Commuters react to ban on tuk-tuk

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By Omar Bah

Unhappy and frustrated commuters have called on the government to reverse the controversial ban on commercial tricycles.

Police said the ban was necessary because there is no such law that allows or permits the usage of tricycles for carrying passengers in The Gambia.

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“It is insensitive. We have a lot of staff who came in late this morning because they could not find themselves to work. They were struggling to get a bus to work,” Momodou Njie, a senior staff at one of the banks, told The Standard yesterday morning.

The tuk-tuks were not just a means of getting around but also a source of desperately needed jobs in a country with a high rate of unemployment.  The Standard caught up with a young man, Lamin Ceesay who has emptied his life-savings into tricycle business.

“We have graduates and we have family men doing this business to feed their families. We don’t have anything to do again. We are pleading with the government. Please have mercy on us,” Ceesay said.

Also reacting to the ban, the director of marketing and communications at Gambia Football Federation, Baboucarr Camara said: “Not only do many Gambians rely on the tricycle as a suitable and reliable means of transportation, it has contributed to creating a lot of job opportunities for youth and source of income for many women. I am aware of a scheme at Reliance Financial Services where women are given tuk-tuk on loan and they repay within a period of six months. Those women give the vehicle to drivers under their payroll and this has contributed in ensuring a dependable source of income for those women, who until the introduction of these means of transportation, had none. The question is, where do they get an income now with this decision? Did we think of its economic and societal impacts before arriving at this decision?”

Camara said the authorities should work with the National Assembly to amend the Motor Traffic Act by including in mechanisms that will ensure their smooth operations without affecting other aspects of “our lives than banning it”.

Musa Jatta, a tricycle rider, expressed dissatisfaction over the ban.

“We have spent hundreds of thousands on our tricycles. Now, what is going to happen to our investment? Where are we going to have employment to feed our families?” Jatta asked, looking at his new tricycle.

He said tricycles have been in use in The Gambia for five years. “Why are they banning them now? Do they want to tell us that the Act was not functioning five years ago? We need answers because we cannot just be robbed of our investment just like that,” Jatta said.

He said the government should help the young people because not all of them would be able to work in the office.

“When the government bans us [carrying passengers] in December, we wouldn’t have any other job to do,” he added.

Lamin Ceesay, also a driver, said he bought his tricycle for over D200, 000 and has no chance of recovering his money before December.

“The six months given to us is not enough,” Ceesay said. “We are very worried and don’t know what to do.  The ban isn’t the way. Why not amend the Motor Traffic Act to accommodate the tricycles and some others?” he said.

Also reacting to the ban, an economist and social commentator, Nyang Njie, wrote on Facebook: “A ban of such magnitude should be premised on data not emotional decisions. Can the police tell us how many fatalities happened with tuk-tuk relative to regular vehicles? Public policy should rely on empirical evidence in coming up with.”

The first secretary at the Gambian Embassy in Paris, Facuru Sillah, also wrote on Facebook: “Tricycles are the solution to the traffic congestion problem. I think they should be licensed to operate.

The frequent accidents can’t be blamed on the tricycles. Is there any scientific study making such a conclusion? In most congested cities, tricycles come in handy to facilitate commuting within the cities. I think weaker players in the transport industry are being bullied in this case.”