Foroyaa has been informed that many taxi drivers who ply the Westfield – Banjul route were arrested and taken to the police stations in Banjul allegedly for overcharging passengers.
Mr. A. Camara, one of the vehicle owners whose driver is among those picked up, explained that he was called on the phone in the morning while in his office and told about the arrest.
“When I rushed to Banjul to the police headquarters I did not find my driver among those who were held there but was advised by a lady to go to the Crab Island police post where I eventually found him,” said the taxi vehicle owner.
Mr. Camara said he found 23 taxi drivers arrested and held at the police post and that before he left, another group was brought whose number he did not know.
He said when he enquired from his driver as to what happened, he told him that he was arrested at Westfield adjacent to the NAWEC head office for allegedly overcharging the passengers who were coming to go to Banjul.
The taxi owner confirmed that his driver was charged for fares over charging. He said when they raised the issue of bail they were initially told that this is a matter that can only be handled by the Banjul police station at headquarters which brought them there.
“We were later asked to go to the police traffic office at the new Lasso Wharf market building where the bail bond was given to us to read and sign. Having gone through it, I later signed and submitted the bail bond with the police at Crab Island before securing his release,” said Mr. Camara.
He said his driver is asked to appear at the Banjul Magistrates’ Court today.
He added that as they left for home, some drivers were still in the police cell waiting for someone to bail them.
Saihou Omar Njie, a taxi driver who was not among those arrested but came to show solidarity, said the normal fares from Westfield is D10 but that they ask for D25 or D50 because of the size of their vehicles which carry a maximum of four passengers and considering the cost of fuel.
“Many taxi drivers are not keen in going to Banjul because of the high cost of fuel and the long delays they encounter with the security checks mounted by soldiers at Denton Bridge,” he revealed.
He said they do not force the passengers to pay these fares.
“Asking for D25 is not a crime. It is just like asking for a town trip which is optional to the passengers,” he argued.
FatouJallow, a passenger argued that the cost of fuel and delays on the highway should not be justifications to charge such high fares. He said the drivers should be ‘god-fearing’ and reasonable.
AlieuSanneh, another commuter, said the Gambia operates a liberal economy and that as such there is no price control. “The authorities should not force the taxi drivers to charge what they think is not favourable to them,” he said.
He added that this development may have repercussions that will lead to scarcity of taxi vehicles as other drivers may fear arrest.
He suggested that what the government should do to address this hikes in transport fares is to help in increasing the fleet of the public transport service and also to create the enabling environment for more people to invest in taxis.
“Once you have many vehicles on the road and different forms of transportation catering for different categories of passengers as is the case in neighbouring Senegal, then the problem of high fares would have been resolved as it becomes reasonable for all,” he said.
He added that the high cost of fuel and the un-motorable conditions of most of the roads and streets, particularly in Banjul, are all contributing factors to the hikes in fares and which the government should consider and address as a matter of urgency.