By Sorie Fofana.
The Labour Party candidate for the Mayorship of London, Ken Livingstone failed to win reelection in 2008 after he introduced the Congestion Charge in Central London.
Ken was a good Mayor of London but failed to listen to the advice of his party to put on hold the implementation of the Congestion Charge in Central London until the Mayoral elections were concluded.
The Conservative Party candidate, Boris Johnson convincingly won the Mayoral election in London after Ken Livingstone suffered a major electoral revolt against the implementation of the Congestion Charge in the middle of an election year.
Boris Johnson won two consecutive Mayoral elections in London and later returned to Parliament (House of Commons) and was recently reappointed as the UK’s Foreign Secretary. He was a lead Brexit campaigner in the UK’s run-up to the referendum that led to UK triggering the exit clause to leave the European Union.
The APC government is determined to go ahead with the implementation of the payment of toll charges on the Wellington to Masiaka highway.
The contract to construct the sixty two kilometers toll road is expected to be completed within a period of four years, costing US$165 million. There will be three toll stations in Hastings, Songo and Masiaka.
The collection of the toll charges is expected to commence in August 2017, seven months to crucial Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Council elections.
The sixty-two kilometer road is expected to be upgraded to four lanes, by the Chinese contractors, China Railway Seventh Group Company Limited. This company has executed several road construction projects in Sierra Leone including the Regent road project.
Opposition To Toll Charges
Many people have openly opposed the implementation of the payment of the toll charges, because, only ten kilometers of the road has so far been completed.
Many people have called on the government to postpone the payment of the toll charges until the road is half way completed or even fully completed. They believe that, the contractors want “to use our oil to fry us”.
What is so urgent that, the contractors cannot wait for the road to be completed before they start charging for its use?
Exemptions From Payment
The following categories of people or personalities are exempt from the payment of the toll charges:-
- The President and his convoy
- The Vice President and his convoy
- Members of Parliament
- The Military
- The Police Force
- The Fire Force
- Correctional Forces/Prison Officers
- Independence Day
I understand that, Cabinet Ministers are also clamoring for them to be exempt from the payment of toll charges. Teachers, doctors, nurses and even journalists will soon ask for exemption from payment of the toll charges.
What will happen to people who reside in the toll zone? I understand that, they will be paying a fixed amount of money on a monthly basis.
Many people (tenants) who have vehicles, have started relocating from the toll zone. This will affect landlords in the toll zone.
A major project like this needs enough public sensitization. Since the toll system is a new concept in Sierra Leone, the government should have embarked on a massive sensitization drive especially in the areas affected by this new toll charges.
Sending small boys (youths) on the streets to talk about an issue that, they themselves do not even understand is brainless.
Why do you have to wait until two months to the implementation of the payment of toll charges before you embark on sensitization?
Good Idea But Bad Approach
The construction of the Wellington/Masiaka four lane toll road, is a brilliant idea. It will ease traffic congestion and facilitate trade between the capital city and the rural areas.
The government says that, it will create jobs for many people living in the toll zone. They believe that, the Chinese contractors will employ local labour from the toll zone. How many jobs are we really talking about here? This government has failed to create jobs for the youth. Youth unemployment is a major security issue in Sierra Leone today.
Why not wait until people fully understand the concept of toll charges before implementing them?
Let The Charges Wait
I have heard this argument that, even the opposition SLPP MPs voted in Parliament with their APC counterparts to ratify the agreement between the Government of Sierra Leone and the Chinese Company (CRSG). And so what?
The SLPP will certainly use the toll charges as a weapon against the APC in March 2018. They supported this policy in order to use it against the APC. So, this excuse that the policy was supported by the SLPP is no brainer!
The implementation of the payment of the toll charges can wait until the road has either been half way completed or fully completed.
The APC will certainly lose traditional voters if they decide to go ahead with this unpopular policy in an election year.
Mark my word!