11 April 2018

Sierra Leone: Okadas Ply CBD Again

Commercial bike riders, commonly known as 'Okada' riders, have again started plying the central business district of Freetown, although a ban placed by the previous administration is still in place.

On Wednesday, April 13, 2016 the Sierra Leone Police (SLP), while presenting a paper and a video clip on the "lawlessness of bike riders in the city" to a Parliamentary Oversight Committee on Internal Affairs, called on the government to "ban Commercial Bike Riders in the city, especially in the central business district of Freetown."

In his statement to the Oversight Committee, Director of Traffic, Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP) Patrick Johnson, said Commercial Bike Riders were a regrettable sight in the city as they are a nuisance because of their involvement in accidents, noting that the riders over-speed and have no respect for traffic rules as they 'exhibit lawlessness'.

In May 2016, after a meeting with relevant stakeholders, including the Commercial Bike Riders Union, Sierra Leone Police, Sierra Leone Road Safety Authority (SLRSA), Motor Drivers Union and the Freetown City Council, then Minister of Internal Affairs, Retired Major Alfred Palo Conteh enforced the Central Business District (CBD) regulation against all Commercial Bike (Okada) Riders, banning them within the CBD areas.

Speaking to Concord Times around Cotton Tree Area, one Unissa Kargbo, who introduced himself as a concerned citizen, described the action of the bike riders as 'lawless' and called on the new administration to do something about it immediately.

He described the action of the riders as 'willful', adding that if they are allowed to continue plying the CBD, it would be difficult to stop them in future.

Another concerned citizen, Salamatu Bah, noted that the action taken by the then Minister of Internal Affairs was appropriate and timely because it restored sanity and prevented many accidents, especially in Freetown.

"That is why continuity in governance is very important. The President Ernest Bai Koroma-led government left behind some good policies that just need to be enforced by this present government. The ban on commercial bike riders is one initiative that the present government should fully enforce," he said.

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