Sierra Leone Telegraph: 21 February 2018
Last week’s presidential debate in Freetown, not only saw some of the candidates washing their dirty linens on the world stage, but saw mud being thrown at each other. But how much of this mud can be washed off, with presidential and general elections just two weeks away?
Dr. Samura Kamara – the ruling APC presidential candidate is being accused of gross neglect and mismanagement of the country’s affairs. And by his own admission during the presidential debate, his critics could be forgiven, as he himself confessed that all previous governments, including the current ruling APC are to be blamed for the abject poverty and economic mess Sierra Leone is facing today.
He admitted that conditions for Sierra Leoneans are deplorable, and that it is unforgiven on the part of those that have and, are ruling the country.
Such revelation may be judged by his supporters to be frank, honest and candid. But his critics say he is a dummy.
Set against the fact that Samura is campaigning for the presidency on the back of the ‘successes and failures’ of president Koroma, (PHOTO: Samura on the back of an okada when APC fans went riot in Freetown), how can he expect the people of Sierra Leone not to hold him accountable and responsible for almost thirty years of poverty and economic mismanagement?
After all, Samura has served as the central bank governor, or financial secretary, or finance minister, in every government that has ruled Sierra Leone since the 1990s.
The seventy-something year old ruling APC presidential candidate is no spring chicken, but could be suffering from serious amnesia.
Of all the 16 candidates vying for the presidency, Dr Samura is the most qualified to explain to the people of Sierra Leone, why after 57 years of independence from colonial rule, the people of Sierra Leone cannot afford to feed themselves; why they cannot have safe, clean drinking water running from their taps; why less than 12% of people have access to regular supply of electricity; why Sierra Leone is the most dangerous country for a woman to be expecting a baby – forcing ministers to send their pregnant wives abroad to deliver; why three out of every five children under five years old will die before their fifth birthday; why 50% of all adults will die before their 50th birthday; why less than 40% of the population can read and write; why less than 30% of the adult population are employed; and why 80% of Sierra Leoneans are living below the poverty line.
Dr samura is now facing serious indictment for gross economic mismanagement.
Amid accusations that he is the only candidate for the presidency that has had the privilege of occupying the position of central bank governor, financial secretary, and finance minister throughout the last twenty years at least – and has failed miserably, Dr Samura believes that he is the best candidate for the presidency.
Samura and his supporters are accusing Dr Kandeh Yumkella of mismanagement when he was minister of trade and industry in the military government that was led by Julius Maada Bio.
They say that Yumkella was responsible for selling the country’s only oil refinery plant that not only provided employment opportunity for hundreds of people across the production and supply chain, but was the country’s fuel life-line.
Dr Samura Kamara and Dr Kandeh Yumkella never served in the NPRC government during the sane period. Dr Yumkella resigned as trade minister from the NPRC Cabinet in December 1995. Samura was appointed into the NPRC Cabinet as Finance Minister in January 1996.
Was Dr Kandeh Yumkella responsible for selling the country’s oil refinery?
Unlike the accusation being thrown at Brigadier Julius Maada Bio by Dr Samura Kamara, about his misappropriation of $18 million when Bio was head of state, for which Samura nor his supporters have produced any evidence to back up their allegation, there are various documentary evidence showing that Yumkella did not make the decision to sell the country’s oil refinery.
So what evidence exist on record?
In 1992 the NPRC military junta led by Julius Maada Bio signed an agreement with the IMF to accept the Structural Adjustment Programme previously negotiated and accepted by the APC, along with a strict package of conditionalities.
The conditionalities included the privatization of several state-owned enterprises and other austerity measures.
The Privatisation Programme was strictly monitored by the World Bank, IMF and by the Public Enterprises Reform and Divestiture Committee (PERDIC). The Oil Refinery, Hotels, Fisheries, Banks, SLPMB – owned by the state, were all on the schedule to be privatised, as requested by the IMF.
The Oil refinery privatisation process started long before Kandeh Yumkella joined the NPRC Government in August of 1994 and was completed before he assumed office. Dr Yumkella participated in the inauguration of the Oil Refinery by the new owners after almost a year of their ownership of the asset they acquired under the structural adjustment Programme.
In the period 1992–1994, there were three Trade Ministers before Yumkella took office. They were: Dr. John Karimu, Dr. Arthur Ibrahim and Dr. Alusine Fofanah.
And in 1996 Yumkella resigned as Trade Minister after a year in office and returned to the US, where he continued as a Professor at Michigan State University in the Department of Agricultural Economics; and eventually joined the United Nations as Special Adviser to the Director-General of UNIDO in 1996.
In the face of relenting allegation that Dr Yumkella was responsible for selling the country’s oil refinery, Abdul Rashid Thomas has been informed by Mrs Sylvia Jolliminah Blyden, a retired senior civil servant in the ministry of finance throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, that Dr Yumkella was not responsible for selling the country’s oil refinery.
This is what she said: “I am just on the side of truth, so I am going to explain this Oil Refinery Sale properly for all in Sierra Leone to understand. Because I heard Dr Samura Kamara glibly at the Presidential Debate assert that, Kandeh Yumkella sold the Oil Refinery when there was no need to sell it.
“That, coming from Samura, when he knew what the IMF Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) was all about, and he was Financial Secretary for most of the time when all of the sale of the Government Enterprises were implemented, is grossly unfair.
“This is the story about the sale of the oil refinery: Sierra Leone needed to get its National debt and Finances in order. We invited the World Bank and IMF to work with us to do monetary reconciliation and to work out a Fiscal Programme that would make us sensibly spend on all the sectors on projected revenue, as well as meet our international and national debts.
“Among the issues addressed was that Government cannot own business enterprises. This was the same advice given to all countries of the world. So, for example, in the UK, British Rail was privatised and sold off and it is now owned by private investors.
“In Sierra Leone, over 40 companies were identified, and we were instructed to sell all of them. Among those identified were Oil Refinery and SLPMB. The rationale was that Government never runs business on profitable lines but on social lines. The politicians will forever keep on sending their supporters to be employed by the Companies and the Managers would feel compelled to take them.
“The Sierra Leone Government of APC President Momoh, signed to accept the IMF Programme. And in early 1992, we were granted the Structural Adjustment Programme which made it mandatory to sell over 40 Government Enterprises.
“In April 1992, the NPRC overthrew President Joseph Momoh and inherited the SAP. Some of the Companies were sold off quickly. Some took a while to sell. All depending on getting good investors interested in the Companies.
“The Oil Refinery took about 3 years to be sold. The investor bought it so it can be refining Nigerian Oil. I learnt that the machines were unsuitable to refine the Nigerian crude oil. So it was a losing venture for the investor. But it was sold off to him. Unfortunately, because it could not function, Sierra Leoneans lost out job wise. But it was due to the investor not being able to use it or to find another investor to sell it off to.
“So, for the record. Selling the oil refinery had nothing to do with any individual. it was part of the package in the IMF Structural Adjustment Programme.
“And for anyone to land it or the sale of any of the 40 something Enterprises sold on the doorstep of Kandeh Yumkella or anyone else is grossly unfair.”
So, what does Dr Yumkella himself has to say about the accusation that he was responsible for selling the country’s only oil refinery plant?
On Saturday, 14 October 2017 at 1pm in London, the editor of the Sierra Leone Telegraph – Abdul Rashid Thomas, met with Dr. Yumkella to talk about his presidential campaign. Among the issues discussed, was the accusation that he sold the Sierra Leone Oil Refinery when he was a government minister.
This is what Abdul Rashid Thomas asked Dr Yumkella: “There has been a lot of criticisms thrown at your record in office as minister of trade in the NPRC government, as well as your time as a student at Njala University. Can you set the record straight on these issues? You are accused of selling the country’s only oil refinery plant in 1994, and it is rumoured that you were impeached as president of the Njala University Students Union?
Watch this video to hear Yumkella’s response:
You can also follow the weblinks below for more information about the Structural Adjustment Programme.