8 August 2018

Liberia: Taxi Drivers Protest Reduction in Transport Fares

On Monday, August 6, 2018, commercial drivers at Red Light Market in Paynesville protested the decrease of transport fares without corresponding action in the price of petroleum.

Set up road blocks, claim petrol prices remain high

Reports gathered over the weekend at the nation largest commercial hub of Red-Light Market in Paynesville and Monrovia many parking stations say commercial drivers have begun a massive protest against the reduction of transport fares by the Liberian Government.

According to commercial drivers, the protest action has been initiated by them against the backdrop that the reduction in transport fares did not reflect in the pump price of petroleum products at the various gas stations in Monrovia, Paynesville and other cities around the country.

Many commercial drivers interviewed by the Daily Observer yesterday claimed that the pump prices at some of the gas stations remained between LD$535.00 and LD$545.00 in Paynesville and several parts of Monrovia.

Initially, during the weekend some of the commercial drivers and other public transport providers had threatened to stage a protest on Monday if the Liberian Government did not comment on the reduction of prices of petroleum products in the country.

The drivers argued that reduction in transport fares should go along with the corresponding reduction in the pump prices of petroleum products in all parts of the country.

Early Monday morning at the Red-Light Market, several commercial drivers were seen stopping other drivers from taking passengers to their various destinations until the Liberian Government can effect reduction in the prices of petroleum products throughout the country. During that protest, a makeshift road block was set to prevent other commercial vehicles entering the business hub with passengers on board, a situation that angered the affected Liberians.

Some of the commercial drivers were heard saying the Liberian Government must reduce the high prices of petroleum products before they can ply the streets of Monrovia, Paynesville, Duala and the various Montserrado communities.

They pointed out the current administration led by President George Manneh Weah must institute socioeconomic steps that would pull Liberians from the current shackles of endless hardships that had beset the nation and its people.

As a result of the commercial drivers' actions on Monday in Paynesville and Monrovia, many commuters were stranded at the various parking stations waiting endlessly for commercial vehicles to convey them to their destinations.

At the same time, it was also observed that some of the commercial drivers were not cooperating with their protesting colleagues and, as a result, there were bitter exchanges of verbal insults and other unpleasant expressions among them.

In some instances, there were chaotic scenes that characterized forcibly preventing commuters from embarking on commercial vehicles and warning their fellow drivers to not take passengers until their demands to government were met. Some of the drivers were seen stopping commercial vehicles at some of the entry points to the Red-Light Market and making desperate attempts to seize keys and remove batteries from some of the defiant commercial drivers on Monday morning.

Correspondingly, the hundreds of commuters and business people that gathered at the several parking stations at the commercial hubs of Red-Light, Duala, waterside and other areas did not hold back their anger and frustrations against the current socioeconomic hardships affecting their livelihoods in Liberia.

Meanwhile, a swift reaction from the Liberian Government, a contingent of Emergency Response Unit (ERU) of the Liberia National Police (LNP) was dispatched to the area and dismantled the road block, thus restoring calm.

When contacted for comment or reaction to the commercial drivers yesterday protest action, officials of the Federation of Road Transport Union (FRTUL) declined to comment and only noted that they were watching the situation unfold.

In separate interviews with the Daily Observer at some of the parking stations at the Red-Light Market and ELWA Junction, commercial drivers underscored the urgent need for the interventions of the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) and Liberia National Police (LNP) in ensuring the recent ban imposed on unauthorized protest and demonstrations.

Red-Light market woman Mrs. Beatrice M. Sannoh noted that those commercial drivers should be arrested and prosecuted for creating the confusion on Monday, thus obstructing their business activities.

Civil servant Stephen B. Morrison told the Daily Observer that if the commercial drivers have genuine concerns, they should channel their grievances to the FRTUL leadership for appropriate action, instead of setting road blocks.

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