Legal Aid Board concludes UNDP-funded capacity building workshop for 600 Bike Riders on Basic Laws

Legal Aid Board concludes UNDP-funded capacity building workshop for 600 Bike Riders on Basic Laws
The Legal Aid Board has concluded a five districtwide United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) funded capacity-building workshop for 600 Commercial Motor Bike Riders commonly known as ‘Okada’ Riders. The final workshop took place in the Kenema District Council Hall, on Nyandeyama Street, in Kenema City on June 26 and 27, 2024 respectively.
The training took place in five locations; with Freetown being the first on June 11 and 12 2024. It targeted 180 bike riders drawn from the Western Area Urban District. The second was held in Tombo on June 18 and 19 and targeted 60 bike riders drawn from the Western Area Rural District.
These were then followed by others in Makeni on June 20 and 21 with bike riders drawn from the North; Bo on June 24 and 25 for those in the South and Kenema on June 26 and 27 for those in the Eastern Region. Each of the three regions targeted 120 bike riders. The participants comprise executives of the Bike Riders Union namely regional, district, zonal chairmen and chairladies and ordinary bike riders.
The training aims at capacitating commercial bike riders on Human Rights; Road Traffic Regulation; Bail Regulation; Introduction to Legal Aid; the Law and the Police, Public Order Offences and basic mediation skills to address minor disputes in their parks and communities.
Speaking at the opening sessions in Freetown and Tombo, the Executive Director of the Board, Ms. Fatmata Claire Carlton-Hanciles noted that a good number of bike riders are behind bars simply because they consider themselves to be above the law by riding in a reckless and lawless manner. She admonished them to be law abiding and desist from being used by agenda driven people to create chaos or mayhem, noting that organizations prone to lawlessness and violence have all to lose.
She called on the executive of the bike riders to strengthen their byelaw in order to mitigate lawlessness in its rank, stating that bike riders should eschew violence.
Ms. Carlton-Hanciles noted that at the end of the sessions, participants will be empowered on their rights and responsibilities; rights of road users including passengers and pedestrians; road signs; abuses and challenges in respect of bail under investigations by police and in the courts.
Ms. Carlton-Hanciles recalled that her visit to Tombo was the second; adding that the first was a meeting she had with community stakeholders. She said Tombo is always a priority to the Board, noting that the area has been among the top beneficiaries of the Board since its inception in 2015.
She noted that bike riding is a lucrative business and that riders even earn more than some government and private employees. She implored them to be peace ambassadors by cascading what they have learned to their members and communities.
PowerPoint presentations on the various topics were done by different resource persons/presenters in the five locations where the workshops were held. They include Mohamed A. Jalloh, Regional Programme Manager North; Salu Jusu, Monitoring and Evaluation Officer; Legal Aid Counsel for Port Loko and Kambia, Mohamed Korie, who also doubles as National Supervisor; Legal Aid Counsel Ibrahim Bangura; Counsel Mustapha Dauda; Counsel Osman B Kamara; Counsel John Jack Harris; Counsel Abu Kuntor Jawara; Counsel Patrick Kamara and James Thomas Mafinda, Regional Programme Manager for the Eastern Region.
The presenters explained the meaning of bail noting that ‘bail does not mean the end of a matter, but rather the temporal release of a suspect or an accused person pending further investigations or proceedings. They emphasized that bail is free, and it is also a right adding that Investigators and Prosecutors should not deny or oppose bail for the sake of punishing a suspect or an accused person.
They explained the various types of offences in the Road Traffic Regulation as stipulated in the Road Traffic Act, 2007 with particular references to Part II which deals with Registration and Licensing of Motor Vehicle/Bike; Part VIII which talks about Licensing of Drivers/Riders of Commercial Motor Vehicle/Bike; Part IX which talks about General Provision and Offences such as impersonation, forgery of license, false statement and Part X which deals with Principal Road Safety Provision such as dangerous driving/riding, driving/riding under the influence of alcohol and careless and inconsiderate driving/riding.
They also explained where and how to access bail; importance of granting bail, circumstances under which bail may be denied for minor and felonious/serious criminal offences. These include failure to appear in court, committing another offence while on bail, endangering the safety of victims or public, possible interference with witness. They further explained what it means to be a surety and how does one cease to be a surety. They added that the only cases or offences the Police or Magistrates cannot grant bail on are murder and treason.
Participants were also taught on human rights and their corresponding responsibilities; the different types of offences namely civil and criminal; minor and felonious offences; the powers of the police; Public Order Offences and the work/mandate of the Legal Aid Board.
The resource persons shared their experiences on difficulties in accessing bail both at the police and magistrate courts on matters having to do with Sexual Penetration. They used the opportunity to warn participants of the severe penalties for those found guilty of sexual offences such as Sexual Penetration, aggravated sexual assault, meeting a child for sexual purposes and sexual touching of a child.
Commenting on the presentation on Road Traffic Regulation, one of the participants in Bo, Ishmael Saccoh accused the police of arresting their bikes and handing them over to civilians to take to the police station, which he resources persons described as completely wrong.
Another, Moses Kargbo of Kissy, Freetown, asked whether a husband has the right to determine the religion of his wife and the facilitators answered in the negative.
Others thanked the Board and UNDP for the initiative and called on the former to organize similar training in all districts across the country.
Earlier, the President of the Sierra Leone Commercial Motor Bike Riders Union (SLMBRU), Ishmael Sandy, while speaking at each of the five locations, called on stakeholders especially the traffic police and road corps to reconsider their approach in dealing with bike riders. He said with a membership of one million two hundred and fifty-six thousand (1,256,000) across the country, it is important to recognize and treat bike riders as important partners in development considering their contribution to national revenue.
He called on the Police and the judiciary to have a rethink in the way their members are put behind bars for mostly petty offences. He said bike riding is a legal enterprise and minor traffic offences should be decriminalized.
He appealed to his members to continue to be law abiding, to respect the rights of others and to desist from being remotely controlled by politicians. Questions and answers sessions climaxed the trainings.