Police chief drops top traffic officers

The Inspector General of Police (IGP), Martins OkothOchola, has made changes in the traffic directorate, recalling top regional and district traffic officers. In an internal memo addressed to all unit commanders, which UGANDANZ has seen, Ochola has directed 10 senior police officers to stop conducting traffic work until further notice.

Those dropped are Superintendent of Police Emmanuel Okumu Tuker, the traffic commander of Soroti; Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Toll Mukembo, the traffic commander of Lira and ASP Denis Kiwanuka, the traffic commander of Mbale. Others are; ASP Joel Dongo, the traffic commander of Tororo; ASP Julius Luyima, the traffic commander of Masindi; ASP Richard Lwakirenzi, the traffic commander of Mubende; ASP Trude Nampijja, the traffic commander of Kigezi region; ASP Namugga the traffic commander of Busoga North region; C/ ASP Patrick Nyeko Kilama, the traffic commander of Mukono and C/ASP Madrio Namaya Kisubi, the traffic commander of Butebo-Kasese.

“The following officers are reverted from the directorate of traffic and road safety to general duty. They are directed to report to the director of human resource administration for further instructions,” Ochola noted in his memo.

The memo is also addressed to the district Police commanders of Lira, Mukono, Tororo, Masindi, Mubende, Mbale, Kasese and the regional Police commanders in North Kyoga, Busoga, Elgon, Bukedi and Kigezi regions. The directorate of human resource has also been notified about the removing of the traffic officers. The traffic and road safety spokesperson, Charles Ssebambulidde, yesterday confirmed the changes in an interview with New Vision.

Corruption, extortion

The removing of these top traffic officers has come at a time when the traffic police is in the spotlight over allegations of extortion and corruption. In his address to the nation on the fight against corruption in December last year, President Yoweri Museveni said he had information that traffic officers were extorting money from motorists.

Museveni, who urged the traffic cops to reform, also tasked the newly created Anti-Corruption Unit at State House, which is headed by Lt Col Edith Nakalema, with fighting the vice. Police insiders have told UGANDANZ that several operations to arrest these traffic officers have been conducted in Kampala and upcountry and the arrested cops are currently being detained at Nateete Police Station.

Before the festive season, traffic officers were also temporarily ordered off the highways and in Kampala Metropolitan Police area. The traffic officers that remained were those in charge of traffic jam control. In a message that was issued to all traffic officers, the Director of Traffic and Road Safety, Dr Steven Kasiima, said:

“All personnel must be in office as per the programme, ready to respond to incidents and only be on the road while conducting operations sanctioned by Police headquarters and supervised physically by the district police commanders, regional traffic officers and officers-in-charge.”

Police officers respond

However, in separate interviews, traffic officers, who preferred anonymity, said they have roundly blamed their bosses for always relying on baseless allegations to pin them, yet most of traffic offenders connive with highly-placed officials to break the law.

“Sometimes when we impound vehicles that are not roadworthy, the owners call our bosses to evade the law. Sometimes we are arrested for being in possession of money, yet it is ours,” an officer said.

 Recently, a minister was cautioned by a traffic officer in Mukono for overtaking along a black spot, but the minister took offence and instead warned the traffic officer never to interfere with high-profile motorcades. A recent Transparency International Survey and the East African Bribery index ranked the police, Judiciary and lands ministry as one of the most corrupt sectors

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Lukwago Joseph grew up in a newspaper family, and rumor has it that instead of playing the guitar in his infancy, his parents put a reporter’s notebook and a pen next to him shortly after he turned born eight years. Before becoming editor of UGANDANZ, Lukwago was a parliament news editor for WBS TV. He joined UGANDANZ in July 2018, A few months after the company launched. Lukwago also spent five years as a freelance reporter, where he covered reporting for the highest bidder, intelligence, foreign policy, and Ugandan police. Lukwago graduated from Makerere University in 2008 with a B.A. in Journalism and worked on his college newspaper.