Social media and mainstream media have since last week been awash with a seeming conflict between two private entities that are friends of Sierra Leone, over the use of the rail track situated in the Port Loko/Tonkolili axis of the country. Arise IIP, a private investment entity that has been given a contract to develop the Sierra Leone Economic Investment Zone, and other areas, is poised to bring in passenger trains into the country for the first time since the closure of such transport services in the mid-1970s.
However, this component of their planned investment has some snags as the rail track which they intend to use for the passenger trains is subject to clearance by the previous owners of the track, Kingho. Kingho, another private company of Chinese origin, had developed the rail track running from Tonkolili to Pepel in the Port Loko district, and had been using it for transporting their iron ore to the seaport of Pepel for eventual exporting to China.
The contentious rail track was actually built by the Chinese company Kingho that had a contract with the Government of Sierra Leone for the construction of a rail track in specified areas in the north of the country. The terms of the contract was to Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT), which means that the constructed rail track was to be handed over to the government after a certain period of time. Section 6 Part 4 of the contract between Kingho Mining Company and the Government of Sierra Leone gives the former the right to transport their product from Tonkolili to Pepel using the railway. Indeed, Kingho built and operated the rail track but had not handed over to it, when their contract with the Government of Sierra Leone was terminated.
As a country seeking genuine investors as engines of growth and development, government has been seeking investors. Arise IIP entered the fray and rolled out an elaborate plan of investment in the country that could run into billions of Leones. It sought cabinet approval to develop the Sierra Leone Economic Investment Zone and got it. However, with regards the use of the rail track and management of the port of Pepel, there were attendant forerunner contracts that it first needed to meet, before qualifying for its full use. These conditions precedent had to be fulfilled before Arise IIP could be given the right to use the rail track.
It is also important to understand that the contract between the Government of Sierra Leone and Arise IIP was not ratified by Parliament, the body that as per law approves and ratifies all contracts and negotiations that Government of Sierra Leone enters into. At the time of the contract negotiations and cabinet approval of Arise IIP, the country was at the throes of the elections and the life span of the previous Parliament was nearing its end. This means that technically, Arise IIP had just a loose contract with the Government of Sierra Leone.
The Government of President Julius Maada Bio has no special interest in any of the two entities but the interest of Sierra Leone. President Bio has said from the onset of his presidency in 2018, that he would seek the best interest of the country and that he would deal with genuine investors with credibility and pedigree. Both Arise IIP and Kingho Mining are friends of Sierra Leone and the President recognises that. The bottleneck around the use of the rail track would be handled in a way that the country’s interest is neither jeopardised nor mortgaged. Kingho Mining has a contract with the Government of Sierra Leone dating back to June 14, 2022 that covers the construction of a rail track for transporting their product from Tonkolili to Pepel. Though this contract was temporarily upended, yet the initial owners and the Government of President Bio are still in discussions. Arise IIP are still partners with the Government of Sierra Leone and have been given the SIZ, which can serve as the spring board for them to launch themselves for bigger projects in future. The use of the rail track which was initially built by Kingho Mining has gone way beyond the company itself. The technicalities and national interests do not make way for sidestepping Kingho Mining in the use of the track.
On 13th September, 2023, it pleased His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio to appoint Augustine Tehguma Moses Koroma as National Programme Coordinator - Free Quality School Education.The FQSE was and is still the flagship programme of the ‘New Direction’ administration of President Julius Maada Bio - a flagship programme that has enjoyed huge investments and national and international recognition and acclamations.
The scheme aims at improving the quality of the country's basic and senior secondary education and harnessing the country's human capital resource with a view to critically impacting national development.
But who is Augustine Teguhma Moses Koroma? Augustine Koroma was born on August 12, 1987 in Blama Town, Small Bo Chiefdom, Kenema District, Eastern Sierra Leone. He did his primary school education at the Dr. June Hols Roness Municipal School at Syke Street, Freetown, before proceeding to the Sierra Leone Grammar School.
After an impressive six-year sojourn at the Sierra Leone Grammar School, the new FQSE National Programme Coordinator gained admission at Njala University where he pursued and successfully completed a course in Banking and Finance. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree with Honours.
Augustine Koroma also holds a Post-graduate Diploma in Educational Administration and Management, an MBA in Project Management, and is currently an MSc Economics candidate at Njala University.
The new FQSE National Programme Coordinator can boast of a glittering professional career spanning over ten years that has increased his knowledge, broadened his horizon, deepened his insight and sharpened his experience.
He worked at different banking and micro-finance institutions for eight years and also had stints at the International Medical Corps and the National Commission for Social Action (NaCSA) where he served as Community Based Facilitator, Finance Officer and District Coordinator. He is a member of the Project Management Institute (PMI).
The new FQSE National Programme Coordinator has worked with and implemented projects for international and local development partners and funders like the African Development Bank (AfDB), the World Bank,USAID, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Islamic Development Bank (ISDB), and the Pro Poor Growth for Peace Consolidation (GPC).
Augustine Koroma is no stranger to the classroom and lecture room, having taught at different secondary schools as evidenced by his current part-time lecturer status at the Milton Margai Technical University (MMTU).
Mr. Koroma's appointment has been greeted with resounding praises and positive reactions from many young people across different spectra of society.
The young man is friendly, industrious, selfless, serviceable and delivery focused. Many believe he is going into his new job with a positive mentality and the requisite experience.
He Will Deliver Big Time!!!
In the wake of a successful electoral season, the dynamic Maritime Chief, Mr. Paul Sobba Massaquoi, wasted no time returning to action, leaving a significant impact on the annual general conference of the Regional Maritime University (RMU). Collaborating with esteemed figures from the Ministry of Transport and Aviation (MTA) and the Sierra Leone Maritime Administration (SLMA), his presence reverberated.
National Social Security and Insurance Trust (NASSIT) last Thursday 14th September, 2023 officially opened the inaugural meeting of the Steering Committee on the Informal Sector NASSIT Scheme.
Violence reportedly broke out inside the governing Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) office in Kenema at the weekend during the welcoming ceremony of the newly approved Commissioner-General of National Revenue Authority (NRA), Ibrahim Brima Swarray, a native of the city, amidst pomp and pageantry.
According to unconfirmed reports, the SLPP Chairman, Moriba Koroma aka Agbao and his able lieutenants arrived at the party office when the place was overcrowded and consequently, they would not allow them to go into the hall because of limited accommodation. It was their refusal to entire the hall that culminated in the eruption of violence in the party office as the SLPP Chairman’s bodyguards allegedly attacked and pelted stones at the crowd and the roof of the party office. Many people reportedly sustained injuries as a result of the incident, including a popular Blogger, Fofana-Fofana.
By and large, the reported violence in the SLPP office in Kenema is unacceptable and totally incomprehensible as it is against the principles of the SLPP and any democratic society. That the SLPP has a District Chairman who would stoop so low to replicate the uncouth thuggery days of the All People’s Congress (APC) party in the late 60s, 70s and 80s is very disgraceful and embarrassing, especially for a party whose foundation was solidly built on elitism, morality, integrity and civilization in order to challenge the Creole dominance in politics in the then Colony.
If Agbao was a truly responsible party district chairman, he would have arrived at the party office in time to welcome their brother who had just been approved by Parliament as the new NRA Commissioner-General. But the fact that he arrived late at the party office with his thugs and there was absolute mayhem where everyone tried to get out of the party office at once gives a gloomy picture of the party’s character which is unacceptable. \But if at all the district chairman was not officially invited to the occasion but he probably decided to attend for the sake of the party, then the organizers would be held responsible for the ugly incident at the party office and also being very disrespectful to him..
We believe partisan responsibilities should not be entrusted to indecent, lawless people who do not respect the rights of others. We therefore hope the appropriate authorities will take stringent action against those who perpetrated the mayhem to ensure justice is done as such violence can send the wrong signal about the true character of this elitist party called SLPP.
The dedicated and resilient Minister of Energy, Alhaji Kanja Ibrahim Sesay, has been conferred with the Honorary Doctor of Science degree (D.Sc) by Njala University at a ceremony on Friday 15th September, 2023 in Bo City. The Doctor of Science (Honoris Causa) degree is awarded to individuals who have made groundbreaking and significant contributions to their field, humanity and society.
The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) yesterday issued a public notice for all newly appointed/elected and former Public Officers requiring them to declare their income, assets and liabilities to the Commission when taking office and when exiting office according to Section 119 (1) of the Anti-Corruption Act 2008 as repealed and replaced by Section 9 (a) of the Ant-Corruption (Amendment) Act, 2019.
This Section emphasized that any person shall “…within three months of becoming a public officer, deposit with the Commission a declaration of his income, assets and liabilities and thereafter in every two years that he is public officer, but not later than 31st March of that second year, deposit further declaration of his income, assets and liabilities and also while leaving office.”
We believe the sole object of requiring newly appointed/elected and erstwhile public officers to declare their income, assets and liabilities when taking office and when exiting office is to ensure honesty and strong moral principles in public offices which had been eroded prior to the establishment of the anti-graft agency.
The mismanagement of our natural resources, misappropriation of public funds and the blatant corrupt practices in public offices had over the decades been very characteristic of the day-to-day administration of the State. Because of dishonesty and low moral principles, unscrupulous public officers, especially vote controllers, had enriched themselves with taxpayers money and donor funds meant for development programmes, thereby leaving the country in a wretched economic situation.
Though the political will is there to fight corruption in public offices as well as in the private sector, unscrupulous public officers have still not refrained from their corrupt practices as clearly evident in corruption offences being prosecuted in court by the ACC. It is against this backdrop that the anti-graft agency must compel all newly appointed/elected and former Public Officers to declare their income, assets and liabilities as stipulated by the Anti-Corruption (Amendment) Act, 2019. They should know that it is an offence punishable by fine or imprisonment or both if they fail to comply with the Act.
This is where the ACC should not hesitate to punish defaulters no matter whose ox is gored.
It therefore stands to reason that the newly appointed/elected public officers who are supposed to serve their people and country diligently should make it a point of honour to declare their income, assets and liabilities as stipulated by law.
By so doing, they have already started demonstrating their honesty and moral rectitude to Sierra Leoneans who lack confidence and trust in public officers because of their involvement in massive corruption which is largely responsible for our abject penury as a nation.
It is therefore incumbent upon all our newly appointed/elected public officers, most of whom are young people, to change the negative perception Sierra Leoneans have about public officers being corrupt people. They should always have in mind that the oath of office they took to serve their people and country with due diligence should be strictly honoured or adhered to for the good of Sierra Leone and her citizenry.
For former public officers, though many could be sad and heart-broken for losing their mouth-watering appointments, they should not shrug aside their obligation to declare their income, assets and liabilities for ACC to determine whether or not they honestly acquired them. They should be courageous to give accounts of their stewardship before they will finally take leave of public offices and live their private lives as responsible citizens of this country..
Leonoil Company Limited popularly known as LEONCO, the leading oil marketing company in the country on Thursday 7th September, 2023 opened another ultra-modern filling station at Rotifunk, Lungi, Kaffu Bullom Chiefdom, Port Loko District.
This latest move by the Oil Marketing Company fulfills its strategic vision to bring liquid gold to the doorsteps of customers in communities nationwide to make its petroleum products accessible to all.
The ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) Chairman in Kono District, Saffea Moiwo, who travelled and trekked the nook and cranny of the district during the election campaign, finally delivered the diamond-rich district for his party as promised.