By Arfang M.S. Camara
Commercial drivers within the Greater Banjul Area have increased transport fares, saying it’s as a result of the declaration of the state of public emergency by government.
President Adama Barrow made the declaration in a televised statement on Friday evening designed to contain the spread of the deadly covid-19.
The proclamation orders commercial drivers to reduce the number of passengers by half, while non-essential commodity shops, bars, cafés, casinos, sporting venues and all forms of public gatherings ordered for closure.
In response to the declaration, commercial drivers have decided to increase fares of transport across Greater Banjul Area, with taxis charging D10 instead of D8. Passengers now pay D15 from Banjul-Westfield and D35 from Brikama-Westfield.
“Things are very bad for us since the increment in the price of fuel. We pleaded with government to reduce the price of fuel but we didn’t hear anything,” said Yusupha Colley, a taxi driver.
He added that they increased the price of fares to recover their monies spent on fuel after the declaration that forced them to reduce number of passengers.
Gibriel Sidibeh, a van driver, blamed the government for declaring the state of emergency, adding that things are very difficult in the country.
“This proclamation has just added the difficult moment to our businesses. We as commercial drivers are also affected by this declaration,” he said.
“We are all praying for the eradication of the covid-19 but government should also try to revisit its declaration of the state of public emergency. Gambia government should emulate other countries after making such declaration,” said Lamin Fatty, another taxi driver.
Meanwhile passengers have also complained about the unexpected increase of fares.
Aminata Gibba, a passenger, accused commercial drivers of being ungrateful, adding that most of them always like to take advantage of this kind of situation.
“Honestly, some commercial vehicle drivers are very greedy. Most of them will capitalize on this situation,” she said.
Jainaba Manneh, another passenger also described the situation as worrisome, while urging government to intervene.
“The government should come up with measures, if possible, detain drivers who are increasing fares especially when the country is faced with such a situation”
Meanwhile, The Gambia Transports Union has expressed its disappointment over the driver’s attitude.
“We call for the fares to remain as they were. We are not in support of any increment of fares under such circumstances,” Omar Ceesay, president of Gambia Transports Union told Kerr Fatou.
He urged all the drivers to stick to normal fares, adding that they (the union) have discussed with the government through the Trade Ministry to see how best the government can support commercial drivers.
“I urge my fellow drivers to understand that government call for the reduction of passengers is because of the coronavirus problems. The reduction of passengers was enforced to help, not only passengers but the drivers and everyone,” he said.