African News

Mr. President, Okada Curfew is Causing Hardship

By  | 12 September 2014 at 07:30 | 2952 views

President Koroma’s immense and timely efforts in containing the Ebola outbreak
has been widely appreciated in the country as many lives have been saved, although
the Okada ( commercial motorbikes) curfew has caused untold hardship to
commuters especially those residing at Wellington and beyond.

The 7.00 AM to 7:00PM curfew was imposed on Okadas in the city was as a result of
suspicion that they were transporting persons suspected of being infected with
Ebola into the city or to some destinations. Many people have now however
observed that contrary to the suspicion that was cast on the okada riders,
it is taxi cabs that have been found to be a better means of transporting such
persons, if that is the case at all, within the city, because okadas are not a
safe means of transporting people who are seriously ill. The weak conditions of ebola patients coupled with the speeding on the highways or the rugged side routes are enough
to make a person collapse or finally give up the ghost by the time they arrive at their destinations.

In such instances sick persons therefore find taxi cabs to be very convenient to
commute as was evidenced recently when a taxi driver transported an Ebola
patient to a hospital in the east of the city and deposited the person not
knowing that witnesses took his registration number as he drove away. The person died a few few minutes later and the police were alerted. By the time the taxi and its driver arrived at K-Step or Calaba Town Police Station, he was apprehended. This is a clear indication of which of the means of transportation is convenient for a sick person to travel in the capital and regional capitals today.

The question we need to ask, with all due respect is , how many sick persons
could withstand the rigours of a bike either on the highway or on a rugged side route?

The commercial vehicles on the other hand have found out that the early
retirement of okada riders from the highway leaves passengers at their mercy.
They devise ways and means to get workers and traders stranded in the evening so
that they extort more money from them or just refuse to take them to the right
destination. Sometimes they do it with impunity and tell commuters to tell
government to buy buses. Unfortunately many of the commercial vehicles are owned
by senior police officers, so law enforcement on drivers is very poor in
Freetown. With his kind of disposition from lawless drivers, the curfew has now
brought untold hardship on commuters who wish to join their families early after
work but could not do so because of hassles they undergo.

The current order on drivers to reduce the number of passengers they carry per each row of seats by one passenger has not been adhered to. What used to happen was that drivers licensed their vehicles to carry an excessive number of passengers more than the usual capacity.

They have been enjoying this illegitimate right for years and now they claim right over the excess passengers because they were licensed to carry such numbers. So, you see the danger of appropriating illegitimate acts? There have been sensitization exercises to
enlighten them that cramming passengers in vehicles is dangerous as it creates a
conducive atmosphere for the virus to be spread through close contact, but it
seems to be falling on deaf ears.

Every day after 5:00PM, which is the normal time for people to leave work and
travel home (rush hour), bus drivers’ attitude would change and they would refuse to
take passengers to the right destinations. Many of them would start loading
passengers for Kissy when their destination should have been Calaba Town or
Wellington. Many people get stranded till midnight before they could arrive home
and would start thinking of how they would commute in the morning.

Our problem in Sierra Leone is that many of the public figures drive jeeps and live in
heaven, so, they do not know how the common man feels and how he copes with
life. When they get closer to the president they feed him with usually false and self-serving information. The hope now is that since buses in the east of the capital are stopping half way and disobeying the order that they should reduce the number of passengers carried
per seat, the okada curfew should be extended to 10:00PM so that those who are
dropped half way would continue their journey home by hiring okadas. This brings to mind something from which we need to learn a lesson.

During the civil war President Kabbah was making frantic efforts to bring to an end the fighting but as the rebels outsmarted government and tried to increase their attacks many of the people close to the then president officially or not used the opportunity of meeting with him to unrealistically influence his mind from what they get from
bystanders and mischief makers. Some of the information they gave him had a
semblance of truth but was not true; if you dared say so you would be
branded as a collaborator (the easiest way to deal with critics at the time).

Today, it is Pa Koroma that is on the driver’s seat. The hope is that as Pa
Koroma is preparing to exit in 2018, he should ensure that people remember him with
appreciation and perceive a difference between him and his predecessors, many
of whom ended as lonely souls in their last days. He should be pragmatic and firm and continue to make surprise visits all over the place when he can afford the time. What about driving form Goderich to Calaba town after 5pm to see how the taxi lords are treating passengers?

The President should seriously think of the plight of the sufferers in the east of Freetown and shift the Okada curfew to 10:00PM. May God bless him!