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Frederick’s Voice

The plight of travelers using government buses to Freetown

June 18, 2019

By: Frederick V. Kanneh

If you think that traveling with government buses from up country to Freetown is the safest and most convenient means for you, think again!

It took me a great deal of time contemplating as to whether to put my experience of traveling with government buses from up country to Freetown to paper, or to just take it as one time mistake from the driver, and just forget about writing on the said experience.

On a second thought, I took it to be the fact that since the behaviours of civil servants in Sierra Leone nowadays take the shape and colorations of the government in power, so why worried  myself to write about the bad attitude of a government bus driver towards passengers from Kailahun district when I knew that the driver was employed by the then All People’s Congress(APC) government?

Again, I deprived myself from writing on that awful experience because I thought it would have been the biggest slap on my face, since I was doing my last year in college, and I had  to submit my dissertation and write my final exams. I wondered  how it would have sounded in the ears of Mr. James Tamba Lebbie ( my supervisor) that, I was at CID, or on remand by the “order from above” for writing on the attitude of a government bus driver.

Apparently, I hit my head three times against the seat in front of me in anger when I had more than the same experience on Saturday, 11th  May, 2019, on my way from Pendembu to Freetown in the same government bus. I immediately concluded that all my excuses for not writing about the experience I had sometimes in 2018 were not only wrong, but baseless and unfounded.

I boarded the forty-five seater bus to Freetown on the said day. I was just about to take my seat when I realized that, the driver and his apprentice had placed Jerry Cans that were filled with palm oil under all the forty-five seats. If anyone of you has ever travelled   in similar buses, you would agree with me that the foot rest of every seat is under the other seat in front of it.  Literally, there was little or no space for the passengers to rest their foot.

Also, the exorbitant way of pricing passengers luggage and the tone he used to address  passengers were well enough to conclude that he was accustomed to such practice. For instance, if any passenger tried to speak terms with him over his over bloated prices for luggage, he was quick to throw away the luggage and tell the passenger to their faces that they were not ready to travel. What amazed me most was the bold way he was using to collect monies for luggage without giving the passengers any form of receipt.

As if overloading was not a punishable crime in Sierra Leone, he overloaded the bus way more than the maximum capacity. He even council  the second door of the bus in order to create more space for luggage apart from  the ones he placed in between the seats for other passengers that onboard the bus later in the journey.

The proverb which says: “the driver always dictates the pace of any journey” became very clear to me on that very day. This so called ‘driver’ made so many stops along the way against the wishes of the passengers with no apology. He would stop to talk to another driver going the opposite direction; he would stop to buy charcoal and other personal items. Moreover, upon arrival in Freetown, he was deliberately failing to leave passengers at their specific destinations even when they would have reminded him of their points of stop miles away. Just imagine the pain you would undergo if you have a luggage and  the driver failed to drop you at your junction!

This was my experience for the second time using government bus to Freetown. Like I said earlier, if I was casting all the blame on the APC government for the attitude of a government bus driver towards passengers from Kailahun district, it just left me speechless when I experienced the worst in the SLPP regime. My astonishment begs the following question:

Where are we heading as a country?

Is it because the heads of the Ministry of Transport and Aviation, and by extension the Sierra Leone Road Transport Authority are not using these buses so they care less about monitoring the performances of those drivers? Or is it the case that these authorities are incapable of doing their very jobs for which they are paid with the tax payers’ money?

I am going to be a bit personal here with Sierra Leone Road Transport Authority.  Constitutionally, this is the body that is charged with the responsibility of recruiting drivers for government buses that ply within the country. Which means, they should only hire drivers based on certain criteria, ranging from conducts and professionalism. Again, there supposed to be a proper monitoring  mechanism as to how these buses run in an out of the city, but what I can clearly testify is here is that, the only little or non-monitoring effort you see from SLRTA is the moment the buses are departing from bus station in the early hours of the mornings. As for pendembu, you will see no one rather than the driver -who would be dressed like a scavenger in what someone will only noticed to be a uniform after a thorough concentration at the shoulder strap. It is only then you would see the Sierra Leone National flag because they would be as indecent as someone who has taken tramadol to be his food. So who will do the monitoring on the amount passengers should pay per luggage? This is the main reason why the passengers are always at the mercies of this devil incarnate of people called “drivers”. There is even no means of tracking the names and addresses of the passengers in the event of any accident. God forbids it!

They would tell you that there are different outlets along the road for inspection. Lie! Nobody has ever monitored my ticket throughout my experience of traveling along the road from Pendembu to Freetown.

If nothing is done by the Sierra Leone Road Transport Authority to solve this problem on our people from that part of the country, then I suggest you take ‘convenience’ out of your expectations of traveling with government buses from Pendembu to Freetown. Don’t even border to call the numbers written on the buses because you will just waste your precious time.

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