With enormous sufferings of commuters across the Municipality of Freetown for public transportation, to move from one point to the other, clearly exposes the deliberate refusal of the governing Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) administration to provide public transport facilities for the masses.
The untold sufferings of commuters for public transports has come barely three years on, but government’s line ministry, Ministry of Transport and Aviation seems to be ignorant about it, as if users of public transport are not tax payers at all.
Rather, the former Minister of Transport and Aviation, Edward Hinga Sandi when asked how his ministry intends to solve the problem said if government procure buses they will run at lost, failing to note that government is not a profit making body to provide citizens with the necessary social services. Don’t ask why Sandi was rudely replaced by Kabineh Kallon who is also hardly doing anything meaningful to address the problems associated with lack of public transport.
He is also quoted to have said on a state broadcaster interview, that government will not waste moneys on busses for public transport. Such attitude toward suffering commuters depicts government’s wickedness toward the public, whose taxpayers’ moneys are being used to pay workers including those in the Ministry of Transport and Aviation.
People travelling across the city and its surrounding communities are always troubled by high fares imposed on them by “kush” tramadol and alcohol intoxicated commercial motorists, as drivers always ask for more than the official fares for distances announced by the line ministry. Left with no alternative, most people pay and they are most times dropped half ways along their intended destinations all under the ‘watchful’ eyes of Sierra Leone Police traffic and the Sierra Leone Roads Safety Corps personnel.
Whenever passengers try to contend these, drivers and their conductors posed fight against the vulnerable people. This is not good for the safety of commuters especially in the presence of the police and SLRSA workers who are deployed on the road to enforce the laws, though they too are now preoccupied with self- satisfaction activities. Is this what the authorities meant when they promised this nation of restoring discipline in the country? We ask to raise a very legitimate concern and vividly reflect our attentions back to the 2018 presidential and general election campaign promises made by President Julius Maada Bio.
President Bio among dozens of his campaign promises was to restore discipline, the provision of social services including “efficient” to the people of Sierra Leone. The deliberate refusal by government and president Bio to honour these commitments sounds very much worrisome. But for the sake of the failure of the public sector actor to provide transport for commuters, we must leave the issue of indiscipline for another discussion even though it is equally important to the fabric of the society, whiles we take a critical look at the willful suffering being imposed on the people by government and the line Ministry of Transport and Aviation. That in itself is a systemic failure by the ruling SLPP.
Moving out and about at public transport terminals across Freetown and its surroundings, this reporter took time to talk to scores of commuters who expressed mixed feeling about government’s failures to provide them with efficient public transport facilities.
In at Mountain Rural, in the Western Rural District, this reporter engaged Melrose Fatmata Melvina George at the Regent Lorry Park on how is she personally copping with daily troubles getting transport to her places of work and businesses, she has these to say; “believe me by brother except if you want to give a blind eye to what we are going through, but we are completely deprived of public transport facilities due to failure of the government agency charged with the task to make it available for us.
This situation has existed for a very long time now close to three years and we expected many reforms, but to our dismay we are still suffering more than even before now. We now pay more than we have ever paid as transport fares, this is a mere change for the worse not the better. For Madam George all her daily spending goes to transportation and therefore urged government to meet promises made by President Bio to provide transportation to the people to end commuters’ sufferings for public transportation.
At Five-Five, he also spoke to several commuters one of whom was Abdul Karim Sillah, a petty trader who told Forum Newspaper that the general economic situation is not favourable for them who trade in minor goods. He said transport fares in general are causing headaches for them; especially when they want to travel to Freetown to purchase goods, adding that they are ask by drivers to pay three to four times more than the normal fares, and to make matters worse, they are always left half ways off their destinations.
At Last Station, Calaba Town in the East of Freetown, where there are always long queues of commuters, another woman this time a university student rushing to catch up with lectures at Fourah Bay College University of Sierra Leone said; it is a usual problem for them residing in the east of Freetown and for others across the city. We are not supposed to be troubling ourselves for public transport, because there should be adequate provision of such facilities by the Ministry of Transport and Aviation.
Imagine, as a nation we don’t have sea and air transport facilities, and therefore, we must be well placed to meet the demands for a public transportation for commuters across the country if not Freetown and other major cities. Not too long ago, there were so many town and city service shuttles that were plying across Freetown, but I sometimes wonder why the sudden disappearances of the busses amid a suffering like this. Somebody or a set of service providers are seated somewhere at the line ministry and in the government who are not doing their jobs, but when one speaks loud about these issues, some people will see you as someone politicizing issues. So for me this kind of sad plight of commuters is not impressive at all. And government must make the needful and timely intervention now to save us from fighting for public transports.
Like Ms Kamara, all other commuters this writer interacted with on their encounters with drivers and conductors, share similar sentiments, on perpetual sufferings for public transport. But for Gibrila Thoronka at Up Gun also in the East of Freetown, refused to share his views with Forum on the grounds that people have been interviewed by the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation, African Young Voices Television and Radio, Star TV and Radio and so many other media houses, yet nothing has so far been done by government and the Ministry of Transport and Aviation to address the perennial problem of public transport constraints.
By Forum News Analyst