. She said this is because officers that have serve below five years lack the experience to control traffic affairs and are not mindful of the implicit cost of putting up negative morals while dealing with the public. She also expressed concern over the lack of adequate equipments the police complained is affecting them to do their work properly. Madam Thomas encouraged the officers to manage with what they have now and promised that the ABC Secretariat will forward their complaints to the right authorities.

In his contribution towards the problems within the transport sector the Executive Director of ABC Secretariat, Dr. Ivan Ajibola Thomas called on the players to realize the importance of transportation to national development. He called on them to behave properly that their services can be affordable and safe.

By Momoja Lappia
Day2: March 16, 2012

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