There is no argument that the transport sector, particularly in Monrovia, brought out the weaknesses of the Ministry of Transport, and by implication the Government of Liberia in 2013.
The average commuter was faced with the difficulty of finding headache-free transportation, to and from work each workday.
The problem was exacerbated when the Ministry of Transport, along with the Liberia National Police, announced restrictions on commercial motorcycles plying the main streets of Monrovia.
The restrictions forced motorcyclists to remain in their various communities, the beginning of a number of problems for commuters. The new rules affected almost everyone — especially those who reside on Somalia drive, in Duala, and the Paynesville communities.
The freedom to go wherever they wanted whenever they chose seemed to have been taken by some of the cyclists as license to run amok in and around the city. That led to an increase in the number of accidents indexed (catalogued, put on record) by the police and other stakeholders studying the increase and its effects on urban life and property.
The GOL, through the Transport Ministry, raised an alarm over the resulting high incidence (frequency, rate) of vehicular accidents and deaths: two of the more important reasons for the decision to limit the time and space allowed the motorcycles.
After the new regulations were announced, the president of the Liberia Motorcycle Transport Union, Mr. Lansana Kutubu Young Sheriff, called on his union’s members to remain calm.
It was later that he took the government to task for acting contrary to its commitment to creating jobs for Liberia’s many jobless.
Mr. Sheriff said that the Liberia National Police had not consulted the Union before making its decision. Many Monrovia residents were also caught unawares by the decision to restrict the motorcyclists, especially sinces no serious alternative means of transportation was made available to take the place of the bikes which, up until then, had been ubiquitous (ever present, seen everywhere).
Sheriff, along with other Liberians, were reportedly surprised that the appropriate Ministry had not provided an alternative means of transport; anything would have helped ease the already difficult situation, especially with holiday shoppers finding their way to Monrovia to do their holiday shopping.
Needless to say, arbitrary fare-increases also ensued from restricting the motorcycles that neither the Ministry of Transport nor the Traffic Division at the Liberia National Police anticipated.
It should not be overlooked, however, that the harsh reaction on the part of the authorities was directly triggered by motorcyclists' having burnt a transport bus after a collision occurred with a motorcycle (not the first of its kind). Earlier in the year, police had also restricted motorcyclists from plying the streets after 10 p.m. because some were found to be helping criminals make quick getaways after armed robberies.
Commercial motorcycles as a means of transportation have been in existence since 2007; and as far we are concerned, there has been no attempt by the government to control the system.
There have been appeals bty he general public to the government to come to their rescue; but as at the time of this review, nothing tangible had come of the plea. To date, transportation remains one of the major national challenges heading into 2014.
Not too very long before the motorcycle debacle (fiasco, mess), Transport Minister S. Tornorlah Varpilah had stressed the need for an efficient service and delivery to ensure a vibrant Ministry of Transport.
He spoke at a one day confab at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare. The meeting was intended to move the Ministry of Transport forward for efficient service and delivery.
At the confab, Minister Varpilah spoke about the importance of reviewing the Ministry of Transport’s past and present circumstances, setting an agenda for change to build together and discuss a new course for where the Ministry wants to be in 2014.
The end of the confab provided the ministry a chance to see what its priorities should be, and hopefully ensure that tangible decisions are introduced to ease the harsh transportation challenges that 2013 posed.