The Ebola scourge might be ravaging and almost intractable, but at least it has thrown brand new vistas into how vulnerable our entire national body politic is.
We can do well to learn the bitter lessons. Just this morning, I listened to a radio programme assessing the extent to which Ebola has adversely impacted the Lungi Airport.
Part of why the Ebola scourge caught us with our pants down is because in this country, our laws are ignored left, right and center to such an extent that you doubt its existence. But tell me, what use are laws if they are not going to be enforced. The other year there was the operation ‘WHIP’ which was to clear the streets of hawkers but it miraculously converted itself into operation ‘Push Back’. This is why the almighty ‘Abacha Babes’ are still riding high in the city even with the Ebola threat on gatherings. Did I hear someone say what is good for the goose is good for the gander? Well in reality life is actually what it is and not what it is supposed to be.
August 31, 2014 is the last date we are expected to see right Hand Drive vehicles plying the roads and streets of Sierra Leone.
So come September 1, 2014 no RHD vehicles will be seen anywhere on the roads. You need some background. By the way, where is our eloquent and sweet-tongued Police spokesman? We miss him on the radio stations, it’s been quite a while we have not heard his sweet voice. He was the last but one who boasted on radio several times that they will not only arrest Right Hand Drive vehicles but also Poda-Podas with iron seats that pose danger. Added to this, poda- podas were also to make sure their doors were on the off-side of the road. The Police gentleman’s deadline was actually October 2012 close to the time, the last elections were scheduled. Well, I guess the timing was inappropriate, especially to the then ruling politicians and you know what that means. Well after the 2012 elections, the issue of Right Hand Drive vehicles was brought to the fore. This time round, the pronouncement was done by the Ministry of Transport and Aviation in collaboration with the Road Transport Authority. Some grace period was first given to allow vehicles at the Quay to be cleared after which no more importation.
For Right Hand Vehicles already plying the streets and roads, they were given an almost one-and- a half year grace period during which owners were expected to do the necessary conversion to Left Hand Drive.
Well, the deadline lapses in a couple of days. A few days ago, there was some arguments over a radio station between the SLRTA representatives and those of Right Hand Vehicle owners. The latter were pleading for an extension, while the former stood their ground because they had given enough notice.
Can we just say sometimes anything is possible in Sierra Leone?
Yes Ebola or no Ebola, NEC conducted two paramount chieftaincy elections in Port Loko District. I am sure you know about it. Now let us look at the issue of Right Hand drive vehicles and see whether they have grounds to run and whether the process of stopping them, also falls within the ambit of the laws of Sierra Leone.
The Creoles have the adage: Word nar mot nor to load nar ade. Too bad that a lot of our compatriots go by this, especially Public Office holders. My take on the RHD vehicles is that they should be stopped, although I must say that the Customs, the SLRTA and the Owners, all blundered. First question should be: Why did the right hand drive vehicles pass through customs at the quay in the first place? They never fall from the sky.
Sometimes when some of our authorities go on air, they actually abuse our sense of intelligence. Like Innocent sings: You day up tick, you dae alla tiff?
Simple, if you are really serious about catching a thief, you do not go up the tree first and then shout from there for people to catch the thief. We have witnessed blatant lies over issues that hinge on people’s rights and livelihoods. Come on, if a set of people decide to enter politics and public offices, they are there to serve us especially, as they live on tax payer’s sweat.
They are doing a job for which they are well paid and so they are not doing us any favor.
On March 1, 1971, this country changed from the left hand traffic to the right hand traffic. That meant that right hand drive vehicles gradually phased out. I can remember in Bo, as a small junior school boy I stood around admiring senior boys who were engaged to help control the traffic. It was a very wonderful day. Well, the exercise passed off with no reported incidents. At the time, the vehicles were not as many as today and only brand new vehicles were ordered or bought, not like now where everything is second or even third hand if you like. This right hand drive dilemma is also rooted in our displayed poverty. Vehicles are expensive and so with the increasing demand for vehicles for both private and commercial use, people started buying second hand right hand vehicles. My first reaction to the issue was that it was a compliance issue and as such it was wrong.
I must say that so many traffic regulations are violated with impunity. It is very interesting that part of the problem of right hand drive vehicles can be blamed on the Sierra Leone Road Transport Authority (SLRTA).
The Section in the Road Transport Regulations 2011 that prohibits the use of right hand drive vehicles is 73. Section 73, says: No motor vehicle shall be registered, used or allowed to be used if the steering apparatus of the motor vehicle is fitted on the right hand side of the vehicle. So tell us, are both the person who imports right-hand drive vehicle and the Road Transport Authority which registers that vehicle not both in violation of section 73?
It is totally unethical for Road Transport Authority to register right hand drive vehicles and then expect to turn round again and condemn the use of the same vehicles.
So you see how dicey the whole thing turns out?
The laws are very clear but why SLRTA fails to enforce compliance is what they should tell us first. I even understand some RHD vehicles registration lapses after the August 31 deadline. Having said this, I think the law should be complied with once. As they say, the frown on the goats face will not prevent it from being taken to the market. Let’s watch and see!
By Ben Cambayma
Tuesday August 26, 2014