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Sierra Leone News: Let Street Traders Move Into The New Market

Although it has taken almost ten years for the Freetown City Council to complete the building of the market at the Sewa grounds, the Council should waste no more time in getting the traders removed from the streets and get housed in the new market. What is interestingly unique in our governance situation this time around is that both the Presidency and the Freetown Mayor are both hardworking and result oriented. This, never mind the parties, could augur well for a city that is being stagnated for so long.
I wonder why on earth we Sierra Leoneans choose to be satisfied with mediocrity. We allow all sorts of trash from everywhere to be dumped on us all in the name of trade and some time ago they almost dumped Lebanon Pupu on us. Internally we are choking ourselves to extinction. One way this is done is through street trading, causing not only inconvenience to the pedestrian but also causing traffic congestion. The issue of traffic congestion and environmental sanitation will remain with us for a very long time if our authorities do not get real serious and stop lip-servicing such important life threatening challenges that seem to defy every definition. When dysfunctional institutions/ establishments are headed by incompetent people, we get the kind of dismally poor public service performance that is prevalent these days. After the Okada restriction, I think the next move should be freeing our streets of traders.
The Freetown City has unfortunately had a long string of incompetent players who rest on their oars, counting their party links to be a foremost guarantee to stay in power. God bless Late Alfred Akibo-Betts whose administration as Freetown Chairman/ Mayor, especially in the preparation for the City’s Bicentenary Celebrations gave the city a remarkable face lift. They got the streets of Freetown free of hawkers also.
The Former Minister of Internal Affairs, Pallo Conteh’s action of getting commercial motor bikes off the streets of the Central Business District of Freetown, was more than welcome. Simply put the Minister’s action is good and in line with statutory provisions. What should be considered now is removing traders from prohibited streets.
For their part, the commercial drivers are charging high fees, thinking it is okay to make more money by both shortening the trips and also increasing the fares. If you ask me I will tell you that Commercial drivers are among the most heartless public service providers in this nation. Yes indeed. One thing we need to consider is the fact that until all related challenges to the traffic situation are cleared in tandem, the situation will not change.
The ugly situation is not helping the political leadership at all. I remember before the 2012 national elections we were told the streets will be cleared of hawkers/petty traders. This did not happen but rather outlandish excuses were given. We all know that every citizen is required to strive to survive. However the survival strategies are to be within the ambit of the law. Like I always say, what is the use of laws if they are not effectively implemented? We have witnessed the passing of so many laws, including the celebrated Freetown City Council bye laws for street littering, keeping stray dogs at bay, plus , plus, plus… They all have almost ended up like the usual vuvuzella yap-yap!
What is sometimes sickening is that when you discuss very salient issues in this country, people politicise it. We need to effectively deal with the issue of street trading once and for all! Currently pedestrians have no space. The traders have not only taken over the sidewalks, but have also taken part of the streets. We should remember that apart from vehicles there are other road users like wheel barrows, omolankay and with the water crisis, the Bearing which carries several gallons full of water. So you see the motor bikes are just one side of the story. I think the most important follow-up action the minister should take is checking the extortionist attitude of our commercial drivers which is making life unbearable for commuters. It is because of the insincerity of our political leadership that a place like Abacha street traders has become an institution and a serious force unto itself. The promises to clear the streets were abandoned no sooner the elections were won and lost. Mere word nar mot.
People should know that our country’s Constitution allows for separation of powers where by the Executive, the Legislative and the judiciary have clearly distinct functions all in the bid to maintain checks and balances. Without this the rights of citizens that are sarcosantly embedded in Chapter three of the Sierra Leone Constitution, will be compromised. The police, being a law enforcing institution have to stay autonomous enough to carry out its duties to the best of its ability.
The Road traffic Act of 2007, Part XI places restriction on Road use for road safety, Section 134 talks about Prohibition of Street Trading. The prohibited streets are actually listed in statutory instruments which I know the police and the Freetown City Council know about. I know that during the 50th Independence Celebrations traders were moved out of the streets. That was an opportune moment in which authorities could have got the traders to see reason to go to the existing markets. We know that some markets are not fully utilized because they want to be on the streets.
It looks like the Institutions managing Road traffic issues are not taking their work seriously. We saw the issue of Right Hand drive vehicles turn into a comedy show. For over five years they paid lip service to it and up to today right hand Drive vehicles are plying our roads. The other gimmick was the use of metal seats in our public vehicles. They were to have been changed by end of 2017. Are our authorities really serious?
In 2011 the Road traffic regulations came out as a Statutory Instrument. The prohibition of right hand drive vehicles is there under part IX, section 73. In whatever further steps taken, there should be consideration for the safety of the pedestrian who competes daily with City Council’s statutory stray dogs and multiplicity of odd push carts traversing the city.
We know the critical adverse effects of the loathed political interference into the work of the law enforcement authorities. In this twenty- first century we have to think outside the box and think very critically in order to improve service delivery. Remember prosperity cannot be achieved if we spend half of our valuable time stuck in traffic. I want to remind our authorities that having sworn an oath to serve us, they should show sincerity. This is where some of us think the current government and the Freetown City mayor together can help us out once and for all. I want to take this opportunity to condemn the recent assault on the Mayor of Freetown. Madam let that act strengthen you.
By Beny SAM
Thursday June 07, 2018.

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