Commercial Drivers’ Strike Paralyzes Traffic in Bong, Nimba

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Some of the drivers set road block in central Gbarnga.

Commercial drivers in Bong County on Monday, November 26, staged an early hour strike action, demanding the “reduction in vehicle registration fees and the illegal removal of check points by officers of the Liberia National Police (LNP) on major highways, especially at night hours.”

A spokesperson for the commercial drivers’ union, Philip Kwenah, told a community radio station that during the administration of the past government, drivers used to pay US$150 for vehicle registration for commercial taxi and US$30 for driver’s license with a three- year expiration date; but at present, drivers pay US$190 as registration for commercial taxi and US$45 for license with only a two-year expiration date.

“We are hearing that the government is contemplating stepping up vehicle registration fees for a commercial taxi to US$240 which, we feel, will be detrimental to the survival of the drivers,” Mr. Kwenah said.

“Before, vehicle registration inspection was carried out once in a year, but from nearly every two months we have encountered inspection of vehicle registration every two weeks, something which the police are using as a cover up to harass tax paying drivers,” Kwenah said.

“The police usually collect our car documents from us under the pretext of inspecting our car documents, and the police will keep them until we give them money before they will release our vehicle documents to us,” some of the drivers alleged.

Drivers set roadblocks in an attempt to prevent commercial vehicles from leaving and coming to Gbarnga.

Some commercial drivers seen setting roadblocks in Gbarnga City

“Our strike will continue until the central government sees reason to reduce the vehicle registration fees, the drivers’ license registration and insurance fees and to also remove all illegal check points by police officers,” he said.

As a result of the strike action, commercial motorcyclists have hiked their fares and weekly markets around the highway have been suspended due to the strike action.

Investigations conducted by the Daily Observer established that the Jennepleeta and Gbonota weekly markets were not attended on Monday because of the situation, while travelers were stranded and motorcyclists, taking advantage of the situation, overcharged passengers from one point to another.

It was established by this newspaper that from Gbarnga to Phebe, which usually costs about L$150, was on Monday doubled to L$300 by motorcyclists and other private drivers.

Should the strike action persist, marketeers who have gone in the bush to buy pepper and bitter balls will have to contract private vehicles to bring them to the city.

The Regional Commander of the Liberia National Police for Bong, Nimba and Lofa counties Morris Teamah, who spoke on a radio station in Gbarnga, warned commercial drivers not to set roadblocks or they will face the full weight of the law, adding, “If you want to go on strike, it is your right to do so, but remember not to infringe on the rights of others. You want to strike, park your car at your house, but do not disturb other people’s free movement,” Commander Teamah warned.

Regarding constant harassment by police that use vehicle inspection as a cover-up to erect checkpoints on major highways, Teamah said the checkpoints were placed to deter criminals who are bent on terrorizing peaceful citizens at night.

But observers here, citing the armed robbery of a bank in Bopolu sited right next to a Police station whose officers did nothing to deter the robbers, have dismissed suggestions that the checkpoints serve to deter criminals who Police say are bent on terrorizing peaceful citizens at night. Were this the case, observers noted, the robbery of the bank would have been averted.

3 COMMENTS

  1. What can the Police Director say about this? Though it is not necessary to block roads to counteract police actions, this force has relied on commercial traffic flow for decades as a source of their personal and Government take in through bribery and other unappropriated surplus. This must stop. The cost of maintenance for commercial commerce is intended to bring profit and smooth trade. On the other hand commercial passengers are also complaining that the prices are too high. Reduce the cost on transportation you transportation Ministry, and you police officers, if your pay is not enough, tell you boss; respect yourselves and stop taking bribes. If we catch any traffic officer misbehaving, this LNP will be reported on cyber space. And you drivers, as soon as the police stops foolish actions and the Government reduces the registration and other fees on commerce, you must right away carry the price down for transporting the people. Do not answer me. Tell the Liberian Government.
    Gone to the people’s silent majority.

  2. The aggrieved commercial drivers do have a reasonable cause for strike but the blockade of roads do infringe on others, which I believe is illegal. If the drivers feel that the government is in the wrong, their action is equally misapplied and can actually cause them a good case here.

    For starter, the government needs to decide whether to increase registration fees and keep the frequency of renewal the same or keep the rate the same and decrease the frequency of renewal, but doing both is the wrong decision. I assume the government did the necessary studies before embarking on this increase, but I wonder whether the government consider the impact and ripple effect this increase would have. Remember, every increase in the form of tax the government levies on commercial drivers is passed down to the final consumers; so, one would think that a government that professes in pro poor agenda would thread cautiously.

    On the opposite end of this argument, development do not come by easy. Sacrifices will have to be made for Liberia to progress from the current development state to the next. Liberians cannot expect their roads to be in pristine and passable conditions without paying for those services. The institutions we so crave for cannot, by themselves, come to life in the vibrancy we desire without Liberians making the ultimate sacrifices. Perhaps, this is what is needed for Liberians to take their responsibility seriously, elect the right candidates, and hold them accountable…

  3. This is absurd. For what reason is the government increasing vehicle registration fees? What infrastructure improvement have they done that they now see it fit to increase vehicle registration fees?

    Folks are suffering day and night to survive. No body give a damn about them – no, not the so called government or any other entity claiming they’re there to help. This oppressive nature of African governments against its own people must stop. Just let the people breathe damn it. You continue to take from them but we do not see anything being done. The things you should focus on to generate capital, you do not focus on them. You keep oppressing poverty stricken people who are working hard just to survive for a day.

    President Weah, I hope you remember your root that you were once as poor as these people and help them instead of oppressing them.

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