LETTERS: Extortion rife at traffic police roadblocks
Wednesday January 30, 2019 will remain memorable to me. On this day, I had a series of nasty encounters with some phony traffic police officers who took advantage to milk my pockets dry. But again what other options did I have? None. I was on my way to Kitale from Nairobi in the company of my family. I often use this route. Unlike before, this day I was carrying a glass table on the rear seat.Unknown to me, the consignment would subject me to endless scrutiny along the way.On Likoni Road an officer would demand Sh200 in exchange for man-oeuvre tips on how to beat procedural hurdles along the way. I snubbed the offer. He looked dejected and almost made me have a second thought.He couldn’t hide his disappointment that even upon handing back my driving licence he did so with reservations, that private car owners have a tendency of despising traffic officers.Reality would dawn on me along the Southern Bypass. First, at the Karen drop off point roadblock and second at the Kikuyu drop off point. In these two instances, I had to part with Sh100 to be allowed to continue.The trend would recur over and over again in every other police road block except for Molo. Uniquely, the officers stationed at this mounting only enquired on our wellbeing before allowing us to proceed.The Eldoret-Raiply mounting was the final one en-route to Kitale. It was well past 11 p.m. A number of private cars were by the roadside. I would also join the queue. Reason; flouting the Traffic Act on fog and LED lights.
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For this offence, the officer asked for Sh1,000 to indulge me. That was too much at a single roadblock. I wouldn’t agree with it. I was then referred to the officer in charge only to realise that I had fallen prey to an extortion racket.The Traffic Act: Cap 403 subsection 23 elaborates on car lights guidelines. However, this section is silent on other inbuilt lightings. There lies a grey area. Having seized my driving licence, car keys and insurance cover sticker I could only sing on their terms. ‘You will be booked to appear in court’ I ‘was told.Before then, I was to produce Sh5,000 cash bail. There was an officer on standby to handle bail issues. Upon advancing the money, ultimately, a receipt ought to be issued. This was not the case. Rather, the officer vanished only to resurface 10 minutes later minus receipts.Then, the usual trailing would ensue, one officer with five motorists by his side all trying to catch his attention for answers but none was forthcoming.In the midst of this confusion, driving licences, insurance cover stickers and car keys got misplaced. An hour later and with no solution in sight, it finally dawned on us that it was business unusual.Bottom line, there are a number of suspect roadblocks that are mounted to serve selfish interests and not for the general public good. Coincidentally, inadequacy in policy framework and guidelines on roadblock mounting facilitates or sanctions such acts.The Traffic Act is clear on procedures of mounting roadblocks along public roads. Non-adherence to the guidelines is fodder for on-road extortionists in uniforms.