Commercial motorcyclists of Ganta, Nimba County are pleading for mercy from the Government of Liberia to lift the ban placed on them as a result of the recent riot perpetrated mostly by their members and other members of the public in Ganta late September.
At an meeting held on October 11 with officials from the office of district Representative, Jeremiah Koung, in the auditorium of the J. W. Pearson High school in Ganta, the cyclists swore to never again take the law into their own hands by going on the rampage.
“We will from here afterwards, remain law-abiding. Therefore, we appeal to the government to lift the ban so we can resume our traffic, through which we can sustain our families,” they said.
“We will never entertain any violent behavior in Nimba anymore,” the cyclists added.
Hector Gonlah, 50, said it is through the bike riding that many of them depend on to sustain their families, and so if the ban remains in place, it will greatly hamper them and their entire families because there is nothing to do to earn money besides the “pem-pem” riding.
On October 1, the government through the Minister of Justice, Cllr. Benedict Sannoh, banned commercial motorcycling in Ganta owing to the violent rioting that ransacked the police station, offices of the Ganta branch of the Liberian Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), as well as the home and business of Prince Howard a Ganta-based hotel entrepreneur.
Their alleged action grew from rumors over the gruesome murder of the motorcyclist, who was believed to have been killed for ritualistic purpose.
The riot began with blocking of all roads, preventing free movement of goods and services in Ganta, but their action later turned violent when they ransacked properties and set some others ablaze.
The motorcyclists, in their statement presented to the office of Rep. Koung, outlined the deaths of several motorcyclists’ in Ganta since 2005 with government doing little or nothing, according to them, to probe the reported deaths.
The most recent was the killing of one Alex Zahn in LPMC by an unknown person; the killing of a cyclist in Blohn on September 22, incidents which were all believed to have links to ritualistic killings.
In a related development, the ban on commercial motorcyclists is hampering even the movement of NGO-assigned bikes, as well as private and health workers bikes respectively.
The Police Support Unit operating in Ganta has seized several private bikes as well as bikes assigned to health workers, depriving them from carrying on their normal duties as health practitioners.
Imam Issa Siaway, head Imam of Nimba, told the Daily Observer that that the police told him to park his bike until otherwise ordered.
“How can I carry on my normal clerical works as imam,” he questioned.
The YMCA bikes along with other bikes including one operated by The Carter Center in Ganta and many other privately-owned bikes were seized by the police and parked, something that is really creating concern, especially where the movement of health workers is involved.
“We thought this ban was only restricted to commercial motorcyclists, but the police are using it to exploit us by seizing our bikes and extorting money from us,” said one of the private bike operators.
Police have denied any extortion from any of the riders, but added that the restriction on motorbikes by government did not distinguish between commercial or private.
Police Commander Morris Teman told the Daily Observer that many of the bike riders were using motorcycles around town under the pretext that the bikes they are using are private or NGO assigned ones.
One of the riders from the YMCA in Ganta, Matthew Luogon, disputed the police claim. He said his institution’s bike was seized and, though he identified himself as YMCA employee, the PSU officers did not pay any attention to him, rather impounded his bike and demand money in order to release it.
With the ongoing development, authorities at the Ganta United Methodist Hospital have complained on a local radio morning show that police seized a bike that was transporting patients to the hospital; an allegation the police denied.