By Alieu Momarr Njai
We are all aware of the complaints of pedestrians, passengers and drivers about the traffic congestions in the Greater Banjul and Brikama areas resulting in spending too long a time to get to their destinations as well as the amount of fuel consumed. The National Transport Union’s concern is also understood. Also, QTV was recently on air portraying issues on this very topic which is of tremendous concern to us all. The police are also embarking on ways and means to address the issue of rampant road accidents which now ranks The Gambia amongst highest accident-prone countries in the world.
To control the number of vehicles plying our roads daily by number plate digit formula e.g. by last number as below may not be feasible:
Mondays; Wednesdays; Fridays; 1, 3, 5, 7, 9
Tuesdays; Thursdays; Saturdays; 2, 4, 6, 8 0
Sundays – all numbers
Controlling the inflow of vehicles into the country by instituting a quota system limiting the importations of vehicles into the country is also not realistic.
As can be seen, numerous second-hand vehicles for sale are all over the place – from Brusubi Turntable right through Senegambia highway, across Bertil Harding highway to Sting Corner; Kairaba Avenue; Mamadi Maniyang Highway; Brikama highway right through to Churchill’s Town; Brusubi turntable through Sukuta to Bakoteh, plus many more other places.
The reason why this country is over-flooded with these second-hand vehicles is that lifespan of vehicles, especially cars, in Europe, the USA and other very develop countries is between 7 to 10 years. Therefore, any vehicle that is 10 years old is, value-wise, worth very little. So, one can buy a second-hand vehicle for a small price. Some cars are even given free so long as the one taking it removes it from its location.
According to a United Nations report, millions of cars that do not meet minimum safety and environmental standards are dumped in Africa. The only major cost associated with these vehicles is the freight and the customs duty payable here, hence the overflow of vehicles into the country.
Also, we are now encountering the massive inflow of the TUK TUK 4 and 7 passenger tricycle taxis.
Therefore, to address the road traffic congestions that is now a nightmare country-wide, especially in the Greater Banjul and Brikama areas, Soma and Basse, it is now obligatory to address this phenomenon by instituting the ‘TRAFFIC WARDEN INITIATIVE PROGRAMME’ that I had advocated almost 30 years ago.
I have for decades been writing about the congestion of vehicles in our streets due to the numerous vehicles plying our roads with drivers not observing road traffic signs and regulations and getting away scot-free with their violations of traffic rules and regulations. If my humble suggestions were given due considerations and attention then, we would not be in the dilemma now confronting us.
Some of my concerns and suggestions were captured by the news media, notably by erstwhile Daily Observer Newspaper. Some of the articles I wrote that I am able to lay my hands on are as follows:
Over speeding kills – 17th October 1996:
“The maximum speed limits along the Serre Kunda Banjul highway are as follows: Westfield clinic to Old Jeshwang curve is 50 kph; then 70 kph to Denton Bridge, then 50 kph to mile 3; then 70 kph to Wadner Beach Hotel, 50 kph to Radio Syd and 70 kph to Gambia High School. My harrowing experience was on board Toyota 14-seater van G3A 2679. As soon as we were on the Kanifing stretch, the speed was over 100 kph. I asked the driver to slow down but he refused. I reported him at Denton Bridge and he told the police officer that he will drive as he pleases. The officer took his driving license and insurance and allowed him to go, I disembarked”.
“Sayerr Jobe Avenue traffic nightmare” – 24TH October 1996
“Sayerr Jobe Avenue, Serrekunda, (named after my Great Grandfather the Founder of Serre Kunda), is at all times the busiest street in the whole Country in terms of vehicular traffic and pedestrians. The main bottleneck is between Christ Church and Bambo, resulting in long queues of cars etc. from Westfield Clinic to the market late evenings. The situation is now exacerbated by the fencing around the market now under construction. It sometimes takes 30 minutes to cover one kilometer. There can be easy flow of traffic if no hawking or selling of any sort is allowed along the bottleneck area. But what do we see? All sorts of wares and goods ranging from charcoal to ‘cherreh’, textiles to bangles are being sold along the street.
This avenue is the main artery to the Kombos, Kotu, TDA, etc, and with development associated with APRC Government, another dual carriageway to Southern Kombos may not be too far off.
A flyover from Kanifing to Bakoteh bridge is now necessary or should it be a tunnel? On the other hand, we can make Sayerr Jobe Avenue traffic flow easily by upgrading it to four-lane traffic from Westfield Clinic to the market and from Bambo to Bakoteh Bridge. The road is wide enough. The bottleneck area should be cleared of all hawking and parking”.
“Licence to kill” 30 December 1996:
“This is not about James Bond 007 but in respect of your editorial of 25 November on ‘Faulty Bikes Faulty Vehicles Campaign’ by the police mobile traffic brigade, supplemented by the article of Momodou Jaiteh on the same issue.
I have written several articles through this column about the recklessness of some van drivers plying the Serrekunda/Banjul Highway. To impose a fine of D50 on a traffic violator, be it a bicycle rider or a taxi driver, will not teach them the lesson they deserve. Where LIVES, LIMBS and materials are at stake, there is the need for a draconian law to be put in place to make these drivers comply.
That is the only language they understand and all it takes is a telephone call that costs D1. Yes, only D1 to save lives, limbs and material damage. The scheme works like this; the mobile brigade should equip an officer with a mobile phone, station him somewhere along the highway. The officer notes down any van that over speeds and phones his counterpart at Independence Drive or Westfield Clinic and gives the vehicle registration number of the over speeding vehicle. The vehicle is then escorted to the police station where the driver is required to deposit D1, 000 before he is allowed to leave the station. The subsequent court hearing will confirm the D1, 000 fine plus a suspension of his license for one year. Should he drive before the expiry of his term of suspension he is further prosecuted.
Those of us using these vans sit helplessly while they over speed and in the event of calamity no compensation is paid and lives and limbs are lost. Reporting them to police officers serves no purpose.
The affront is that the mobile brigade HQ is located along the Kanifing stretch where the maximum speed limit is 50kph. Without exception, some vans cruise along that stretch at over twice the maximum speed limit. At Denton Bridge where no vehicle is allowed to overtake, they disregard this law right in front of police officers. It is on account of sheer greed and urge to have as many trips as possible that these drivers turn the highway into a formula one grand prix circuit at the expense of the travelling public. They must be made to pay.
I am certain that Commander Ebou Njie and his deputy Ansumana Ceesay and Inspector Kumba, given the logistics and support, can solve this menace overnight”.
To be continued…
Alieu Momarr Njai is the chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission