In many parts of rural Liberia the hardship being experienced by hundreds of commuters forced to board overcrowded vehicles shows no signs of going away.
Many of these commuters are calling for urgent steps to be instituted in order to save lives and properties throughout rural Liberia.
There are fewer vehicles being seen on Liberia’s rural roads, causing the ones that remain to hike their fares and expose passengers to the risks caused by over-loading.
Commercial vehicle operators told the Daily Observer recently in Voinjama, that they were forced to overload their cars owing to what they alleged was “extortion of money” from them by security officers at most of the check points on the highways.
In a two-part trip to Northwestern Liberia’s Lofa County in the months of February and March 2014, the extortion of money was visibly observed at several security check points in Lofa County.
Commercial drivers and other public service transport providers said they set special budgets aside to ensure their unhindered passage through some of the security check points.
“We have to fill the pockets of security officers at some of the check points or else they cause us serious delays and unnecessary embarrassment,” Selekie Fofana, a driver said.
“I am aware that I’m risking the lives of our people simply because I want to make profit and take care of my family too,” Mr. Fofana stated.
Some business people pointed out that they have to take risks and undergo constraints due to inadequate commercial vehicles plying the highways in the rural areas.
Mr. Francis B. Kazarku, an importer of used clothes and plastic dishes, said he has no other option but to place his goods on commercial trucks because there are not enough cars on the highways.
Mr. Kazarku pointed out that the Liberian Government and its partners have been unable to provide adequate public service vehicles to help address the challenges faced by rural Liberians.
Sarah Edgar Allen, a restaurant caterer in Voinjama, told the Daily Observer that she has endured many challenges in transporting the goods necessary to operate her business.
Ms. Allen indicated that she has not been able to generate a profit but was still in business owing to the fact that there are limited alternatives in other areas.
She said during the peak of the Rainy Season, commercial drivers are in the habit of hiking transport fares owing to the deplorable condition of the road. This practice takes place every year to the detriment of business people using the Gbarnga/ Voinjama highway.
In response to allegations of extortion, the Daily Observer had a brief chat with some security personnel in Voinjama, who pointed out that incentives to live in rural Liberia are not enough to meet their everyday socio-economic needs.
One security personnel, who asked not to be named, joked: “Where one ties a goat, it is where that goat survives and the rule of the jungle says the strongest shall survive in the midst of a struggle.”