Adnan Adams Mohammed
Almost all the known Drivers and Transport owners in the country including other stakeholders have reacted negatively to the government’s decision to allow commercial transport fares to be increased by 15 percent effective last week Staurday, July 11, 2020.
According to the unions, they needed percentage increment more than what the government has allowed explaining that, it will really affect their operations and general income at a time when all other goods and services prices are frequently being increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Notable among the unions is the Ghana Private Road Transport Union (GPRTU) which expected a 50% increment due to increased fuel prices and cost of spare-parts and other material used in running the business.
Most Ghanaians have lamented and shared their grievances and fears that, a transport price increase could affect the price of goods and services. The Chamber of Petroleum Consumers (COPEC) has asked the Transport Ministry to immediately rescind its decision. According to COPEC, the new directive which was announced by Deputy Transport Minister, Titus Glover and yet to be rolled out is unjustified. The dictatorial role played by the transport ministry he said, only aggravates the burden of commercial vehicle drivers since fuel prices keep surging.
“Whatever increases should be halted immediately forthwith and let us find a more lasting solution than these increases,” the Executive Secretary of COPEC, Duncan Amoah has said.
“Things only go up in this country without a corresponding remedy to bring it down when the factors or conditions necessitate it coming down and that for us is problematic and so we do not support these increases we are seeing. We think it is unjustified, we think that any attempt to also twist the arms of these drivers from their 20%, 30% or 50% by the ministry cannot be grounded in law because you are not bearing their input cost so you cannot bear their output numbers equally by determining 15%,” he added.
Dr. Amoah advised that the Ministry needs a comprehensive database on transport operators to be able to devise a lasting solution that specifically meets their needs to stop drivers from always demonstrating to get their pleas heard.
“A section of the drivers say they won’t agree so there’s chaos and we think that this chaos could have easily been resolved if the government had built a comprehensive database that allows the government to target the public transport operators,” he said.
The Deputy Transport Minister, Daniel Titus Glover last week noted that, the various drivers’ unions presented a petition to the ministry on Monday and were promised that the issue will be looked into.
It was after a meeting between the Transport Ministry and other stakeholders Mr Glover disclosed, that it was agreed for the fare to be increased by 15 percent across the board.
“It is obvious that transport operators have sacrificed to ensure that the nation fights COVID-19, and therefore the state also has to put in some measures to ensure they are not worse-off while they continue to ensure social distancing in their vehicles and invest in getting PPE, sanitisers and handwashing materials at the stations to help fight COVID-19.
“The decision takes effect last week Saturday, July 11. We are going to ensure that all the COVID-19 protocols are still practiced at all transport station across the country. Just as is done anytime there is an increase like this, authorities at the station have been asked to print the new rate and paste it at the various stations – and also in cars to prevent any argument,” the Deputy Transport Minister said.
However, members of the Sofoline Drivers’ Union in Kumasi in the Ashanti region have rejected the 15% transport fare increment amidst threats to demonstrate against the Ghana Private Road and Transport Union (GPRTU) National Chairman and the Transport Minister if the percentage is not reviewed upwards.
They lament that the 15% increase is woefully inadequate to cover the cost of fuel price hikes, social distancing directive, amongst others.
Chairman of the group Albert Boamah accused the national leadership of GPRTU of conniving with the transport ministry to force the 15% on drivers. He insisted that, his members will be forced to defy the COVID-19 protocol by loading passenger to full capacity if nothing is done immediately.
Meanwhile, the Industrial Relations Officer of the Greater Regional Branch of GPRTU, Abass Ibrahim Moro has thrown his support behind his colleagues in the Ashanti region.
Alhaji Imoro said: “Someone is saying this is the first upward transport adjustment in 2020 without proper explanation to drivers so we have every right to stand against it.
“GPRTU is a democratic union, when Ghana was not practising democracy, when we were in an era of coups, GPRTU was practising democracy so it is their right to demonstrate because to be honest with you, we were looking for something around 30, 40, 50 per cent increment and our leadership came up with this 15%.
This is because currently, no one controls fuel prices. All the filling stations have different prices…”
Also, members of the True Drivers Union have rejected government’s 15% transport fares increment insisting it will rather stick with 30% hike.
“We’ll not back down; the 30 per cent is what we’re working with, Spokesperson for the union, Yaw Barima fumed.
He threatened that they will picket at the Transport Ministry, should any driver be arrested for charging the 30 per cent increase in transport fares being demanded by the drivers.
“We’ll mass up at the Ministry if they dare arrest any driver. Any driver who’ll be arrested should reach us on 0500312104, and we’ll mobilize our members and storm the Ministry,” Yaw Barima threatened.