February 12, 2016 By Joseph S. Margai
The habit of parking vehicles on the streets of Freetown by drivers and vehicle owners to fix and wash them is a cause for grave concern.
A whole lot of these vehicles are seen in both isolated and busy streets of Freetown. Sometimes they cause traffic congestion as well as make some streets impassible.
An investigation embarked on by this reporter as to why these vehicles are parked on streets revealed that it could not be unconnected to the fact that many people are building houses without a garage to park their cars.
Also, there are no centralised parking spaces where owners of vehicles can park their cars for a fee.
Ibrahim Turay, a concerned citizen, said he was concerned that vehicle owners and drivers have transformed the streets of Freetown into garages, noting that this ugly development had caused a blot on the landscape of a once pristine city.
“Many people have been building houses and leave no space to use as garages in their compounds. The reserve lands which should have been used to construct modern garages for people to park their vehicles and pay at the end of the month have been grabbed by ill-motivated citizens,” he claimed.
He said Sierra Leone Road Safety Authority (SLRSA) officials have been clamping and towing vehicles that are abandoned on the streets, but when their palms are greased they compromise.
Alusine Kandeh, a car owner, said he parks his vehicle on the street because his landlord would not allow him to park at the house. The small space in the compound, he added, is being used as a cinema to show football games.
“I have spent a lot of money on my vehicle for parking on the street whenever it is being clamped by the Sierra Leone Road Safety Authority (SLRSA). I have no choice but to park on the street,” he said, adding that sometimes thieves break into the car and cart the car tape and battery.
Alpha Amadu Bah, president of the Motor Drivers Union, told Concord Times that a committee comprising the Police, SLRSA, Drivers Union, Indigenous Transport Owners Association, among others, should be formed to look into the issue. This committee, he said, should be able to work amicably in order to discourage people from using the streets as garage and parking space.
“In fact, private vehicle owners are the ones that are in the habit of parking on the street. If you take a walk along Sani Abacha, Wilberforce, Rawdon, Regent and Goderich streets, all the vehicles on those streets are owned by shop owners,” he said.
He disclosed that the major problem faced by the union is that AIG Memuna Conteh has ordered that all delivery vans should not park or offload their wares at Sani Abacha Street. He added that shop owners though park theirs without prohibition.
“This is selective justice. We are paying road fund to SLRSA and we pay tax on every liter of fuel that we buy. We also pay for driver’s licenses, but we are not treated fairly by the authorities,” he lamented.
However, Abdul Karim Dumbuya, Public Relations Officer at SLRSA, told Concord Times that since they mounted an operation to remove all abandoned vehicles on the streets, they have towed some 400 vehicles which are being kept at Hastings and Africanus Road, among other places.
“We started the operation in November 2015. Some people have been paying [fines] at the office to retrieve their vehicles. Those that are not retrieved after some time, we will sell them as scrap metals and put the money into government’s coffer,” he said.