Salone News

Freetown: Youths Volunteer to Alleviate Transport Crisis

By  | 5 June 2014 at 16:44 | 2062 views

Youths at Lumley Street in the central part of the capital Freetown have
stepped in to alleviate the transport crisis emanating from the lawlessness of
drivers.

In every part of the city, drivers compel commuters to pay three or more times
to reach their destinations. In many instances there have been reports of police officers colluding with drivers to drop passengers mid- way to their destinations, thus compelled to walk the rest of the distance or in some instances disembark from the vehicle and then board the same vehicle again after negotiating for fresh payment of fares so as to reach their destinations. It has caused untold
suffering, hardship and discontent within the city.

The city, prior to the war, contained about a million people but after the
almost eleven years war that spanned from 1991 to 2001, the push and
pull factors of rural -to -urban migration compelled the small mountainous city
to accommodate more than two million people, the bulk of whom are youths.

Many of them are uneducated and unskilled and have not only caused an overtaxing of the meagre available resources and facilities but also contributed to the rising crime rate and social problems encumbering the city.

The transport crisis is one of the problems the people of Freetown are grappling
with currently in their every day life. The bulk of the population live in the
east of Freetown where extended family relations cause homes to be congested
and the high rents especially in the West (where the well -to -do and rich
inhabit) compels low income earners to find their way to the east and adjust
their low earning power to the available resources. Because of the transport
crisis, commuters are compelled to queue and sometimes spend hours before
boarding vehicles and these mostly include workers who arrive very late for
work. But the rising lawlessness among drivers and even commuters themselves
make the queue system to be unworkable many times. The drivers would arrive with their vehicles and demand two payments for a single destination but sometimes even when they were willing to take passengers to their destination for a single payment, youths and the unruly commuters would cause confusion by not abiding to the queue system and cause each and every man to flex his muscles to board the vehicle.

In such confusion and rowdy scenarios, criminally minded youths would most times join the scramble so as to pick pockets , snatch bags of people or other items and disappear into the numberless people flocking around. Many women have lost their daily earnings after selling at the markets for a whole day.

It was against such prevailing scenarios that a group of youths who are
traders, workers and self employed in various fields came together and decided
to give a helping hand in the evenings after their daily schedules. They formed
a volunteer group known as Community Service Volunteers which controls drivers and commuters.

Almamy Koroma is one of the volunteers who have taken up the
duty of organizing queues and controlling drivers at Lumley Street in the
central part of Freetown. Speaking to The Patriotic Vanguard he said:

“It was not easy at first. Drivers were very recalcitrant. We had to solicit the
collaboration of some police officers at the Eastern Police Station. Those who
refused to carry passengers were reported to the police and it took some time
before drivers complied." The criminals disappeared with the emergence of the
volunteers. Abdul Hassan Sesay is also one of the volunteers. He told PV:

“Passengers have now heaved a sigH of relief. The snatching of bags is no more because if we catch any youth stealing or attempting or aiding and abetting the stealing of property, we would hand him over to the police. As for drivers there is no compromise, any default means being reported to the police."

The Community Service Volunteers said they were touched by the persistent
suffering of passengers who were mostly poor people. They also told The
Patriotic Vanguard that the acute poverty in the country was also something to
worry about.

“That is why we have planned to raise funds so as to get learning
materials to donate to school children in schools in order to help them cope
with the rising cost of education."

They said their aims and objectives were in consonance with the government’s human resource development programme called Agenda For Prosperity. Among the commuters who suffered, children, the aged,
the disabled, pregnant and lactating mothers have been the worst victims of the lawlessness.

“They find it difficult to scramble and board vehicles. It was very pathetic. But those days are over and we have more plans to make poor people live a better life. For now, we spend from our meagre earnings as traders, workers or other self employed activities we are engaged in . We hope to get the cooperation of Ministers like Usu Boie Kamara, Alpha Kanu, and even His Excellency President Ernest Koroma so as to enable us make our own effective contribution to the Agenda for Prosperity." The Community Service Volunteers say they also expect to partner with voluntary organizations out of the country so as to gain more
exposure on volunteer activities.

In order to make themselves available to serve the community at all times in combating crime, enhancing easy commuting especially for the pregnant, lactating mothers and the disabled, assisting school children from poor backgrounds and engaging in various forms of volunteer service to the community, they have offered hotlines to be contacted at any time, which are: 232-77740566 or 232-79685885.

Photo: Community Service Volunteers at work monitoring passengers and maintaining order and discipline in Freetown.

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