By Allieu S. Tunkara
Freetown still grapples with the problem of potholes which seem to have taken over the nation’s capital.
A passenger vehicle is stuck at the Clock Tower very close to Eastern police station in the heartland of Freetown.
The passengers were discomforted as the vehicle struggles to get out of the muddy pothole.
The vehicle tried several times but was unsuccessful. The driver politely requested passengers to alight from the vehicle.
The passengers came down, and gave a helping hand for the vehicle to be removed, but all effort proved futile.
As the vehicle remain trapped, dozens of vehicles were also trapped and drivers discomforted.
They shouted and quarrelled with the driver whose vehicle has caused the discomfort.
Traffic Police officers found it difficult to do their work owing to the rowdy situation caused by the stuck.
The vehicle remained there, and the passengers had cause to go for another one to convey them to their various destinations.
Traffic was at a standstill when a towing truck from the Sierra Leone Road Safety Authority arrived at the scene and removed the vehicle.
Traffic regains its normalcy following the removal of the vehicle and life went on.
The unfortunate driver lost the passengers as he received no money for the trip.
He went back to the lorry-park at Circular Road for another batch of passengers, but promised not to use the same road again.
It was a horrible day for the driver as some parts of the vehicle were damaged during the struggle to get it out.
He will have to visit a garage for the vehicle to be taken care of to keep it up and running especially when the day was far gone.
The situation that unfolded at the Clock Tower is an epitome of other situations that occur almost daily in the city of Freetown.
Deep potholes that trap vehicles and wreck Freetown transport system have taken over major streets in Freetown.
About a year ago, a commercial vehicle also stuck at Abacha Street where it remained for hours. The passengers remained in the vehicle for close to an hour as the vehicle was heading for the Western part of Freetown.
Several people came to the scene to remove the vehicle from the muddy pothole, but could not succeed.
Commuters were also discomforted by the incident of the trapped vehicle. But, traders selling close to the pothole were the most embarrassed.
Commercial motorists and tricycle riders who passed through the muddy pothole splash the mud on the traders.
One of the traders, Mabinty Sesay sells ready- made clothes not too far from the pothole. She told Nightwatch that the pothole had been there for over a year.
“It is really an embarrassing situation for the traders especially when a vehicle is trapped there,” she complained.
Mabinty and other traders have been calling on government to fix the pothole problem at Abacha Street.
A car currently parked at Masumaila village in the PortLoko district was damaged by a pothole on the highway.
The driver who is in a pensive mood told this medium that the tires of the vehicle got damaged when he unexpectedly entered the pothole.
On the day the he encountered the sad situation, he explained, he was travelling from Freetown to PortLoko.
As a result of the slight accident, he said, passengers alighted from the vehicle and they were stranded.
“They spent the night in the village, and continued the journey the next day,” he narrated.
The driver, Ishmail Kamara is now fighting hard to fix the problem in his car to keep it and running. The pothole roads are most visible in the east of Freetown where government has shown signs of negligence in the area of Infrastructural improvement.
Apart from the potholes situation in the city, the slabs on the sidewalks of Kissy Road, one of the principal streets in Freetown are nothing to write home about.
The slabs wear and tear daily owing to age, and little or no effort has been done by government to fix them.
Most people have had bad experience as they have fallen into them and sustained injuries.
On the eve of the pronouncement of ‘Operation Free Flow,’ hopes were high that the slabs would be taken of since commuters are not permitted to tread on the main road.
The Sierra Leone Roads Authority, is an agency responsible for the construction and rehabilitation of roads throughout Sierra Leone.
SLRA, for quite some time, has shown negligence in the construction and rehabilitation of roads in Sierra Leone.
An SLRA official who spoke to this medium complained about shortage of funds to carry out most of their projects.
In the absence of funds, the potholes continue to marry Freetown, and they are more dangerous in the rains than in the dries.
Most of the accidents and that occur in the city, and in the provinces, most Sierra Leoneans say, have bearing on potholes.
Few years back, one of the most fatal road accidents that took place along the Bo-Freetown highway was caused by a pothole.
The Serena Vehicle with its passengers and driver were never seen after the vehicle summersaulted in the Taiama River.
The lone survivor who was a lady heading for Kenema Town narrated the story.
She explained that the driver who was in a high speed escaped a pothole near the bridge, and the vehicle landed in the sea.
She said she was miraculously saved out of the accident while about 12 passengers including the driver perished.
The pothole at the bridge has been covered, but the sorrow of the accident remains.
However, some effort was shown by SLRA officials to fix potholes at Up-Gun roundabout in Freetown.
It is not clear whether the rehabilitation of roads at Up-Gun will extend to other roads in the city.
Few years ago, a government minister, Alimamy Petito Koroma was relieved of his duties owing to the large number of potholes in the city.
The call for his removal from office was made by a local civil society organisation called ‘Health Alert’ headed by Victor Lansana Koroma.
Mr Koroma raised concern about potholes in the city at the time he was making a case for the improvement of health for Sierra Leoneans especially pregnant woman.
The civil society activist painted a picture of great suffering encountered by pregnant women when travelling from rural areas to urban centres to give birth.
As the potholes and poor roads in the city incessantly surfaces, no minister has been dismissed for such negligence.
Government seems preoccupied with the campaign against Covid-19 at the detriment of the provision of social services especially road maintenance in the city and the provinces.
As vehicles continue to fall into muddy potholes, drivers and commuters call on government to intensify the maintenance of roads in the city and the provinces.