Alan Luke: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 September 2020:
Following the intervention of key political actors in Sierra Leone such as Marcella Samba Sesay, Ibrahim Tommy and Andrew Keili of the NGC and the adverse publicity in the media, the Ministry of Local Government invited the Freetown City Council to a three day Technical Committee meeting held at Lakka, to resolve the on-going suspension of Property Rate and Business Licences by the ministry.
The suspension, which is still in place has made it impossible for the FCC to carry out its duties to the people of Freetown, who voted for Yvonne Aki-Sawyer, by a landslide.
While all other municipalities in Sierra Leone have issued rate demands and are collecting these from their constituents, as they are legally obligated to do, only Freetown is unable to do so at this moment, putting vital public services like flood prevention, sanitation, cemeteries management at risks.
Staff at FCC have gone for three months without pay, because of the impasse between the Ministry of Local Government and FCC.
Following the barrage of criticism directed at the government, for what is widely seen as a brazen attempt at political opportunism, the Technical Committee meeting was hastily called by the ministry on 5th September 2020 and concluded on 7th September 2020.
A set of guidelines emerged from the meeting which was viewed by the FCC as constructive. This included a small reduction of Domestic Property Mill Rates, with no change to Commercial and Institutional Mill Rates and a reduction in Domestic Mill Rates of properties owned by persons aged over 70 years and to persons who are disabled.
The exact discount and the additional qualification for both these groups is to be determined by the FCC. Thirdly, and crucially, the guidelines which emerged from the Technical Committee meeting, were to be presented to the Minister of Local Government for consultation with the Minister of Finance.
Fourthly, residents were to continue to use the existing rate demand notices issued by FCC and for FCC to make the necessary adjustments on the MOPTAX system and will recognize that amount received from rate payers as full settlement of their payment.
FCC are willing to comply with these proposals in the guidance, notwithstanding the financial impact on the municipality.
Knowing the impact that their game of brinksmanship would have on the municipality and its residents, FCC were asked to submit a budget of its costs from now till December 2020 to the Ministry of Finance.
Although this would provide the FCC with cash in the short term, while parliamentary approval is sought, it is unnecessary and inconsistent with the way other municipalities are being treated by the government.
In effect, it means that the FCC’s powers to set out its own budget to run its affairs, have been taken over by the Ministry of Finance.
The continued impasse between the government and the FCC, files in the face of the Vice President’s (Photo) claim at an Inter-Ministerial Committee held at Bintumani Hotel on 15th September 2020, that devolving more powers to municipalities is a key priority for the Bio administration. That meeting met to discuss the government’s draft National Decentralization Policy.
Yet the main proposal which emerged from the meeting was the proposed creation of the position of Resident Minster – Western Area and new additional administrative units such as districts, chiefdoms, and wards in the Western Area.
According to Dr Jalloh, the proposal underlined the New Direction Government’s commitment to support the decentralization process to ensure the financial viability of councils and build the requisite capacity to undertake devolved functions.
However, these proposals if adopted, will undermine both municipal authorities in the Western Area; and it appears to be an attempt to gerrymander the political landscape in the Western Area, by creating devolved units at district level, enabling the SLPP to make political inroads into the Western Area, which they are so desperate to do.
To further underline the government’s ploy the WhatsApp message below attributed to the Minster of Lands, Denis Sandy, contains specific instructions of the government’s agenda for MDAs.
It states that “This should be the trend henceforth, as its President Bio that should be considered doing all this, en nobody!… All such efforts should be done by the president in the form of any donation and all government MDAs must get full understanding en render maximum support on this. Nothing should be given to Mayor Aki-Sawyer or Freetown City Council from d government for such. Leh we no gee am natin, dis tem around. We should be in charge of everything and President Bio should be in full control of all.”
As the government now intends to bring the guidelines agreed by the Technical Committee to Parliament for approval, it provides parliamentarians with an excellent opportunity to demonstrate to the people that Parliament can act independently of the government and that it would uphold the law.
It must not allow procedures of parliament to be used as a means of preventing the FCC to do what it is legally obligated to do under the Local Government Act 2004.
Before I can make my personal comments and observation on this article I can elaborate during the 2018 General/Presidential elections in mama Salone on one of the political manifestos of the then NGC party presidential flag-bearer candidate Dr K.K.Yumkellah of creating a federal style of local government if his party was duly elected as head of the current executive arm of government but he was not. I believe it was out of foresight as an Economist that such proposals were made.
And we are now seeing the need to have a de-centralised local government operations especially within the Western Area and it’s environs for the smooth/dynamic execution of their local governance duties. We can see such in operation in The Gambia and Ghana in the ECOWAS Sub-region of English speaking West Africa countries for instance of their capital cities; and there are absolutely no frictions between their local/central governments in their operations.
In Ghana for instance they have Accra 1, Accra 2, and Accra 3 which are digsinated sub-units of Accra the capital/administration/financial head city of Ghana. We can do the same in Sierra Leone and this will help us establish administrative areas where the required building permits will be required and followed to the letter of the building agreements. We can then locate / establish areas where low cost housing lease/let by that local district government as we have in Australia, supplementing the efforts of private land/property owners in reducing/metigating the housing shortage in mama Salone; and her less fortunate citizens can also find roofs over their heads with each citizen proud to be called Sierra Leonean.
The banana sellers are back at it with their transcendental self. Mr. Sandy seems to be shooting off the hip with no particular target on sight. What’s with the ego trip? Aren’t these guys aware that they are running a shithole? Why so much hubris? It must be an African thing to hold oneself in such a high standard unwarranted.
There are no two ways about it – the President is nothing but a heartless unrepentant tribalist – an authoritarian leader no doubt, with trigger happy fingers that has been known to slaughter the innocent and weak for making any kinds of inaudible squeaky sounds that could be heard coming only from an ailing frightened mouse. Sierra Leone we have a big problem! We are hearing voices proclaiming that this old, washed up untrustworthy soldier is a true patriot.
Even though his thieving hands are tainted with rampant corruption, and we also have clear evidence to support the widely held belief that the entire SLPP criminal Cabal are showing visible symptoms of chronic Kleptomania – the inability to resist powerful urges to steal items, positions and possessions from others. Tribalists like Bio encourage his subordinates to do the worst; he teaches them to tread the path of revenge and encourages them to hold grievances and brood over their losses and defeats like wounded hyenas that have lost their mates in a fight with an indomitable enemy.
Madam Sawyer is up against the worst kinds of men, scrapped carefully from the bottom of the barrel indiscretions,imprudence and callousness. Madam, these people have no standards to live to up! True. They are not interested in universal, ethical and moral values at all. To them money, fame, power and inordinate ambition are quite enough to grant them the keys to happiness. Since they assumed the reins of power they have been discreetly planning the “TAKEOVER” of Freetown but that is never gonna happen. Our Mayor was elected by the people and these criminals must crawl back into their little holes and respect the will of the people and not attempt to tarnish their already deplorable and battered image through their questionable attitudes of fidgeting, to quickly get the city of Freetown under their criminal control.
Freetown being the commercial hub of the country and by extension any future economic recovery from the covid19 pandemic, it is incumbent on this government to work with Mayor Aki-Sawyerr to tackle some of the most pressing problems facing the city. The President seems to have lost focus on why he was entrusted with power in the first place. Our hope was for him to single headedly drag our country from poverty and tribal division and propel us to a brighter future. The message Hon. Sandy is sending clearly shows this Bio government is not interested in engaging stake holders on matters pertaining to Freetown or anywhere else in the country. In a way this minister is so intoxicated with power and money, he and this president are only interested in short-term gains rather than looking at the bigger picture. More like shooting yourself in the foot without even acknowledging it.
If the Freetown metropolis and its citizens are happy during the course of this mayorship, the Mayor will take some credit, but not all of it. The bulk of job satisfaction rating will go to the government of the day. Voters will remember when flood defences were erected, the gutters and sewage system was dealt with, the salaries of city workers paid on time – all that credit will go to the president. Every one knows the president, but not everyone knows what the work the Mayor of Freetown does to improve lives. A thankless job if you like. “MONKEY WOKE BABU EAT”. The government should provide her with the powers to raise the funds needed to run Freetown city Council.
That’s why I think Hon Minister Sandy is not only incompetent, but overall through to form is missing a big trick. This government is making it as they go along. No plans and no clear vision of what the city of Freetown is desperately in need of. This Bio government needs to calibrate their thinking for any long term development goals. The way they are running the country is more like its either their way or the highway policy agenda they are working on. In other words if you don’t like their proposal, you can either have it or lump. That in itself is a clearer violation of the rights of citizens of Freetown that voted for their Mayor. May God bless Sierra Leone.