The Government of Liberia’s (GOL) ongoing vehicle registration exercise and third party insurance policy Monday, March 3, created transportation nighmare in Monrovia.
Thousands of commuters experienced difficulties in finding commercial transport as they lingered on Monrovia’s streets throughout the day and most of the night fighting for transportation to their various destinations.
The GOL vehicle registration exercise requires all vehicles, private and business, to register before plying the streets. Registration fees vary from about US$85 for a four-door private car (PC) Toyota Camry to US$100.00 for a (PC) Pathfinder jeep and US$175 for a taxi cab.
The situation led to arbitrary increment in transportation fares, with some commuters pressed to pay up to L$100 in taxi cab from ELWA Junction to central Monrovia, normally a fare of L$50.
Students, health and government workers, small business owners and ordinary commuters suffered the worst as police grounded many unregistered vehicles, both commercial and private, at key entry points across the city. Police sources hinted that they had orders to inspect vehicle registration.
A police officer at the ELWA Junction area explained that the government had issued a public notice to car owners prior to the commencement of the vehicle registration exercise.
Some vehicle owners told our reporter Monday that they have already begun their registration process.
“I paid my money to the bank and I was told to go for my document on Wednesday,” said a car owner who begged for anonymity.
This car owner accused the government of enforcing the registration exercise at the wrong time and pleaded with authorities to extend the registration period in order to give car owners ample time to register.
“I just imported my car to Liberia few days ago and I am now forced to pay huge amount of money to register it when it has not even spent two weeks with me,” he said.
A concurrently compulsory vehicle insurance policy check is also being enforced, which has severely compounded the transportation problem. Passegers coming to Monrovia from out of town report that the situation is even worse at the Mount Barcly checkpoint and beyond.
The government has insisted that it is necessary for all vehicles to register and be insured. But is the time ripe for this enforcement exercise? And must both registration and insurance policies be enforced at the same time? For families who depend solely on the transportation business to have their vehicles parked has caused severe hardship in an already tough economy for Liberians.
A government official anonymously told our reporter Monday that “unlike the insurance policy which is practically a new idea in Liberia, there is no reason that a vehicle owner will complain about his responsibility to register his vehicle. Every vehicle owner is aware of this and so they must be responsible enough to be good taxpayers because this is the same tax revenue that is used to develop the country,” this source stated.
Many commercial car owners told our business desk that they are constrained to ground their vehicles because of the double registration enforcement exercise being enforced by the government.
Andrew Sumo, a taxi cab driver who resides in Paynesville, noted that it is bad for the government to enforce vehicle registration while at the same time enforcing the third part insurance regulation.
The GOL’s third party insurance policy requires a commercial vehicle to pay a minimum of about US$155.00 for a six month period or about US$300.00 per year. Coupled with registration fees, that amounts to nearly US$500 for a taxi cab to be both registered and insured.
“The government must understand that money business is very hard nowadays. I can’t afford to pay for insurance and do my registration at the same time,” Sumo said.
Some commuters expressed disappointment over difficulties in finding transport vehicle accusing drivers of hiking fares.
Students of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion University (AMEZU) also registered their dissatisfaction over the transport situation and called on the government to devise a strategy to arrest the situation.
A female student of the Abigail Marshall university hinted that drivers were always in the habit of taking advantage of situations to hike fares.
“Something needs to be done to bring these drivers to book,” she said.
Meanwhile, the difficult transport situation is occurring at the time when public transport vehicles are rarely seen on the streets. Most of the National Transit Authority (NTA) buses, this paper has learnt, are grounded due to mechanical problems. This has also created major transportation nightmares for students coming from the University of Liberia's Fendell campus, who rely primarily on NTA buses to ferry them to campus and back.