Sierra Leone Telegraph: 02 December 2021:
The capital of Sierra Leone – Freetown, home to over two million people and once known as the darkest city on the planet for its lack of electricity, has once again returned to claiming its global darkness status, after the Turkish ocean power generating ship that provides electricity for much of the country on Monday turned off the lights in protest at not being paid by the government.
The Sierra Leone Telegraph has been reliably informed by sources at State House that the Bio-led government owes Karpowership – the Turkish owned electricity generating company, over $50 million in unpaid electricity bills.
Two months ago, Sierra Leone’s minister of energy and his team went to Turkey to negotiate a payment plan with the company, but the Bio-led government has failed to honour its promise to make the payments, prompting Karpowership to turn the power off, leaving millions of people and businesses in darkness.
Six months ago, Karpowership, which provides electricity to Lebanon from two barges, shut down supplies over payment arrears and a legal threat to its vessels as the nation grapples with a deep economic crisis, according to Reuters.
The company, which supplied 370 megawatts (MW), or about a quarter of Lebanon’s electricity supply, told the government it would have to shut down unless there were moves towards settling the issues.
In 2017, the former Sierra Leone government of President Ernest Bai Koroma was faced with similar crisis which saw the entire capital crippled by lack of electricity, after Karpowership turned off power because of government’s failure to pay it electricity bills.
One of the key reasons President Koroma lost the 2018 elections was the failure of his government to prioritise the provision of electricity in the country, and his fall-out with the Turkish Karpowership who removed their electricity generating ship from the shores of Freetown, leaving the city in darkness.
President Bio promised the people of Sierra Leone that he will fix the country’s electricity crisis if voted as president. But now he has created his own electricity crisis for all the wrong reasons, including non-payment of government debts, as the government runs out of cash.
This crisis comes as Sierra Leone’s Vice President Juldeh Jalloh this week signed an agreement on behalf of President Bio with the President of Ivory Coast, for the supply of Ivorian electricity to the south-east of Sierra Leone – the President’s political heartland and homeland.
The agreement has been signed as part of Ivory Coast’s West African TRANSCO CLSG Power Purchase and Transmission Service.
According to Sierra Leone’s ministry of energy official report (published on Tuesday November 30, 2021): “Speaking on the purpose of his visit,Vice President Jalloh said he is in Ivory Coast as a Special Envoy of President Bio and in the country with a high-powered delegation to firm up arrangements in relation to the TRANSCO CLSG Power Purchase and Transmission Services Agreements with a view to lighting up the southeast of Sierra Leone.
“Vice President Jalloh informed President Ouattara that his Sierra Leonean opposite number (President Bio) is eager to see the energization of the power line so as to accelerate the delivery of reliable and sustainable electricity to the southeastern cities of Bo and Kenema.”
“President Alassane Ouattara described President Bio’s leadership as quintessential of exemplary statesmanship, adding that the fact that he had to dispatch such a high-level delegation was indicative of his commitment to the acceleration and realization of the CLSG project.
“President Ouattara instructed his Minister of Energy to forge a strong partnership with Sierra Leone’s Minister of Energy and to ensure that the Power Purchase Agreements protocols were signed to enable the people of Bo and Kenema enjoy uninterrupted electricity,” Sierra Leone’s ministry of energy said in a report.
But the Sierra Leone Telegraph understands that the cost of the Ivorian Power Purchase Agreement is huge – running into tens of millions of dollars, which may well become an albatross for President Bio’s government, leading to more unpaid debts.
President Bio and his government are now hoping that the Worldl Bank will make good on their promise of a $48 million finance announced by the government a few weeks ago, to help the government meet its financial obligations including payment of salaries to public sector workers.