By Mafugi Ceesay
Commercial drivers in The Gambia have given the government an ultimatum to provide them with space for garages throughout the country and allow them to carry their normal passengers or else they will proceed on a sit-down strike from June 22nd.
Speaking to journalists in Banjul yesterday, Omar Ceesay, the president of the Gambia Drivers’ Union said: “We deem it fitting that the government allow commercial passenger vehicles to carry what they are licensed to carry because all [other activities eased with regard to Covid-19] pose more risk to the society than commercial vehicles.
“Almost a hundred drivers have been arrested and prosecuted since the emergency regulations began for going beyond the 50% capacity recommended by the government.Commercial vehicle drivers are the only ones that are victimised since the declaration of the state of emergency. The security and private vehicles usually carry beyond the recommended number but they are not victimised. Is this not selective justice? Why is it that commercial drivers are always subjected to victimisation? Enough is enough. We are taxpayers and we are not going to allow anyone to harass us,” he said.
He said instead of the stipulated reduction in passengers, the government could order mandatory wearing of facemasks.
“We have engaged the government through all its ministries and the National Assembly to reconsider their decision on the commercial passenger vehicles because we are running at losses but they ignored our calls,” he added.
Buba Sowe, a representative from the Brikama Central Car Park said: “The situation is not favourable to either the passengers or the drivers because the drivers used all tactics to extort more fares from the passengers which is burdensome.”
The vice president of the union, Jarga Faal, said their stance and demand are “not challenges to the president’s authority… we are only making a request”.
Nuha Jabbie, a driver from Serekunda lamented: “The mobile police usually ignore private and security vehicles that overload. Yet they will charge a commercial driver for overloading by just one passenger. This is not fair. Are we not citizens like others? Why the selective justice?”