Reports reaching The Al-Hajj suggests that the much touted professionalism and integrity associated with the Ghana Police Service is after all being undermined by a few bad nuts in the service who are alleged to have resorted to naked extortion of monies from drivers and vehicle owners who ply the Buipe-Kintampo-Techiman stretch of the Kumasi-Tamale Highway.
This unfortunate development comes in the wake of rampant highway robberies that have hit the country recently, necessitating the institution of intensified escort of passenger and cargo vehicles over that stretch of the northern road corridor to curb the incidence of such heinous crimes.
Whiles the police administration struggles to inject some sanity into the service, information reaching The Al-Hajj allege that certain unscrupulous escort police personnel assigned escort duties have, in concert with colleagues on duty at check-points, devised a subtle means of extorting monies from drivers.
According to a source, police escort vehicles stationed at the Buipe end of the Corridor through Kintampo to the Techiman end as a security measure to avoid the possibility of robbers attacking vehicles.
On arrival at the Techiman end, the trip is reversed by the escort vehicle leading another convoy of northward bound vehicles to the Buipe end of the stretch.
It is alleged that drivers being escorted by the police were left half-way on the stretch giving the impression that their task is completed while unsuspecting drivers continue with their journey only to be held at check-points by other set of policemen for the reason that they have travelled unaccompanied by police escort. This according to our source is said to be a security breach.
Police personnel at the check-point it is alleged then will threaten the drivers with sanctions and in so doing delay the drivers to the extent that they are presented with no alternative than to bribe the police to secure early passage.
Our source alleges that the least amount of money doled out to the police illegally in such circumstances is GHC20.00 (Twenty Ghana Cedis) before drivers are released to continue their respective journeys.
According to the source, drivers who bear the brunt of this dastardly act are usually those in the mini-buses, long distance haulage trucks and vehicles with provisional registration plates.
The source indicated that policemen who are alleged to be perpetrators of these acts hardly detain large cross-country buses, knowing very well that for the same security reasons armed plain-clothed police and/ or soldiers are posted on these long distance buses to counteract any possible attempt by armed bandits to attack travelers.
Information The Al-Hajj received further alleges that once the escort teams terminate their uncompleted escort schedule, they communicate with colleagues at the next barrier or check-points informing them of the approaching convoy so as to facilitate their nefarious deeds and proceeds shared afterwards.
According to the source private cars are usually not bothered because of the likelihood of the occupants being influential and who could easily blow the lid if care is not taken in dealing with that category of vehicles.
There are also complaints regarding the fact that in most instances, not all vehicles in the convoy can keep pace with the escort vehicle resulting in a break in the convoy and rendering the slower moving vehicles left behind and thus prone to attack by armed bandits.
In this connection, according to the source, a spokesperson whom he declined to name has suggested that the escort teams be made up of vanguard and rear escort vehicles manned by armed security personnel to provide back-up security to travelers.
There is also the suggestion that constant independent military-cum-police highway patrol at regular intervals be introduced whilst familiarity and the possible connivance of security personnel and armed bandits to rob unsuspecting people must be seriously investigated.
Meanwhile, incidents of highway robbery along the stretch have lessened apparently due to the vigilance of the police in the two regional commands through which the highway passes.
The Al-Hajj has made many unsuccessful attempts to speak with the Public Affairs Director of the service on the subject.
By Roland Phillips-Addo