He said: “We have the mandate as our ministry’s name implies: Transport and Aviation Ministry - to be responsible for aviation and transport. We have the mandate to ensure vehicular movements in this nation conform to best practice and better ways of doing things. And as a result, we have engaged the various transport institutions and stakeholders under our domain including Sierra Leone Road Transport Corporation (SLRTC), the Sierra Leone Road Safety Authority (SLRSA); we have engaged the various unions and we’ve also engaged the police among others.”
He went on to say they are doing this because they want to ease strain on transportation and also create the enabling environment where decongestion particularly in the capital city Freetown is addressed.
“As I speak to you, districts where government bus services were not available such as Bonthe and Moyamba districts, we have kick-started those. It may interest you to know that when you want a driving license or a motor vehicle license; if you were staying in Pujehun, Bonthe or Moyamba, your best option is to travel to Bo before you obtain such. All other districts in this country had established offices which made it very easy for them. But those three districts Pujehun, Moyamba and Bonthe were deprived. As a quick measure those offices are going to be established ASAP,” Mr. Sillah said.
According to the Deputy Transport and aviation Minister Sadiq Sillah, the burning issue about abolition of right-hand drive vehicles and commercial vehicles (poda podas) with metal seats that are unsafe and dangerous to passengers in the event of accidents, though sticky are thankfully, foregone issues.
He maintained that henceforth, no one is allowed to bring in vehicles to the country that have the driver’s seat on the off-side of the road. “The driver’s seat has to be on the left side of the vehicle and so if you come with right-hand drive vehicle the law is that they should not be allowed to pass through our ports,” he said, adding that those right-hand vehicles that were in the country before now are within the system and so time would be given for them to be phased out. He said the same goes for vehicles with metal seats.
He further stated that the SLPP is a responsible government and cannot just ban these vehicles without first thinking about the economic and other ramifications or hardship it would cause for the average Sierra Leonean. “When we want to change, the change has to be consistent and it has to be sustainable. And so to everybody out there: if you were building metal seats into commercial vehicles (poda podas) you must stop now. Those that are already in this way, we pray that you use your vehicle until it wears out. But new ones will not be licensed and any SLRSA officer that licenses such vehicles or collaborates with owners of such vehicles to license them and keep them on the streets; that person is in conflict with the law,” the Deputy Minister of Transport and Aviation, Sadiq Sillah warned.
He spoke on several other issues targeted by the ministry such as traffic congestion, extension of government bus services to Bonthe, Pujehun and Moyamba districts which before now were not available; introduction of new ferries in the near future, among several other interventions and plans underway for the rejuvenation of the transport sector.