Another fire at Sierra Leone electricity head office in Freetown

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 16 January 2016

Another fire at electricity office Freetown - Jan 2016What is going on with the Koroma government – is the question on the lips of many Sierra Leoneans today, after another fire is reported at the country’s electricity office in the capital Freetown.

Today’s blaze is the second in just over two weeks.

On the 29 December 2015, the fifth floor of the building was on fire. Incompetence, corruption, neglect and poor governance?

It is still not clear what started that fire in December, let alone trying to second guess what caused today’s blaze.

But there are suspicions of criminality and government’s failure to provide effective risk management strategy across all key government sites.

The national electricity company continues to struggle to meet its running cost, including the payment of workers’ salaries, due to cashflow problems.

Collected revenue does not match the cost of providing the irregular and intermittent supply of electricity to thousands of households across Freetown.

Sierra Leone is regarded as one of the darkest countries in the world, with less than 25% of households having access to electricity. Yet the government says it is spending millions of dollars every month on fuel, to run its gas guzzling power generators that supply electricity to homes and businesses in the capital.

Once again, the task of putting out today’s blaze is left with the country’s poorly equipped fire force, which consistently has long been crying out for urgent and substantial investments in the fire service, if it is to become fit for purpose.

Speaking to Awoko News yesterday, the country’s chief fire officer – Nazim Kamanda Bongay said that the national fire force is over stretched. It is unable to respond effectively to fire disasters around the city, due to the lack of resources.

He told reporters that presently, Freetown has only four fire engines and these cannot meet the needs of the capital. He also spoke about the lack of proper protective clothing, which is making it difficult for fire fighters to respond effectively in dangerous situations.

chief fire officer - kamanda bongayThe chief fire officer (Photo) expressed his frustration to Awoko News, that almost all of the water hydrants around the city are non-functional, and that time spent in collecting water from other available sources, often meant that it is too late to put out a fire.

Speaking at the first International Risk Management and Insurance Seminar, held in Freetown in January 2012, chief fire officer Bongay warned that:  “We are in a state where the quantum of arms and ammunition, high explosive materials, high inflammable liquids and gases like petrol, diesel, continue to be on the increase, with little or no proper mechanisms to combat fires that may occur from such explosive and flammable substances.”

He said that: “It is worth noting at this point that, as fire appliances converge at a fire scene and fire fighters position themselves for initial attack; and if the fire is rapidly escalating, the need for larger amount of water almost immediately becomes a priority. If a quick water attack is applied, depending on the output, the fire fighter on the nozzle may only have one or two minutes before the tank runs dry. If the source of supply is to come from a hydrant, then it is essential for fire fighters to locate the nearest working hydrant as a matter of urgency.”

He disclosed that: “Yet in Sierra Leone, it is sad to note that we have very limited fire hydrants in the city, half of which are either closed permanently by road works or turn off by the Guma Valley Water Company. This is a sad scenario indeed.”

He warned the government that: “Repairs of the only existing fire engines is becoming more of a herculean task, because of the bureaucratic arrangements surrounding the repairs of government vehicles.”

Four years on, the plight of the fire service has worsened.

Another fire at electricity office Freetown - Jan 2016.jpg2The cause of today’s blaze is not yet known. But it is suspected that criminal syndicates working for powerful and politically connected individuals, that are interested in destroying the records of the company may have once again set the building alight.

As the police opens up another investigation into the cause of yet another fire at Electricity House, they will be met with strong resistance from powerful people, in whose interests such investigations may not be favourable.

The ruling APC party has a poor record on maintaining and protecting public buildings and infrastructures, and this is not helped by its appalling level of investment in new buildings, because of corruption.

There have been several unexplained fires at prominent government offices since president Koroma took office in 2007. And there is the lack of political desire and will to conduct proper investigations that could lead to criminal indictment.

The government’s treasury buildings have been scorched. The office of the registrar of the law courts has been set alight. The office of the national auditor has suffered damage to records caused by unexplained fire.

Records at key ministerial offices at the government Youyi Building were destroyed two years ago, also by an unexplained fire. The national post office building too, has not been spared.

Consistent with these fires, is the rise in reported crimes, such as arson, armed robbery, murder and assault.

The government passed a Bill recently, separating the electricity generating and distribution arm of the business from the sales, billing and revenue collection. The government is hoping that this would bring sanity to the supply of electricity in the country.

But how do you legislate for unscrupulous and politically connected criminal syndicates that are determined to defraud the State and destroy their criminal footprints?

Conspiracy theorists believe that today’s unexplained fire in Freetown could be another politically engineered incident, aimed at burying the IB kargbo Lebanese waste for cash scandal and the latest Ebola death fiasco in the north of the country.

8 Comments

  1. Thanks very much Mr. Luke. You are the type of person that we need to talk for the voiceless in the APC government. Looking at what has been going on, the president is surrounded by hopeless and broke supporters. All they want is money and don’t care about the poor.

    May god bless you and please continue the good job.

  2. Oh I love this newspaper Sierra Leone Telegraph! You get to read all sorts of articles and comments, some promoting the government’s stupid agenda for stealing public funds and others lambasting the useless opposition.

    Keep it up Sierra Leone Telegraph and never you change your editorial policy and approach.

    We desperately need a newspaper like yours to continue to brings balance to the unashamed bootlicking of the government’s sponsored media, such as Cocorioko.

    Thank you for giving many of us that are critical of government’s policy the opportunity to vent our views.

  3. Alhajie Ibrahim, I feel if you want to read about APC successes, then you should send them to the editor, who I am sure will only be too happy to publish them. The problem is, I myself cannot think of any positives from the APC government.

    However if you cannot provide any evidence of ‘good’ that APC has done for Sierra Leone, then you better read Cocorioko newspaper which is very adept at fabricating feel – good stories for APC.

    The Sierra Leone Telegraph says it as it is and it is important that descenting voices have a medium to express themselves. APC is used to silencing people who oppose them, but thank God the Telegraph cannot be silenced.

    There is no leader in the world who has all his citizens supporting him – even Barack Obama who is a model leader has opposition, not to talk of such a poor leader as ours.

  4. I do not think Mr Thomas should be vilified or denigrated for seeing issues in a certain fashion. It is his right to express his views in any context or standpoint. Those who disagree with him should come up with contrary views, thereby creating a lively debate.

    Personally, I have expressed views critical of Mr Thomas in the past, and will do so again in the future, when I see fit. He has never censored my views, he merely entrenches himself in his own views in a refined way.

    One only has to take a glance at the Sierra Leone media to quickly discern that all of them are either pro-S.L.P.P. or pro-A.P.C. – nothing in between. The reader or listener is therefore left to draw his or her own conclusion.

    For somebody like me, who is neither S.L.P.P. nor A.P.C., I regard this atmosphere as a field day to bask in and to formulate circumspect and critical thinking.

    Mr Thomas has actually published comments by others critical of him. This stands in stark opposite to what one would get from the Cocorioko newspaper and others which are indefatigably pro-A.P.C.

    What sane person would not be suspicious of fire almost constantly engulfing a sensitive government building? Is it an attempt by criminals to forever destroy incriminating or damning records?

    A thorough investigation is in place, although I have my doubts about it yielding any fruitful results, where perpetrators are severely punished. This is what is in vogue. May the Almighty Allah/God help mother Sierra Leone.

    Criminals have bared their teeth and shown their fangs, and the President has done nothing about it, and now they are eating us up.

    All we can hope for is Divine Justice, which is always very slow in coming, but it does come. Whoever disputes this should read and understand Sierra Leone’s contemporary history.

  5. Dear editor

    With reference to Alhajie Ibrahim’s comment, I would suggest he comes up with a list of positives he thinks APC is doing, but which are not being covered by your newspaper.

    Like you, that remains a near impossibility, considering within the eight years of rule, I can easily recall the number of “GATES” they have opened: The cocainegate, EBOLAgate, Millenniumgate, and the Lebanese wastegate, to name just a few.

    I hope Alhajie Ibrahim was not referring to the ‘positives’ that are going into the pockets of individuals leading the APC.

  6. Your online Newspaper is nothing now more than a knight picking scanner of the Koroma led Government’s governance activities which, any democratic thinking citizen of Sierra Leone, would subscribe to this point of view.

    You seem to publish zero coverage of any laudable development done by the current Government. The fact that you are so monocular in national issues, renders this medium less interesting to those seeking objective coverage of what obtains in Sierra Leone under the APC Government.

    However, what I cannot take away from you is that, you do write well. I would therefore like to see a change of attitude towards the current Administration. At least, let your readership for once, see some objectivity in your newspaper articles on Sierra Leone’s political issues.

    Simply, give the devil its due, where it is deserved.

    • Mr Ibrahim, there is nothing to talk about. What we have had in terms of health care is a Cholera epidemic killing over 300, Ebola killing nearly 4000. Both have revealed how fragile and broken our health systems are and that MAHS is staffed by incompetent civil servants and ministers.

      On education, students at FBC cannot be resident on campus because the contract to rehabilitate the campus has not been honoured for over 3 years since award. All schools and colleges closed during the Ebola crisis and the Ministry of Education had no Plan B. All they can do is bar girls who had become pregnant while at home for almost a year.

      On environment – we lurch from disaster to disaster. We have had mud slides and flooding and government has no preparedness to deal with these challenges. Instead of dealing with this environmental challenges, the APC GOSL seeks to alleviate the problem of waste in Lebanon, by entering into a contract with the Lebanese government to dump waste on our shores.

      On the economy, according to one source our economy during the Ebola crisis contracted by 25%. Unemployment is at about 70%

      On criminal justice, we have seen the inhumane conditions in which prisoners and detainees, who are yet to be proven guilty are being held. Conditions which are reminiscent of slave ships which took our people to the Americas. There is no access to justice for ordinary Sierra Leoneans. Unless you are in power – as Diana Konomaniyi has shown us how to coercive power of the state can be brought to bear on a private matter, such as an allegation of bigamy.

      This medium is not part of the sycophantic journalism that you have become accustomed to. We would leave sycophancy to Kabs Kanu and Sylvia Blyden, who do not even offer their readers a right to reply.

      All we can credit the APC with is the destruction of our constitution, consistently undermining our democracy, erosion of every single institution including legislature, judiciary, police force and civil service and for ensuring that our country continues to achieve all the worst developmental outcomes.

      It is time to consign this corrupt and moribund government to where it belong – the waste heap in Lebanon

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