There is a high probability that commercial drivers might soon take it upon themselves to halt for a day or more, transport activities that expose them to extortion by unscrupulous (corrupt, dishonest) law enforcement or government security officers.
What might soon begin to snowball (increase, swell) brings back memories of a strike action that commercial drivers organized for a day in April of 2012, against acts of extortion by Police and Immigration officers assigned at various checkpoints along highways in the country who were extorting money from them.
A trip made by the Daily Observer to Nimba last weekend confirmed that the Mount Barclay Checkpoint, the Careysburg Checkpoint, and the 15th Gate Checkpoints have resurfaced, and a new checkpoint has been erected along the highway, near the Gbarnga Police Station.
Vehicles with plates bearing PC or BC or other plates freely cross without being checked and without having to pay money; all commercial vehicles, on the other hand, are parked and their drivers required to drop L$25 or more, to get beyond the check-point.
At all checkpoints, the vehicle our reporter was on was parked along with other commercial vehicles that arrived ahead of theirs as well as those that followed; without fail, each commercial driver were asked to pay a toll.
Although it has become customary that at any legal checkpoint commercial drivers pay money to police, the taxi-driver whose vehicle drove our reporter to Ganta on the night of January 31, recalled that the same harassment that once sparked a strike, had come back to create problems for commuters.
“These rogues have come again to be taking money from us, and this is what you passengers don’t know when we are charging you. The gasoline price, the police, and immigration all share in the money we earn. That makes it necessary for us to hike the fare to what you people have to pay.”
“You see now, no war or any confusion in the country, but many gates are on this road and any checkpoint we stop at, we have got to pay something,” the taxi-driver complained.
The commercial driver said parking their vehicles is not meant to check for anything illegal; it is simply to get money from them.
It would have been fair if all vehicles were parked and checked as is done to commercial drivers. Why should we be the only drivers suspected of bringing drugs or foreigners illegally entering the country?” he asked.
Look at what happened when a Presidential-convoy-vehicle was caught with drugs as was reported a few months ago. Was that a commercial vehicle?”
Our reporter said on his way back early Monday morning from Ganta as rode in a private Jeep, all those checkpoints that were extorting money from those poor commercial drives, were quickly opened for their vehicle to go through.
When contacted at the beginning of February, Police spokesperson Sam Collins could not confirm whether authorities had instructed that additional checkpoints besides the existing ones including Salala, Gbarnga Main gate and Ganta , be erected.
Mr. Collins said he would contact the Chief of Operations to react to the issue.
As a result of the 2012 strike action, government had stepped in and dissolved the numerous checkpoints along highways with specific reference to the Monrovia-Ganta Highway that vehicles regularly ply.
The only checkpoints that remained were the original ones including the Salala checkpoint, Gbarnga, and Ganta Immigration checkpoint.
With no information of security threat or other issue of concern, those dissolved checkpoints have reemerged and drivers are again beginning to complain about the harassment.