NASSIT – what is the real story?

Dr. Sama Banya – Puawui

The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 3 June 2014

Nassit-FerryThe National Insurance and Social Security Trust – NASSIT, has in the past few years, at least since the advent of the APC government, been in the news for all the wrong reasons.

The scheme was the initiative of the former President Alhaji Dr. Ahmad Tejan-Kabbah’s SLPP government minister of labour and social security – Alpha Timbo.

The President had watched closely the activity of the young Secretary-General of the Sierra Leone Teachers’ Union (SLTU).

The SLTU had emerged from a dull, argumentative and sometimes disunited body, to one that was seen to be very aware of its responsibility – not just to its members, but to the educational system and therefore the country at large.

It was under Alpha Timbo’s stewardship that the Union erected a very handsome hotel in the East end of the city – aptly named “HOTEL 510” in commemoration of the World Teacher’s Day.

Today the hotel is seen as a viable and successful investment.

parliamentary history - rufThere is hardly any citizen of Freetown, or the thousands of internally displaced persons from various parts of the country, who does not recall with horror the terrible atrocities inflicted by a band of ruthless savages, calling themselves revolutionaries – whether of the RUF or Armed Forces Revolutionary Council, except for the band of selfish and self centred individuals who served the murderous gang, who not only supported the latter regime, but actually served under it.

Yes, all peace loving Sierra Leoneans will remember with nausea – January 6 1999, and the horrors that followed, until ECOMOG and the British forces drove the bandits out of the capital and secured Lungi International Airport.

Alpha Timbo was among the group of Sierra Leoneans who spent long days and nights, seeking the safety and welfare of the victims of those butchers.

As General Colin Powell said when he addressed a group of school kids in Harlem; “Someone is always watching.”

And so it was with Alpha Timbo and some of his colleagues, that the Head of State – his Excellency Dr. Ahmad Tejan-Kabbah was watching.

To the president, Alpha Timbo had demonstrated the kind of leadership that would be of immense value in the country’s decision making process, especially in the immediate post war period.

Hence, the Teacher trade unionist was persuaded – and I use the word deliberately – was persuaded to join the government.

And because Timbo was action oriented, he soon took a leaf from the Ghanaian Social Security Trust and Network, and with the approval of the President and then the cabinet, NASSIT was born and established.

Timbo was able to acquire the services of the Ghanaian expert – Eric Adjei, who was seconded as Managing Director and later as Consultant to the newly created NASSIT.

Together with Alpha Timbo, the scheme was set up, using the proceeds from the sale of donated rice from Libya, as seed corn investment.

Contrary to the opposition APC and PMDC propaganda regarding the Libyan rice or other donated items, published in the Standard times newspaper, the people of Sierra Leone and especially the press were fully aware of what was being done.

Following its establishment, Timbo wanted a Sierra Leonean to succeed Adjei. So he recommended Edmond Koroma to the President, as a most suited candidate to fill the vacancy.

I disagreed with that decision, and told his Excellency that we must advertise the position in order to give others the opportunity to apply.

Even though I favoured a particular candidate, Edmond’s credentials outweighed those of my own preferred candidate.

parliamentary history - kabbah berewaBut, both the President and his Vice President – Solomon Berewa, confirmed Edmond’s appointment without further ado.

Ironically, up to the departure of SLPP from office, both Edmond and his two deputies – Sahr Ngainga and Sankoh – one of those recently sacked, were doing an excellent job at NASSIT.

We could see some products of their handiwork, under an equally efficient Board of Directors, all of whom were appointed on merit.

NASSIT FERRY REFITTED IN SENEGAL  04 11But it is a different story today; there is that terrible episode of the purchase of two rotten ferries, for which the non-expert board members of NASSIT had travelled to Europe at taxpayers’ expense to confirm the order.

I won’t sadden readers with the ugly consequences of that terrible decision, tainted by stories of corruption.

Another scandal broke out, with allegations that the board chairman – Jacob Kanu, who runs his own financial institution, was in the habit of channelling NASSIT funds to his outfit as a means of managing his short-term cash flow requirements, before passing it into the Trust’s account.

Nothing was done about the Chairman’s impropriety, but the Secretary and Legal Adviser was forced to resign from NASSIT.

Not long after that episode, it was rumoured that there was friction in the board, because the technocrats had refused to endorse the reappointment of the board chairman who is still in post.

Well, as they say the rest is now history.

The recently sacked Managing Director – Sam Bangura and two of his deputies, have been shown the red flag, but another of the deputies remains in post and is in charge of the joint, until a permanent MD is appointed – or so the story goes.

But in Sierra Leone there is nothing more permanent as Temporary arrangements.

Don’t quote me please; what the board needs to do now in order to reassure the public as to who the owners of the outfit are, is for the chairman and management to publish an Audited Account of NASSIT.

There may have been a recent one, but I haven’t seen it.

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