A couple of days ago, I had the privilege of traveling to Tamale with the intercity STC bus. I first made the journey from Accra to Kumasi before I bought another ticket to continue the journey from Kumasi to Tamale. This means that I used two different tickets and two different buses for that matter.
It is commendable that the ticket I purchased from Kumasi to Tamale had some specific details such as reporting time, name of passenger, age, gender, fare, seat number, date of booking, travel date, departure time, from and to. And more commendable is the fact that the service providers even take contacts of people they could contact in the event of any eventuality.
Moreso, attached to each ticket with the above described details, is another piece of paper described as the Boarding Pass. This is a colourful rectangular paper which has at the front page flags of some West African countries, images of two of the buses or coaches, destination of the services they provide and some booking details.
At the back of that colourful paper are 14 provisions under the heading: "INTERCITY STC COACHES CONDITIONS OF CARRIAGE". I did not read those conditions before I got to Kumasi but I decided to read whileat the bus terminal at Adum, Kumasi waiting for the departure time for Tamale.As I read the conditions, I observed that they were provisions which largely apply to luggage and f ticketing.
However, condition number nine has something different. It stipulates that: "No person shall travel in any of the company's vehicles if that person has in his/her possession any of the following articles, that is to say, a loaded fire-arm, any offensive weapon or instrument, any contraband goods including drugs, any alcohol in any container other than mechanically sealed ones, any article likely to communicate infectious or contagious disease, uncustomed goods, any livestock". This condition gave me a concern to write this piece. This is because this provision was intended for the protection and preservation of passengers' lives, yet no searches were conducted either before boarding the bus in Accra, or while on the bus to Kumasi. Following this search fiasco from Accra to Kumasi, I was thinking that the story would be different when departing from Kumasi to Tamale. Again, and to my astonishment, nothing of that sort would happen.
Folks, you and I know that, apart from livestock which obviously cannot be hidden from the service providers at the bus terminal, all the other articles described above could easily be hidden from their sight. The possibility of one carrying any dangerous or offensive weapon on the journey without being caught is very high given the observation I made. This gave me some security concerns to mull over.
And as if that was not enough, another security issue of concern greeted me while on board. Obviously, the departure time from Kumasi to Tamale stated on the ticket was 3p.m and at that time, everybody was on board comfortably waiting for departure. After 20 minutes of waiting, not even the ignition of the bus was turned on let alone any of the six tyres to turn. Obviously, some passengers would start murmuring. Four minutes later, the driver would introduce himself to us and further inform us that indeed we would have departed at 3p.m as indicated on our boarding receipts. However, the delay was because of the police escort who was joining us for the journey and that as soon as he joined the bus we would depart. Not long after, we saw the supposed escort board the bus with a rifle in his hand, greet us and take his seat. We then departed soon after.
Why is this also a concern to me? Following the information that we were waiting for a police escort, I was waiting to see him. Undoubtedly, that information of police presence on the bus would have cheered those who might have harboured in their heart any fear of any attacks whatsoever on the way. Beyond that, I am not a security expert but I dared to do some analysis of that information. In doing so, I questioned myself whether in as much as the driver wanted to be honest and truthful to us, for security reasons, was it necessary he told us specifically who we were waiting for? Already, nobody was searched to know the content of what we all had as luggage for the journey. So, in the event that there was any armed robbers or criminally-minded people also on board who would want to perpetrate any evil, having known that there was a police escort, seen him and where he had sat, would they not easily attack and over power this police office first and then deal with the rest of us?
Though we had a safe journey by grace, I felt the information about the police escort was unnecessary since it had the tendency to endanger the life of the police should there be any criminals on board.
Additionally, I think there is the need for long distance bus services providers to conduct searches on travellers to ascertain the content of their luggage as they travel. This has the tendency to reduce the movement of fire-arms and other dangerous articles (which are used for all sort of crime) from one point to another. I know it is not everybody who would side with me but if you have nothing dangerous on you, why the worry? We live in a wicked world whereeconomic hardships, unemployment, get-rich-quick attitude and other factors have driven many people to engaging in all kind of practices that have become inimical and detrimental to society, and if serious searches at bus terminals and on highways are conducted and with regularity, it would help to at least minimise the level of crime in our society. Where one may think manual searches can be embarrassing, scanners at the entrance of the buses can be considered for that. Where there is a will, it is said, there is a way.
The provision above referred is important but that is if it is not provided for the sake of it.
Let us walk the talk.
Thank you so much for the space provided.
(Lecturer and Industrial Relations Officer
BlueCrest College, Ghana)