If I had the powers of a police officer

Thu, 11 Feb 2016 Source: Vicky Wireko

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If only I had the powers of a police officer, drivers on the streets of the capital would have their freedom to drive in comfort and safety. They would not encounter pestering from motorbike riders in general.

Specifically, they would no longer encounter any nastiness from commercial motorbike riders known as Okada, who, all things being equal, should never have had the impunity to operate in this country.

Okada and its dangers

If I were a police officer, by the powers conferred on me to keep and maintain law and order, I would ensure that Okada riders have no place on our roads. They are lawless and a danger to all road users including pedestrians.

Every day on the streets of Accra one’s blood pressure rises beyond normal watching Okada riders jumping red lights, criss-crossing vehicles at short intervals, scratching or knocking down driving mirrors and speeding off as if those are normal practices.

Road traffic regulation

If you live in some parts of Accra where police visibility is at its best, you would probably cry each day watching Okada and other motorbike riders doing all the wrong things, yet under the watchful eyes of ever-present police officers at traffic intersections.

Incredibly, the last time I checked, Regulation 13 of the Road Traffic Offences Regulation 1974 (LI 952) and Regulation 14 of the same act had not been expunged from our statute books.

Regulation 13 stipulates that no driver or rider shall proceed past traffic light signs when the amber light is showing. Regulation 14 of the same act also states that every driver shall, on approaching a police officer on traffic control duty on any road, give an appropriate signal to him and shall not make a turn or proceed along a road or cross a road until the police officer has signalled for him to do so.

So we have a law backing the arrest and prosecution of these recalcitrant Okada riders? Why then do we look on as they do all the wrong things on the road as if they operate under separate road regulations? Unfortunately, I am not an officer with the power to arrest and so like the police officers on duty each day at the traffic intersections at Zongo Lane, Abbossey Okai/Korle Bu Road and Graphic Road for example, we all watch as impunity rages.

Thankfully, in recent times, it seems some interventions are taking place. During special operations mounted by the police last week Thursday at two traffic intersections in Accra, 122 motorcycle riders were said to have been arrested and their motorbikes impounded for allegedly jumping red lights. The riders were said to include operators of Okada, company despatch riders and individual motor riders.

According to the Daily Graphic’s issue of Friday, February 5, 2016, those arrested were said to have been processed for the motor court.

That is welcome news. But is that all the charge for the Okada riders among them? A search I have done so far confirms that the operation of commercial motorbikes contravenes Part IV, Section 128 of the Road Traffic Regulation 2009. If that is the case, then why would the police not process those arrested last week Thursday also for illegal operation?

Because I am not a police officer, I find it difficult to understand why, though illegal, Okada operations in some parts of the capital, for example, are almost normalised with the police watching on. Anytime I pass through the Zongo Junction traffic intersection near Prudential Bank, there is a visible Okada rank with riders waiting for passengers to board, yet all this is going on a few metres away from a police officer assisting with traffic flow.

Indeed, if I had the powers of a police officer, Okada would have been a thing of the past because I would be backed by the law to flush them out. Even registering them at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) offices would not happen. As it were, however, I am not and will never have those powers. And so we have to endure the pain and live with the menace on our roads.

Our hope would be to organise a night of bliss at the Independence Square and pray for more special police operations to flush them out of the system. That could be our only hope for freedom and safety on our roads.

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Columnist: Vicky Wireko