It was just another busy day for my husband as he left home to run errands in town. He had barely been gone for 3 hours when my phone rang. He was so calm and collected when he said, ' I have been arrested for expiry of the car insurance. I am going to the police station with the policeman.' Snap. But I am pretty sure a stronger expletive came out of my mouth.
Policeman arrests me because insurance expired. I ask him let's go to the station and he's trying to waste my time. Bribe from me? Nah bruh!— Edem Kumodzi (@edemkumodzi) August 2, 2017
I could barely focus on the rest of the work ahead of me and the hunger pangs I had felt earlier just dropped into a black hole. I have always been careful and dutiful in renewing the car insurance and I just couldn't believe time had flown by so quickly which had now led to this. Kmt.
Edem called me again to say that the policeman was being slow and didn't want to get out of the car when they arrived at the police station. I said, yeah he's wants you to give him 'something' so he lets you go. 'I WILL NOT PAY!' he said adamantly. Good on you I silently thought to myself but then again I knew how he was about to be frustrated by the police for failing to give 'something' small.
At the Airport Police Station, the policewoman behind the counter called him and told him he was being processed for court. Edem acquiesced. A few people in the station looked up in surprise at him. The policewoman who obviously couldn't believe her ears repeated herself. 'Ok!' he said again. Processing him for court took another hour but my husband calmly waited for it to be over.
The system is designed to frustrate you so much that you just give in a bribe your way out. It's really sad.— Edem Kumodzi (@edemkumodzi) August 2, 2017
I called my lawyer friend for his counsel on what happens in instances like this and he said what I was already dreading; they will impound the car. All of a sudden I started thinking of the two meetings I had the next day 😅and how unreliable and almost non-existent Uber is in my area. So I relayed this information to Edem who wasn't surprised. He was told to come the next day at 8am for court. This was going to be fun! I dashed off to the insurance company to get a new license.
We woke up really early to avoid the traffic on the Madina road, walked up the dusty & untarred road. Edem had taken the day off from work so he was more relaxed and looked ready to see this through. I took out my phone and opened the Uber app. By some divine favor there were two Uber cars within five minutes of our location! I booked it fast!
Why is it so awkward and almost fearful to enter a Ghana Police Station? Even if you have a case to report it's as though you are the criminal. I wasn't a criminal but I already felt fearful. We got to the police station 7:45am only to be told that the policeman taking us to court said he will be in at 9am. More fun! So we waited an hour but because we brought our gadgets with us we were able to get some work done.
He came in wiping his mouth with his hands as though he had just finished eating waakye. I asked Edem which court we were going to and he said High Street. Ah okay. How were we going to go there? Via trotro and the policeman will be paying as well. Oh wow!
Here we were walking and crossing the main road from the police station towards the Accra Tema Station bound bus stop and I almost found it funny if not ludicrous. For a first time offender like my husband, surely this wasn't the solution. Yes the law states explicitly that any driver who's insurance cover has expired must be arrested. But the expiration wasn't even up to a month yet? That was me in my thoughts.
As we waited at the stop, a Tema station trotro pulled up and we jumped in. Man! Been forever since I took a trotro. The last time I did was about four years ago when I slipped and fell whilst getting out of a trotro. Never again until this day.
We alighted at Tema Station and walked towards National Arts & Culture Center. I was confused..what court is this again? Or we are being led to some dangerous corner bi? so disconcerting. We passed through several stalls which took us to the back of the center and I was pretty intrigued to see see wooden shacks and mini slums growing at the back of the cultural center.
Then we finally saw the court. sItauated right behind the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum. Several people stood nearby waiting for their cases to be called whilst others looked so desponsdent as though pronounced guilty already.
We sat on a bench outside the motor court as directed by our friendly policeman. He then found a higher ranking officer who glanced through our court case papers and I could almost read his face as he seemed to ask the policeman what this case was doing here. Like some lambasting was going on eh 😂.
The court house was not filled to capacity and the people in there looked to be middle-aged to senior citizens. It was only much later that Edem told me that most people were there to get their tenants evicted. The judge arose or went on some break of sorts so we waited some more.
So this is what most Ghanaians fear and end up paying bribes to policemen? The waiting process? So because the system itself is frustrating, the police take advantage and threaten us with court to force us to pay bribe.
Unless it's a serious offence I bet they won't be arresting us by heart because they are not equipped to process charges at scale.— Edem Kumodzi (@edemkumodzi) August 3, 2017
What I keep wondering is this: what if all of us started refusing to pay bribes and went through this process?— Edem Kumodzi (@edemkumodzi) August 3, 2017
Unfortunately I had to run off to a meeting I was already late for but was keeping tabs via Telegram. I had a meeting with my Uncle who wasn't sympathetic one bit and told us to be ready to pay a penalty of about GHC500. No chill at all.
It was finally his turn.
My charge was read as failure to renew insurance policy since July 08th. Judge asked if that's up to one month. Police officer said no.— Edem Kumodzi (@edemkumodzi) August 3, 2017
After a few minutes the judge said he's heard the charge but however there was no evidence that I have refused to renew my license.— Edem Kumodzi (@edemkumodzi) August 3, 2017
Edem asked permission to speak.
In tthe meantime my car would be impounded. So I asked for permission to speak and said: My Lord, I have the new insurance policy right here— Edem Kumodzi (@edemkumodzi) August 3, 2017
The judge asked why he was there in the first place
Then he asked "so what are you doing here? You should have showed that at the police station"— Edem Kumodzi (@edemkumodzi) August 3, 2017
I replied: I tried to show them but they insisted I still come to court because i have already been processed.— Edem Kumodzi (@edemkumodzi) August 3, 2017
And indeed had the policeman listened, we wouldn't be in this place. But noo! After confirming that the new license was valid my husband was asked to go pick the car.
Officer confirmed that it was valid and the judge told me I'm free to go and pick my car.— Edem Kumodzi (@edemkumodzi) August 3, 2017
Frustrations upon frustrations but I ended up paying nothing. This is how it should be done. The end.— Edem Kumodzi (@edemkumodzi) August 3, 2017
Meanwhile, reactions to his experience was being shared by his followers.
Imagine if we all stopped paying bribe and went through this process. Like the police ppl themselves would stop stopping us unnecessarily— Josie Ngminvielu (@kuu_ire) August 3, 2017
Well done man. We shouldn’t be intimidated by the police when we’re right. They’re always ripping us off with the law.— Tsatsu (@tsa_tsu) August 3, 2017
He shared his lessons from the eventful experience with me,
1. Better to pay than be corrupt.
I know this sounds cliché but I actually believe in our judicial system. If I had been fined for this charge I would have happily paid.— Edem Kumodzi (@edemkumodzi) August 3, 2017
2. Always know your rights. Speak to your lawyer or your lawyer friend to share counsel.
3. Expect to be frustrated. I took the whole day off to handle this incident. Clear your calendar. Let your boss know what happened
4. Organisations should implement a no-bribery policy which translates into employees taking emergency day-off to go to court and sort out their issues.
I can understand why people would. If you have a typical 9-5 job and this happens to you, your employer may not give you a free pass.— Edem Kumodzi (@edemkumodzi) August 3, 2017
5. Always renew your insurance policy at the right time 😂😂😂.
I had to go back to my insurance company and reminded them to send me reminders when the policy was near expiration. That was quite an experience but nothing scary about it especially when you know your rights. I couldn't help but remark earlier to Edem ( when we were waiting for the policeman to show up) about the behaviour of citizens on reaching a police station. It's almost a deference, worshipping attitude. No wonder we are also talked to by heart sometimes by the police as though we the victims are criminals. Well, I hope by this our experience we will be bolder and more confident in refusing to bribe Ghana Police. The corruption in this country must stop and it must stop with us paying what we shouldn't pay. If we have to pay, it has to go into the Judiciary system's coffers not into the pocket of a policeman. Ghana police all due respect, y3n ara asaase ne. Why frustrate those who want to do the right thing? Eno na men tease no! I can't think far!
What about you? Have you ever had this experience with the police before? Did you pay or not 😋? What made you pay though?