25 January 2012
Report from State House says that the minister of Energy and Water Resources – Professor Ogunlade Davidson, has been relieved of his duties with immediate effect.
Although sources at State House did not confirm the reason for the minister’s dismissal, observers say that his sacking may not be unconnected with the persistent problem of electricity blackouts and poor water supply affecting the capital Freetown.
President Koroma had made the supply of electricity, especially to the country’s capital Freetown – he once described when in opposition – as “the darkest city in the world”, a key priority for his government.
But despite spending Millions of Dollars a month on fuel to power electricity generation stations at Kingtom and Blackhall Road, it seems there is no light at the end of the tunnel for the chronic inefficiencies, poor management and corruption.
The celebration of Christmas and the New Year – in Freetown, were badly affected by the lack of electricity, which plunged most homes into pitch darkness. But several communities across the city have been complaining of power outage since March 2010.
In this an election year, and with the president wanting to make political capital out of his success in improving electricity supply in Freetown – in the first three months of winning the 2007 elections, it was obvious that professor Ogunlade Davidson’s job as Energy minister had become untenable, once euphoria of that surge in electricity supply had disappeared into darkness.
But critics believe that president Koroma is merely using Professor Davidson as a ‘sacrificial lamb’ for his lack of leadership and poor management of the country’s affairs.
With corruption in high places seriously affecting investments in and management of public services, few in the country are expecting service delivery to generally improve.
Despite spending over $260 Million in redeveloping the Bumbuna hydro-electricity plant to supply 80 Megawatts of electricity around the country, the plant barely manages to generate 35 Megawatts a day.
It is estimated that Freetown alone requires a daily supply of 500 Megawatts to power homes, industry and public sector institutions.
Last year the sacked minister – Professor Davidson, former engineering lecturer at the University of Sierra Leone, was proud to unveil his new longterm strategy for the efficient supply of electricity and water across the country.
At the launch of his Strategy, Professor Davidson told the press that his ministry has three key main goals: to ensure that Sierra Leone has adequate electricity supply and reserves; to provide uncontaminated pipe-borne water to every household; and to establish a nationwide electricity grid.
“We are first determining how much energy we need; and secondly we are looking into producing energy as a source of revenue. We know that we cannot achieve our development goals in any sector without adequate energy. As for water, we want to move beyond wells to focus on pipe-borne water that is free of contaminants” – the Professor said.
Professor Davidson also said that his ministry has launched the second phase of the Bumbuna hydro-electricity project, along with an ambitious electrification programme, including provincial power stations.
It is understood that Bumbuna phase two will cost $800 million to implement and will generate a total of 400 Megawatts.
“We want to increase access to electricity in the provinces. We intend to make sure that all major cities have access to electricity within the next five years”, he said.
In some parts of eastern Freetown – such as Kissy, Wellington and Calabar Town, residents have been without safe clean drinking water and electricity for almost a year.
Many citizens across the country feel totally excluded from the affairs of the state, and with presidential election taking place in November, it is understood that president Koroma would like to score quick propaganda successes, with which he can sell his bid for a second term in office.
Having sacked Professor Davidson as Energy minister, president Koroma has appointed his private sector adviser and Director of the Sierra Leone Investment and Export Promotions Agency – Oluniyi Robin Coker, as the man who will help him bring the city of Freetown back to light, before the polls open on the 17th November 2012.
Two weeks ago, the ruling APC party lost a significant local by-election in Freetown to the main opposition SLPP. This, observers say was a warning call for the president to address the growing resentment, being felt by residents in the capital as a result of the unacceptably poor supply of electricity and water.