Sierra Leone Telegraph: 29 December 2015
The fifth floor of the office of the electricity supply and billing company in Freetown is still smouldering this evening, after fire broke out in the early hours of the morning.
It is not clear what started the fire, but suspicions are rife. Neither is it the first time Electricity House has gone ablaze.
Poorly equipped firemen battled all day long to bring the fire under control. Luckily there was no one in the building when the fire started.
It is suspected that criminal syndicates working for individuals that are interested in destroying the records of the company may have set the office alight.
As the police begin to conduct their investigations they will be looking at the possibility of arson, given the thousands of electricity utility bill defaulters in the city, who would be interested in starting the New Year with a ‘clean electricity bill’ by destroying records.
In the last five years of the life of the ruling APC government there have been several auspicious fires at prominent government offices.
The office of the registrar of the law courts was set alight. The office of the national auditor suffered serious damage to records caused by unexplained fire.
Records at the ministerial offices in the government Youyi Building were destroyed two years ago, also by an unexplained fire.
There has been a significant rise in serious crime such as arson, armed robbery, murder and assault in recent years, as the number of jobless youths grows.
The national electricity company is struggling to meet its running cost, including the payment of workers’ salaries because of cashflow problems.
The revenue collected does not match the cost of providing the irregular and intermittent supply of electricity to thousands of households across Freetown.
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 criminal syndicates that are determined to defraud and avoid paying their bills by any means necessary?
As the fire continues to smoulder this evening, the government may want to reflect on how poorly equipped the fire force in Sierra Leone has become.
According to BBC reporter Umaru Fofana, fire fighters said that they struggled to get inside the burning electricity building this morning, due to lack of breathing apparatus and vital protective wear.
It is understood that several fire fighters who were injured trying to put out the fire at the petrol station in Kissy on Christmas day are still seriously ill in hospital. Their conditions are not improving because of the lack of proper medical care at the hospital.