February 17, 2015 By Regina Pratt
There has been a dramatic u-turn by government in respect of the ban on the use of right-hand drive vehicles in the country. The ban came into effect this January but not without calls for its abandonment, at least in the interim, by vehicle owners and motorists, many of who claim the timing was wrong – in the height of the Ebola outbreak.
Thus, by a resolution taken at a meeting held with stakeholders, including the Sierra Leone Drivers Union at the Ministry of Transport and Aviation last Friday, stakeholders agreed that registered right-hand vehicles should continue to ply the routes until September 30, 2015.
President of Sierra Leone Motor Drivers Union, Alpha Amadu Bah, confirmed the news to Concord Times, and intimated that a meeting would be called this week to explain to affected members the roadmap to the new September deadline.
Over two thousand right-hand vehicles were registered by the Ministry of Transport and Aviation, in collaboration with key stakeholders in Freetown and the provinces, following the coming into effect of the ban in January, from January 23 to February 7, according Mr. Bah.
The purpose of the registration, Bah said, was for the ministry to assign right-hand drive vehicles to garages where they would be refitted into left-hand drive.
Last week, the Sierra Leone Labour Congress raised concern over the ban in a letter dated January 26, signed by President Mohamed A. Deen.
Deen is quoted to have said that the ban had caused more misery to their membership than the perceived consequences of the vehicles on the roads.
The Labour Congress letter further states that, “May we remind you sir [Minister of Transport] that all over the world, governments are craving for employment opportunities for its people, closing this avenue will not only cause loss of income on the part of the government but will cause thousands of people to lose their livelihood and also increase the poverty levels which the government is fighting against.”
This latest postponement is the second in many months since Minister of Transport and Aviation, Leonard Balogun Koroma, announced the ban last year.
It remains to be seen though whether the ban will ever take effect in the country, as public opinion on the essence of the policy is divided, while there seems to be a lack of political will to enforce the ban.