Sierra Leone Telegraph: 12 May 2021:
Just twenty-four hours after announcing its out of court settlement of its ill-advised, long-drawn battle with iron ore mining Group – Gerald, costing the people of Sierra Leone millions of dollars in lost export revenue, the government of Sierra Leone is said to be taking comfort from yesterday’s ratification of two major economic development agreements by parliament.
Members of parliament yesterday debated and unanimously ratified amendment to an agreement signed by the government to expand the Lungi International Airport, as well as its agreement granting leasing rights to Kingho Railway for use of the seaport to transport iron ore from the country.
Presenting the Kingho Agreement to MPs, Minister of Mines and Mineral Resources, Timothy Kabba said that the Government stands to gain $2.5 Million from the port leasing agreement as well as other economic spinoffs.
Chairman of the Committee for Mines and Leader of the opposition C4C party, Saa Emerson Lamina described the Agreement as “detailed”, adding it could help boost the economy. He said that other mining companies operating in the subregion would benefit from the services of the rail and port lease agreement.
Abdul Karim Kamara MP praised the Mines Minister for successfully negotiating an out-of-court settlement with SL Mining Company which he said is a welcome news to the people of Sierra Leone.
Abdul Kargbo MP, said he worked for African Minerals Limited as an Engineer, adding that directly or indirectly Sierra Leoneans benefited from that investment. He criticised the government for suspending mining operations – a decision that has badly impacted on the economy but commended the Mines Minister for trying to revitalize the mining sector once again.
Leader of the Opposition – Chernor Bah MP, thanked the Minister for bringing the Agreement to Parliament for ratification. Speaking on the need to follow procedures before implementation of Agreements, he spoke about the huge investments made over the years by mining companies on the railway infrastructure from Ferengbeya to Pepel, under the supervision of the Government of Sierra Leone. He emphasized that “agreements must be followed through before the start of mining operations”.
Concluding the debate, Leader of Government Business, Mathew Sahr Nyuma MP said the government is into changing the narrative by removing monopoly and allowing other mining companies to invest in the operations of the railway.
Members of parliament also debated and ratified amendments relating to the build-operate-transfer agreement for the construction, financing, and concession of the expansion of the Freetown International Airport. The Agreement is between the Government of Sierra Leone and the Russian owned SUMMA Airports Sierra Leone Limited.
Presenting the Agreement to MPs, Deputy Minister of Transport and Aviation, Rex Bhonopha spoke about the importance of the parliamentary amendment to remove ambiguities in the agreement.
Acting Leader of the Opposition, Ibrahim Ben Kargbo MP called for a speedy conclusion of the Airport expansion project and described SUMMA as a “trusted” company in this regard.
It’s about time the national airport get some improvements not only in terms of expansion but how it is managed. It was embarrassing recently when arriving passengers were asked to fill out landing cards right outside the entrance of the airport which is a high risk area whilst passengers on route to Guinea filled their forms on board the aircraft. It shows those at the helm of affairs have a lot to learn.
Ghana’s Kotoka airport left me amazed with not only the infrastructure i.e scanners, lifts etc but how well organized the whole process is with professional staff and no one asking for money. I hope this expansion will be the start of better things to come.
Usually, airport expansion is associated with the increasing demand and capacity to handle the increased flow of passenger numbers of international business travellers and tourists. This expansion at lungi international airport, we are told by this failing Bio government, will enhance airport authority’s efficiency in its management of passenger numbers and experience. This drum beat of support for the airport expansion, is nothing short of a symptomatic predatory drive for profits, never mind the cost to the health and wellbeing of communities living in the area. The real beneficiaries are the corrupt government ministers and the private companies involved. Even before COVID19, our country was not overwhelmed by passengers numbers.
Why waste millions of dollars that only benefit the few not the many? Construction and the restoration of our unpaved road networks, will make more economic sense, than this white elephant projects. Almost 80 to 90% of the struggling Sierra Leone public that live from hand to mouth, hardly take to the air. Majority of families, cannot afford an OKEKE Ride, never mind an airline ticket. Maybe if this failed Bio government ever gets it priorities right, communities will be best served to fix our death trap roads. In the case of towns and cities like Freetown, apart from Wilkinson Road, the rest is just not worth talking about.
At present, travelling in our unpaved roads are expensive, time consuming, and sometimes a death wish. The hill top bypass that ease the flow of traffic between the East end and West end of Freetown was a good way to manage congestion in the commercial district of Freetown. But expanding that project, so the whole of Freetown is covered, is not in the list of priorities in Bio’s agenda to transform our country’s development prospect.