It was a fine Monday afternoon and I wanted to take a drive through town given the serene weather as I had proceeded on a 14-day mandatory self-isolation as a result of exposure to the deadly Covid-19. Coincidentally, a friend had called to meet him at Atomic Junction to accompany him run an errand in town.
If you know Atomic Junction – on the N4 – that well, there are two bus stops – Atomic First and Atomic Second depending on your direction on that stretch. In my friend’s case, since he was coming from Madina and I was coming from the Haatso direction, I would definitely pick him from Atomic Second.
As I was getting close, I had to call this friend to confirm if he had gotten to the bus stop so I don’t wait there that long. Luckily, he said he was at the bus stop and I can pick him. Knowing how the commercial drivers, due to the rush to pick passengers coming from Haatso, park at the tip of the bus stop close to the exit of the roundabout, I decided to drive to the far end of it, almost at the base of the Interchange, albeit within the bus stop curb.
When I got there, I immediately called my friend on phone and, having seen my car park at the curb, he said he was walking to me and had already seen me. Well, adrift of the commercial vehicles, popularly known as trotros, a mini-bus full of local authority task forcers just pulled up in front of me and went straight to my tyre with a clamp.
I suspected they may have thought I was offering one of these online ride-hailing services. So, I immediately told them, I am not an Uber driver, neither am I a Bolt driver but picking a friend who was walking to my car. I had to introduce myself and let them know my profession and the media firm I work for. For confirmation, I asked them to check the sticker on my windscreen. It was here that I witnessed at first hand abuse of power and unwanton arrest of many unsuspecting drivers.
I knew they wanted to let go but I had taken pictures of them and that may have provoked one of them. He just jumped into the front seat of my car and said I should drive to the Council – La-Nkwantanang Municipal Assembly. Incidentally, this was going to be my first brush with the law, having started driving in the capital for half a decade. I knew I had not fallen foul of the law because the maximum waiting period at a bus stop was 3 minutes and even in my case I had just parked, not even turned off the ignition let alone gotten out of the car to be charged with long waiting. My friend was well in sight so I was just waiting for him to join me so we can go. But the men insisted I had fallen on the wrong side of the law.
Fast-forward to the Assembly, situated inside the Madina market, I had to meander my way through hawkers, who were briskly selling on the curbs, to the enclosed ‘Council’ only to find hundreds of cars parked, also in apparent breach of road traffic regulations.
On the way to the ‘Council’ and in my interaction with the officer, my friend in the back seat, he had told me they are boys of the Greater Accra Region Minister, the indefatigable Henry Quartey, Member of Parliament for Ayawaso Central Constituency, and the immediate past Deputy National Security Minister. I have admired the work he has done since assuming the reins as regional minister, particularly clearing Madina of the many hawkers and Agbogbloshie, in particular, of the onion sellers, a feat none of his predecessors had had the effrontery to achieve. The only crevice I see in his armour is the occupation of the thoroughfare at Tiptoe Lane, in his constituency, by hawkers of all kinds. But that is for another time.
I wanted to know the officer in charge so I could explain to him how his men had accosted me wrongly at Atomic Junction.
Luckily, I was introduced to Ebenezer Asafo-Adjei. He was busily inspecting cars parked in the yard and issuing instructions left-right-center, and not giving me the attention I needed. He came along as a demigod as drivers pleaded with him.
One driver, Wisdom Fiakofi, told me he was just picking a market woman in front of Ken City when a taskforce member arrested him. He said the woman had wares seated at a corner so had only asked him, a taxi driver, to help carry the stuff into his car’s boot.
Another driver, Evans Appiah, said he was picking a woman – who stopped him while in trotro – from Atomic Junction. He said while waiting for the woman to get down from the trotro into his taxi, the officers clamped his car.
Another, Kelly, said his car had a problem and was jerking on the road. But in an attempt to stop at the curb, these men clamped his car.
A man who was ushered in while I was leaving had a 37 Military Hospital ID card on. A woman whispered he was a medical doctor and had been brought there and was condemning the members of the task force for bringing such a person there when he was supposed to be in the ward to save lives.
Look, we all agree that the laws must work! But not when it is misapplied and abused.
The scene I witnessed at La Nkwantanang Madina Assembly on Monday, August 30, 2021 smacked of deliberate move to extort monies from innocent motorists.
There is the Municipal Guard Office, where all the illicit business takes place. Each driver that gets in there, under the supervision of Ebenezer Asafo-Adjei, is made to cough up GH¢150 for offences only they interpret.
I was shocked when he argued out that I had flouted the road regulations because I was waiting where my car was clamped! Really?! “Were you there?” I asked him. “Don’t depend on second-hand information,” I advised. I asked him to have rather had one of the members of the task force present to argue me out rather than him who was relying on hearsay to accost me.
The exchanges just opened my horizon to the abuse by the officers while I am always in the office.
Some drivers had to kneel to beg this demigod, to no avail, while others, after payment, rained curses on the uniformed officers.
Anyway, how I got out? It took the intervention of a few senior officers at the Assembly – after I place a few calls – to be let go. But my rounds were truncated and my time wasted for nothing.
I am a son of a trotro driver. I have heard stories of task force members hounding innocent drivers. They have been hearsay to me but Monday’s episode has ushered me into becoming a voice for the voiceless.
‘Let’s Make G/Accra Work’! But not with this abuse of power and thuggery in some cases!
‘I Need You, You Need Me’! That’s how it should be. I am happy with the work Henry Quartey is doing but if this is how his ‘boys’ will go about enforcing the by-laws, then everything will come crumbling down! A word to a wise, it’s enough!
By Emmanuel Kwame Amoh
The writer is the Editor-In-Chief for 3news.com.
Editor’s Note: Views expressed in this article are solely his and do not represent his employer, Media General.