-threatens nationwide demonstration
January 28, 2020
By Hassan Gbassay Koroma
Native Consortium, one of the leading civil society organisations in Sierra Leone, has issued a 14- day ultimatum to the Ministry of Transport and Aviation, asking them to renegotiate the new transport fares, and failure would attract nationwide demonstration.
In a letter to the transport minister, Executive Director of Native Consortium, Edmond Abu Jr. stated that some commercial transport drivers were exploiting the situation to make extra profit out of poor citizens.
Edmond Abu thanked the minister and his deputy for their warm reception and frank discussion they had on Monday, 20th January, 2020.
He stated in the letter that, upon their return from the meeting with the minister they held a meeting with their consortium members across the regions, and that ever since the price increment, they have crisscrossed various parts of the country and Freetown and observed that the current increment in the transport fare was not only disproportionate, but has also exacerbated more hardship on the citizens.
He said the public, past and present Governments are aware that the Native Consortium as a Think-Tank has a de Facto leadership on economic justice and consumer protection in the West African Region.
He said the volatility that drives the global market price of fuel per barrel is an external factor that government cannot control and judging from the events unfolding, as a think tank, they foresee an additional increase in the oil price per barrel in the world market.
He charged that the recent price increase was very premature, insensitive and a sour taste to commuters.
He said they took a tough stance on the Ministry of Trade through the Petroleum Regulatory Authority (PRA), and they unequivocally stated their position for any disproportionate increment in the pump prices of fuel because they knew fuel is a composite demand, and commended the Trade Ministry and the PRA for the new price.
He said their focus is not the petroleum products, but that the central focus of their advocacy over the last 15 years has been the pass through effect it will cause on the poor people through transport fares.
He said from all indications they viewed the new transport fares as disproportionate and that they strongly believed if the transport fares of Tricycles (Kekeh) and Bikes was kept constant, the other transport fares should have remained the same.
He said the Drivers Union President has made a public pronouncement through radio and television stations that he has advised his membership to maintain the old price, but that most of them were going according to the new price, due to the unavailability of coins.
He said the minister had said that the fuel increment should not warrant any increment in transport fares.
He said they firmly believe the New Direction agenda of President Julius Maada Bio is not to add suffering on its people but to alleviate it.
He said as a duty bearer, the ministry should have used a very good bargaining chip to keep the fares for all destinations constant.
He said they have had countless occasions where other ministers in the past negotiated well with the union to keep transport fares the same,even though pump/gallon price of fuel increased marginally.
“The Le500 marginal increment should have had very little to influence your own formula and therefore we are giving your ministry 14 working days to think and let bring all the players to the negotiating table to reverse the fare,” he wrote in the letter.
He said all the actors within the sector and the transport ministry should come clear to the public to justify reasons for the increment, noting that they as a consumer protection institution will present their own case as the Drivers Union has already made their own case that the prices should remain the same.
“Mr Minister, failure to revert to the old price, we would stage another nationwide protest against the Government for such an insensitive decision. We want to warn those so-called Passenger Welfare Association that lack the moral high ground to speak and advocate on behalf of passengers because they are clueless about the suffering Passengers,” he stated in the letter.