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City of Banjul
Sunday, February 28, 2021

Letters to the Editor : Ignoring social distancing at our own peril

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Dear Editor,

Our incompetent chief apparently wants competent drivers on our roads, but his administration chooses reckless and incompetent ways paving for corruption galore. I went to renew my driver’s licence yesterday morning, at Kanifing only to learn a new “competency test” is required even for renewals. They directed me to a room, but there were countless applicants without masks at the door, no social distancing, and no queues up to around 9am. I said to myself it was too unsafe to waste time there and risk another covid infection, so I decided to proceed to Banjul.

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At the Banjul branch, they told me they need a “competency certificate” and that they do not issue it there, only at Kanifing. So after finishing some other businesses in Banjul, I returned to the Kanifing head office. This time there was at least a queue, but no reasonable social distancing. Someone was demanding masks for entry but he allowed in a rude, bigger guy who insisted on not wearing a mask. Also only one of the four attending officers was wearing a mask.

Apparently there seem to be some guidelines and people have to pay an extra three hundred dalasis at GRA to get this competency certificate, but that group was also given questionable priority to enter despite the queue. I patiently waited for my turn, they directed me to photocopy my old driver’s licence in the same room for ten dalasis. Presently, such photocopying is between two to five dalasis all over the country. Feel free to say I should have walked out, waste more time, and come fight for re-entry.

After getting my competency certificate within minutes, I went to the paying room, but there were too many people and much less organised. So after waiting for about ten minutes and seeing how slow things were going, I gave up and decide to return another day.

My problem with this new added step even for renewals is the ‘how’ and ‘when’. We are struggling with a pandemic, government was suppose to facilitate how to reduce physical presence in all government buildings. We all know the most caring governments issue driver’s license for five to ten years, but our poor and corrupt governments claim annually. What is so hard in facilitating multiple long distance paying options for licence renewals? You already have our pictures and fingerprints to process it without our presence. Upon picking up, you can demand receipt or even fingerprints. Beyond our governments, many Africans do not think wasting people’s time can be sinful and uncivilised even from secular perspective. Just because it is lawful does not mean it is conscientious or above the re-judging of the Lord. Countless going to Mecca, Rome, or marabouts may not save you from sins between creatures. Your ascension to power is a risky test and far from total immunity. If you closely read closely, you will notice king and prophet David was advised and admonished for a reason, and every president and leader can learn from such, unless they think they are higher.

On the how aspect, the administration could have explicitly said anyone with over five or xyz verifiable years of driving does not need this competency certificate. They wasted paper, pen, time of multiple people on my type. Also the guidelines they are using to determine who goes to GRA and/or be physically tested on ‘competency’ cannot be super complicated, they could have used Banjul and other places to at least accept the exceptions. Of course they may give an excuse as to why they want to centralise it during a pandemic. There is a saying, ‘some people have an excuse for every solution’. Meaning, they won’t think, nor accept the blessings through thinkers, and will forward excuses some may buy. I have countless great ideas this government ignores. Remember since money is the primary reason you choose annual licence, save us time on renewal, not just during pandemic. We can have major renewal every five or ten years, to accommodate updated photo and others. Rather than thinking how to reduce the financial and time abuse of citizens you inherited, you are ignoring time saving ideas and beyond?

To sincerely improve our roads, every great plan on such should include a culture of cameras. I want our vehicles to gradually have cameras as in Russia. How can you help with hundred thousand cameras? We can secure grants, loan, or even camera factory. Then enact a law that demands all commercial vehicles to have cameras with xyz standard. It is not only for road safety. Just yesterday, a gender activist was claiming women experience sexual harassment in commercial vehicles. Make the cameras optional for private vehicles, but encourage them with some rewards. Of course your corrupt police chiefs will hate them, but you can tell them the fines will be shared with police, camera owners, and others.

I hope media houses take pictures and talk to authorities, including the president. I understand many officers are prohibited from speaking to the media, they refer them to the PRO, who may not be available for time sensitive issues. The honest truth is even ordinary citizens should have access to many levels of information, much more journalists. Employees of government should give information they are certain of and refer very limited issues to the PRO. The purpose of having a PRO is not to have total and exclusive speaking rights, but to have the leading speaking responsibility. Many journalists will still love to talk to the PRO beyond verification because they are usually more eloquent and I rather talk to the most eloquent one. So if Barrow truly values transparency, he must publicly allow employees of government to talk to anyone, including the media, but avoid misinformation or risk reasonable punishment. No employee or citizen has the right to lie or guess recklessly. May the Lord help us.

Jarga Kebba  Gigo


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