The Minister of Transport and Aviation has disclosed that his ministry does not have powers to prosecute lawless commercial bike riders and that they rely on the Ministry of Internal Affairs to implement a memorandum of understanding signed by the riders and Sierra Leone Police, spanning over three months.
Leonard Balogun Koroma told Concord Times in an exclusive interview that every effort had been made by the government to engage riders to respect traffic rules and regulations in the country, adding that the riders have rather opted to blatantly disrespect the rules.
A general ban on commercial bike riders using certain designated areas in the central business district commenced Monday, 23 May. Police officers were deployed in the streets to enforce the ban.
However, public opinion is divided as to whether Minister of Internal Affairs, Alfred Palo Conteh, has powers to pronounce the ban, instead of the transport minister or the Road Safety Authority.
Minister Koroma though said he wholeheartedly supports his colleague minister’s crackdown on commercial bike riders, in a bid to ensure that peace and safety are restored within the Freetown municipality.
The new Internal Affairs Minister, in collaboration with the Sierra Leone Police, has waged a war against indiscipline and lawlessness, targeting bike riders, many of whom have been arrested and charged to court for alleged traffic offences.
A report by Campaign For Human Rights and Development Sierra Leone (CHRDSL) titled “CHRDSL condemns public traffic related human rights abuse and corruption in the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) traffic division”, last year, revealed that a total of 576 motor Bikes were seized by the Traffic Police Division and were chained at various police stations in Freetown.
The report also accused the police of allegedly taken bribes from motor cycle riders and drivers and gross human right violations.
Meanwhile, the central business district was without commercial bikes yesterday as the police were out and about to enforce the new regulations. It remains to be seen though whether the operation would be sustained.