By Journalist Aruna Turay…
I was almost celebrating that my country’s traffic police division is no more collecting bribes from motorists on the streets of Freetown before I noticed they’ve implemented a new and well modernized strategy to collect bribes from commercial drivers and ‘Okada’ rider plying the streets.
As part of my investigative missions, I decided to deploy myself at the Lumley roundabout where over six traffic police men and four traffic wardens are stationed every day. I was at the point expecting to see one, two or more of these traffic guys collecting bribes from drivers and riders as usual.
But unfortunately for me and which was so bad, I stood there for close to four hours with my secret camera without my eyes catching any of these scenes. All I was seeing is police men giving small cuts of papers which resemble the size of a ticket to the drivers and riders.
This this went on in my presence for a while and I was also almost beginning to celebrate the success of the anti-craft commission (ACC) in getting our police men not to accept bribe, when my second thought urged me to do further investigation on the ticket-like documents that were being given to the driver and riders by the policemen.
I waited and saw a taxi driver collecting his and I stopped him and entered into his taxi. Out of curiosity I asked the gentleman what’s that ticket he was given by the policeman and the poor man responded to me saying: “nar the police traffic boss e number write dae” meaning, it’s the cell phone number of the police traffic boss.
As we proceed, I asked again what is it for and why was it given to him and again the guy responded saying: “Nar e Airtel Money number, man get for sen fifty grand dae”. This means each of those drivers and riders who received similar papers from the policemen in my presence (a number exceeding 18 drivers and rider) will be paying Le50,000 each to the police traffic boss as alleged by the driver.
When I asked for what purpose is the Le50,000, the guy who was almost suspicious of my too many questions and curiosity said: “Papay make we forget normor, nar we dae nar street en nar we bra dem.” And he refused further discussion with me for a while, so I had to pull him over and drop down from his taxi along Wilkinson road.
Again, I entered another taxi back to Lumley and upon our arrival at the same roundabout, our taxi was stopped by one of the officers named S.S. Bangura (as the tagged on his chest reads) and gave our driver the same paper.
I really tried all I could to see the number written on the paper but Officer Bangura noticed my move (‘long troat’) so he fold the paper as if he was selling weed and gave it to the driver. I pretended not to drop down the taxi coz I wanted to see if the driver could open the paper and I see the number but to no avail.
He immediately pushed it into his chest pocket and officer Bangura who apparently prior to our meeting, might have seen me standing there for hours studying their operations, of cause he knows I am a journalist and was up to something so he wisely pretended as if the driver was under arrest. He entered the front seat of the taxi and asked me down saying: “bra this nar last station sir” so I dropped down and went my way.
Fortunately, I succeeded in knowing that the traffic guys are no more collecting bribe from drivers and riders directly but rather, they now use Airtel money. They give their Airtel money numbers to the drivers and riders who are at fault with them and these guys in turn go to any Airtel money agent and pay the illegal fines into the phones of the officers.
Yeah!! Sierra Leoneans are really smart. I was really entertained by this new act and I can’t stop laughing even as I type.