Sierra Leone Telegraph: 14 February 2019:
There was consternation yesterday among supporters and leaders of Sierra Leone’s main opposition All People’s Congress (APC) party, when a Commission of Inquiry led by the Nigerian Judge – Justice Biobele Georgewil, revealed a list of senior former government ministers – including president Koroma, who have been using the government owned Sierra Leone Commercial Bank as their personal piggy bank.
To be accused of looting state coffers is bad enough. But to use one’s office to take cash from poor savers at the government owned bank for personal and private use without paying back, is criminal.
According to government sources, the list of names read out publicly at the commission of inquiry yesterday, shows names of those in high office that borrowed billions of Leones from the bank and then defaulted in their repayment of the loans and overdrafts.
The list of so called ‘politically exposed’ Sierra Leone Commercial Bank debtors includes former president Ernest Bai Koroma who borrowed Le 858,638,123; former vice president Victor Foh – Le 939,815,843.23; sacked former vice president Samuel Sumana – Le 674,523,459; former information minister I.B Kargbo – Le 765,570,857 and Le 159,990,000; Hawanatu Koroma – Le 371,153,464; Alimamy Kamara – Le 140,763,401; Abraham Okere Adams – Le 31,324,240.46; Komba Mondel – Le 84,280,786.29 and Le 55,731,506.52; wife of the late former president Tejan kabba – Mrs Isatu Jabbie Kabba – Le 263,266,620; David Bai Conteh – Le 318,340,227; former minister of energy Henry Macaulay – Le 497,789,843; and Martin Bash Kamara – Le 20, 737,319.17.
It is understood that there are several more names of politicians in the former government and the well-connected that have used the government commercial bank as a honey pot to further their personal and business interests, without honouring their commitment to repay the loans and overdrafts.
Sierra Leone Commercial Bank was a few years ago on life support under special measures from the Bank of Sierra Leone, as it was unable to meet its obligation to the banking regulator, with millions of dollars borrowed by corrupt officials written off as ‘bad debt’.
What is lamentable is that lazy and incompetent people are elected to high office to work hard to uplift the people of Sierra Leone from poverty, create jobs and increase wealth.
But instead of pursuing their contract with the people, they became predators and parasites – taking money out of the government’s bank for their own personal use – money that should be used to help rebuild an economy they had bankrupted.
This is damn right abuse of office. The people of Sierra Leone deserve better and have every right to be angry.
When those elected to govern the people abuse their office by exercising executive orders in order to influence commercial banking decisions and policies for their own benefit, they as well as the bankers must be held to account.
Sierra Leone’s private sector is in a state of flux, not because there are no industrial and business innovators and entrepreneurs capable of setting up successful businesses that could create jobs for the millions of unemployed Sierra Leoneans that are languishing in destitution and abject poverty, but because of corrupt government officials who are taking millions out of the banking system that should be borrowed by business men and women to establish and grow their business.
This must stop. The Commission of Inquiry is here to stay, to ensure that those abusing high public office for their own personal gain and interests will be held to account and made to pay back every single penny they have gained as a result.
When those elected to govern the country are allowed to let loose on public funds as though its their personal piggy bank, then poverty, early deaths, destitution, illiteracy and lawlessness will reign supreme.
The causes of the civil war in Sierra Leone are rooted in decades of poor governance, impunity and corruption. People felt disenfranchised.
There must be no return to the bad old days that could breed another senseless war in Sierra Leone.
Let the Commissions of Inquiry do their work diligently and unfettered, without fear or favour – but in accordance with the law. Let common sense and justice prevail.