SEPTEMBER 1, 2014 By Patrick J. Kamara
The proposed ban on all right-hand drive vehicles in the country, which was supposed to have taken effect today (September 1), has now been deferred to January 1, 2015.
Deputy Minister of Transportation and Aviation, Ibrahim Washingai Mansaray, said the postponement came after a consultative meeting last Thursday at State House, noting that there had been several calls from the transport sector to give them a grace period of one year, and that they as a government “cannot take a decision in vacuum”, hence the resolve to defer the ban.
“We have a president who is ready to answer to the calls of his people. Government had taken a decision to ban right-hand vehicles but we have to listen to the people we govern, that is why we have extended the time to next year January 1,” he told newsmen. “We have put mechanisms in place to import the parts that will necessitate the changing of the steering wheel to the left.”
Mr. Mansaray maintained that the decision [to impose the ban] was not a novelty to transport owners and that they had ample time to comply with the decision before the deadline date “if only they are law abiding”.
Executive Director of the Sierra Leone Road Transport Authority (SLRTA), Dr. Sarah Bendu, noted that the shifting of the deadline should not be a yardstick for people to begin to import more right-hand vehicles into the country.
She said the decision [to ban right-hand vehicles] was taken last year by all stakeholders in the transport sector, and not the government alone. She explained that such a decision has been effective in other West African countries and therefore Sierra Leone should not be an exception.
Dr. Bendu informed journalists that the registration of existing right-hand vehicles had already begun and that owners of such vehicles should call at the SLRTA office to have their vehicles registered.
“There will be no more extension of this time,” the SLRTA boss vowed. “The ban still stands. Anybody bringing in right-hand drive vehicles at the quay will just be wasting their time. We have only decided to extend the time because of the many calls from different stakeholders, but there will be no extension of the January 1, 2015 deadline.”
President of the Motor Vehicle Maintenance Association, Sulaiman Sankoh, said they have registered over 500 right-hand vehicles to be converted, and that arrangement has been made for the shipment of electronic apparatus that will be used to change the position of the steering wheel to the left.
He encouraged all right-hand vehicle owners to register with them to be certain about the quantum of parts to be imported into the country. He appealed to the Transport Ministry and SLRTA to assist them with the clearance of the parts at the quay.