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11.10.2005 Regional News

Drivers accuse Assin-Fosu Police of extortion

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Takoradi, Oct. 11, GNA - Drivers plying Takoradi-Kumasi and Takoradi-Obuasi roads have appealed to the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to discipline police personnel on duty at the Assin-Fosu barrier being accused of "harassment and extortion". They commended the police for the strict enforcement of traffic regulations and pledged to cooperate with the police to ensure safety on the roads but regarded the conduct of police personnel at the barrier as "counter productive".

Mr. Kwadwo Amoako, Spokesman for the drivers told the Ghana News Agency in Takoradi on Tuesday that activities of police personnel at the Assin-Fosu barrier showed that "they are only up to line their pockets" and not to enforce traffic laws and regulations. He alleged that the police personnel demanded not less than 300,000 cedis for minor defects on a vehicle some of which occurred during the journey.

These, Mr. Amoako said included small crack on the windscreen or a defective bulb in the rear lights. "They will immediately seize your licence and bargain with you, starting from 500,000 cedis and the licence given back to you after paying the money without being issued with a receipt," He added. He said drivers from Cape-Coast and Mankessim who travel through Assin-Fosu to other parts of the Central and Ashanti Regions also complained about the behaviour of the police personnel at the barrier.

Mr. Amoako said most of the drivers had their licences seized for alleged non-payment of Vehicle Income Tax. He explained that September 30, was the end of the third quarter and drivers were expected to pay the tax for the next quarter from October 1.

Mr Amoako said drivers who plied the route on September 30 and October 1, had their licences seized by the Assin-Fosu police who would not accept any explanation even though they knew that October 1, being a Saturday was not a working day.

He alleged that those who paid various sums of monies to the police were later given back their licences adding "we will advice ourselves if this naked cheating continues".

Some executive members of the Ghana Private Road Transport Union (GPRTU) the GNA contacted at Takoradi, confirmed that most of the drivers had reported the incidents to them and were finding solution to the problem.

Reacting to the allegations, the Central Regional Police Commander, Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Rose Bio Atinga told the GNA on telephone that "wild allegations" were being made by some drivers to get the police off the roads.

She said any driver who had a proven case of extortion or harassment should not hesitate to report to her office for redress. ASP Atinga said the allegations against the police could not be true, because it was the drivers who tried to bribe police personnel for offences committed.

"Only last week a driver tried to bribe me with two thousand cedis, isn't that amusing for them to turn round to accuse us of extortion?" she queried, and insisted that the police had the right to be on the road to ensure sanity and discipline.

ASP Atinga said there were a lot of rickety vehicles on the roads, some drivers had no licence, adding "the strict enforcement of traffic regulations was for the good of all."