Since the reduction of fuel pump prices from Le 8,500 to Le 7,000, commercial transport operators across Freetown are still reluctant to charge Government stipulated transport fares around the municipality. Several publications and radio broadcasts over the illegal manner in which some commercial operators (taxis, kekehs and okadas) extort exorbitant fares from the public were made for the attention of authorities responsible for regulating transport costs across the country. However, there has been little or no effort to curb the situation. The extortion continues unabated.
Yesterday, Monday 29 June 2020 was another field day for commercial transporters in the east of Freetown where thousands of commuters had to face the harsh reality of artificial scarcity on transportation that left many, who cannot afford to pay what they described as ‘broad daylight robbery’, stranded. Whether it was the morning traffic or unannounced vehicle inspection checks by road traffic authorities, many commercial transporters resorted to their usual habit of stopping halfway and charging Le 3,000 from Shell to Up Gun roundabout and Le 10,000 from Up Gun to PZ. All three modes of transportation (taxi, kekeh and okada) were in unison taking advantage of the heavy traffic to exploit those who had no choice but to meet with their demands.
At the Motor Driver Union office, a representative (name withheld) confessed that the issue is not new, calling it an open challenge the Union and Government have to deal with. He advised Government to be firm when addressing the ugly situation, “or those who cannot afford to pay the extra fare charged and in need of transport service will continue to suffer”. This reporter was not spared, and had to pay Le 3,000 onboard a Nissan Primera taxi, with registration AFQ 022. The driver, in his baseless excuses, retorted that Government did not provide him the vehicle neither did he compell anyone to board his taxi.
Meanwhile, at Up Gun, it was chaos as both civil servants and businesspeople scrambling for transportation to get to the centre of town had no alternative but to part with Le 10,000 or more. Market trader Musu Sesay frowned on the issue she said needs urgent Government action, adding, “When schools re-opens it will be an added burden on parents to give extra transport fare to children.”
By Ade Campbell