Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 May 2021:
There have been confusion and consternation in Freetown since the appointment in a cabinet reshuffle couple of weeks ago, of a Minister for the Western Region of Sierra Leone, the capital Freetown.
Although the proposal for the creation of a separate ministry with responsibility for the administration of the political, economic, social, and political affairs of the capital of Freetown was first mentioned over a year ago by the vice president at a conference in Freetown, few ever dreamt of the president taking it seriously given the cost and conflicting nature of such a ministry over and above the ministry of local government and Mayor of Freetown.
Many were also expecting president Bio to take such a proposal to parliament for discussion and ratification by implementation.
In a snap cabinet reshuffle announced two weeks ago, president Bio appointed Mrs Nabeela Tunis (Photo) who was sacked as foreign affairs minister to take over as minister for the Western Region, with little or no brief as to her job description and authority.
What is certain though is that Nabeela Tunis will have a cabinet minister rank and status, which puts her above other regional ministers serving the government.
Although critics say that this appointment was hastily made by the president to compensate Nabeela for her sacking as foreign minister, questions are being asked as to what exactly her job is going to be.
Two days ago, Nabeela spoke to local media, A-Z News about her new job and why she has been appointed by the president as Minister for the Western Region.
She said that there has been a leadership vacuum in the Western Region and the President in his wisdom appointed her to fill that vacuum.
Nabeela also told A-Z that the Western Region has two districts but people cannot see the impact of what government is doing in terms of the effective coordination of the work of ministries, departments and agencies in the capital.
But what is even more stupefying is that according to her she has been appointed because president Bio himself wants to get closer to the people of the Region and understand their needs, which explains why she has been appointed with a cabinet rank and status.
She said that the main motive of creating the Ministry of Western Region is for the president to have an in-depth understanding of the Region when it comes to decision making at cabinet level. She said if for example the government wants to do some development within the Region or government wants to move people from Western Urban to the Rural, there should be somebody who will bring the two districts together for proper coordination.
She gave an example of the current difficulties facing the president in managing the ministries, saying that the government had an issue at No. 2 Guma Dam involving three ministries. The ministry of water resources wanted an extension of the dam, the ministry of environment had its own contrary view on it regarding the safety of people, and the ministry of lands had its own interest. She added that though there was no malice among the three ministers, but each was simply focused on pushing their own agenda.
She said there was nobody at cabinet level who can look at what is good for the Region and also coordinate the ministries in terms of critical and controversial decision making for the good of the Western Region.
Madam Nabeela Tunis assured that she is better placed to play a coordinating role between ministries so that government can start looking at things from the people’s perspectives in terms of development, and that issues relevant to the needs of the Western Region will be discussed at cabinet level.
But critics of the government say that the appointment of a minister for the Western Region makes no sense. They say that it brings this role into direct conflict with that of the Mayor of Freetown, and raises the possibility of direct conflict between the Mayor who is elected by the people and a government official who is not.
The also say that this ministerial appointment is another example of grotesque profligacy by a government claiming to be serious about sound public finance management.