He said however that the ministry was in constant dialogue with them and that as a responsible leader, “anything that is happening in your domain, you keep a close eye on.”
He recalled that on Sunday 3rd March, 2019, “we spotted few drivers moving from one motor park to another, trying to convince their colleagues not to put their vehicles on the road on Monday 4th March, 2019.”
He maintained that when they called each of the drivers’ union and transport owners leadership, they all denied one after the other, any knowledge of any impending strike or protest by drivers. “Knowing that we used to be doing things with them in the past; we have their track record and so we kept on investigating. And so without wasting any time, together with my minister, we met with the Minister of Information and Communication and explained the situation. We did the same with the minister of Internal Affairs. We explained the situation also to the Vice President and as a result, we held an emergency meeting the very next day, Monday 4th March, 2019 at 10 o’clock in the morning in our conference hall. And so, come Monday morning; we were very smart and as early as 5o’clock in the morning, I was out and about the streets across Freetown together with my boss and officials from the Ministry of Transport and Aviation, the SLRSA, and other important stakeholders. We cascaded the information to other agencies that are not even directly involved in road transportation; whether be Maritime or Aviation. We told them that we had been suspecting something like this. So let us go round the city as fast as possible to know the facts.”
According to Mr. Sillah, “it was then that we came to realize that it was only a few people (some of them transport owners; some drivers and a scattered bunch of other people) had connived and were moving to the various motor parks inciting drivers to stay off the roads.” He added that the ‘inciters’ gave reasons for the protest that scared drivers and created panic.
“They claimed that Road Safety Wardens were charging drivers Le500,000 (five hundred thousand Leones) for traffic offences, instead of Le30,000 (thirty thousand Leones), which cannot be true. Another reason was that the Police had at least fifteen (15) checkpoints between Lumley and Regent/Circular Road; and another nineteen (19) checkpoints between East End Police and Waterloo, with the sole purpose of extorting monies from commercial drivers at the slightest opportunity to the disadvantage of the driver; reasons which make people to become agile,” the Deputy Minister of Transport and Aviation maintained. He added that “ours is a people-centered government, and we care for our people; so when we met them, we were not harsh with anyone, we tried to find out what was really going on.”
He maintained that at the end of the day, they succeeded at averting a situation which could have crippled transportation and other businesses in Freetown and the country as a whole.
He praised the effort of all the different stakeholders that participated in the deliberations to resolve the issue before it got out of hands.