Police in the Gambia have filed criminal charges against a group of private taxi drivers who were detained for staging a peaceful protest against the reduction of fares in the country.
Sixty taxi drivers were arrested, according to a spokesman of the Gambia’s Police Force, Foday Conta.
He said a large majority of the drivers detained did not hold valid driving licences.
“Forty seven of them were arraigned before the court and the remaining were handed over to the child welfare unit because they are below the age of 18,” Conta told JollofNews in an exclusive interview.
Dissensions erupted within commercial drivers after the Gambia government’s decision to reduce transport fares has entered into effect on August 21st, 2017. Some drivers protested against the fare reduction during which they blocked the road in various areas, bring traffic to a standstill.
Despite protest by some drivers, the government has insisted that new fixed fares will remain in force.
“The government is committed in ensuring that the benefits of the current pump price reductions fully trickle down to the general public,” Gambia Transport Ministry said.
The Secretary General of Gambia National Trade Union Congress (GNTUC) Ebrima Garba Cham, who spoke to JollofNews, condemned the protest but expressed concerns over the fate of drivers in police custody.
He said the reduction was a result of an agreement endorsed by all stakeholders during a recent roundtable discussion.
“There are procedures to follow before taking to the streets,” he said.
The GNTUC boss acknowledged that the measure taken by authorities has left a cloud hanging over some routes, and urged drivers to continue consultations on the issue.
Massanneh Sawaneh, head of the drivers at Westfield Junction in Serrekunda (some 7 km away from Banjul), said the transport fare reduction is justified.
“Over these past months, the pump price was reduced twice by the authorities,” he added.
However, one taxi driver around Kotu who preferred anonymity, decried the government’s decision to ‘impose’ a reduction of the tariffs.
“Gambian roads are not good and our vehicles are always having breakdowns. This is affecting our daily revenue,” he said.