August 10, 2017 By Joseph S. Margai
The ruin of the Mabang Bridge and subsequent non-operation of the single ferry that used to ply the route have contrived to hamper economic activity for residents along Makoi, Mabang, and Ribbi and Rotifunk axis.
The colonial iron bridge which links Port Loko and Moyamba Districts collapsed in February, 2013.
Residents, pedestrians and farmers at Mabang village last Saturday expressed dissatisfaction over government’s neglect to repair the bridge for over four years
“Our vegetables are left to perish because of the lack of transportation. We no longer have vehicles that could convey our goods to Waterloo, where we used to sell them. The ferry that was provided by SLRA is not working and nothing has been done to replace or repair it,” said Yabom Sesay, adding that “We only rely on locally-made boats to transport our goods. Using canoes is too risky, especially at a time when the sea level is high.”
Madam Sesay, who had 15 bags of cucumber waiting to be transported across the Mabang River at the time of interview, said traders no longer maximise profit because of delay to transport their vegetables to Waterloo, in the Western Rural District, few kilometers outside Freetown.
On her part, Fatmata Koroma, who claimed to be a single parent with five school-going children, said the ferry used to carry both vehicles and passengers, adding that they were now relying on locally-made boats to take them cross.
“Sometimes, if we don’t have money to pay motor bikes to convey our goods, we carry them on our heads. This has resulted to so many body pains and headaches. Currently, we are not making much profit, but we do not have an option. This is what we do to enhance our livelihood,” she narrates.
Many other traders expressed similar sentiments and called on the government to either repair the collapsed ferry or reconstruct the bridge.
However, Sorie Ibrahim Kanu, Public Relations Officer of SLRA, contended even if the ferry was in a good shape, it would not have been useful during the months of July, August and September because of high tides.
“The type of ferry they are using at Mabang is only useful in October to June when the water level is relatively low. In fact, it was only provided to improvise for the collapsed Mabang Bridge. Our expectation was that, it should have served the people for two years and within that period we were expecting that the collapsed bridge would have been completed,” he said in an interview with Concord Times and promised that the ferry would be repaired after the rains.
When asked if SLRA takes into consideration the number of youth currently out of job because of the wrecked ferry, Kanu said it was operated by a private contractor who should be doing some of the repair works.
“That contractor is responsible to be paying the workers operating the ferry. But we are not casting blames. Had the ferry not really been broken down, the workers would have been doing their jobs,” he said, adding that no one should pay for services rendered by the ferry.
He appealed for calm and patience as the ferry would be repaired soon, noting that SLRA was also committed to ensuring that the Mabang Bridge and road network are improved.