Dr. Sama Banya – Puawui
2 July 2012
Well, dear readers, a couple of weeks ago your columnist turned 82. I have to confess that although I am thankful to God that through His Grace I remain physically, mentally and intellectually alert, there are days when I do feel the full weight of my EIGHTY TWO YEARS.
There are some who take delight in telling the world that I am 104 if not more. Maybe I am, but to satisfy my readers that am still going, take a look at this photograph I took on the occasion of my 82nd birthday.
If I look like 104, my invitation stays open for a gentle walk from the National School of Nursing to Family Kingdom on Lumley beach, any time the challenge is picked up.
And please save any intended belated greetings for next year, when through the Grace of the same God, I look forward to hitting 83 and under a ‘New Direction’.
In the meantime, I perform all my normal physiological processes, I walk for an hour every morning – while most of my critics are still fast asleep; I have a good appetite and I sleep very well.
My detractors have not been allowed to gloat or triumph over me. What more could anyone hope for, except to say: “Thank You Lord.”
During its business news in the BBC’s ‘World Briefing’ at 5’oclock one morning last week, the report and discussion was on the iron ore deposits in the neighbouring Republic of Guinea.
According to the information available, the Guinea deposit of iron ore must be the largest and best quality in the world and the Russians had become involved in the exploitation.
The company is now set to invest well over a billion dollars in developing the mines. A major component would be the construction of a rail road – from north-eastern Guinea to the ports.
Whether such a rail network would link with the Nimba mines in neighbouring Liberia, or transporting the ore to Conakry over 600 kilometers away, were all part of the negotiations, which are reported to have advanced almost to an agreement.
An outstanding component was that the Guinean government would have a fifteen percent share in the company. I shook my head and said to myself; there goes a government that knows exactly what is good for its people.
Its experts must be aware of the potential of the mines and in addition having fifteen percent shares, would assure it of a proportional percentage of the profits.
My thoughts went to the action of my own government, which recently sold the 30 percent shares it had in Sierra Rutile.
It sold them back to the Rutile company in order to get quick bucks for the immediate now, without giving any thought to the advantage of a perpetual earning from the investment that the previous SLPP government had wisely made.
The story of this government’s ‘yuki yuki’ does not end with divesting from Sierra Rutile. It was reported recently that the government had requested African Minerals and other mining companies in the country to pay their taxes upfront.
This means that the government has already collected the taxes accrued from the mining of our resources, well in advance and by the time they shall have left office next November, the incoming SLPP government would derive no revenue from that source.
This is how the APC government left this country bankrupt in the past, by accumulating massive private sector debts at exorbitant commercial interest rates.
In 1980, the government of President Siaka Stevens entered a new partnership with the Sierra Leone Selection Trust (SLST), for the proposed Kimberlite project in Kono, with an extension to Tongofield.
As Minister of Finance and Economic Development I headed a cabinet sub-committee, which was to enter into negotiations with SLST, a position I continued to hold even after President Stevens had taken over the Finance portfolio from me.
The late Jim Forna was Governor of the Central Bank, and on his advice I requested the United Nations Technical Assistance Programme, for the services of an expert to guide us in our negotiations.
The former President of the African Development Bank, the Ghanaian born Dr. Kwame Fodwor was nominated.
The negotiations were tortuous. But with patience and with the will on both sides to move forward, an amicable agreement was reached.
An innovation was to get the various Diamond exporters, led by De Beer’s Diamond Corporation, which already had the largest allocation to buy and export government’s diamonds to buy shares in the new arrangement.
That way the price of diamonds would be maintained on the world market. The agreement itself was hailed as a major achievement, and both Jim Fornah and I were warmly congratulated by Siaka Stevens for our negotiating skill.
The 1982 general elections took place before the agreement could be ratified by both parties.
The new Cabinet decided to go back to the drawing board, a decision which forced the SLST to pull out of the negotiations and from any involvement in diamond mining in the country.
In contrast to what we had done, this APC government takes a short-sighted view of major matters, thinking more of the personal than of the country as a whole.
If we want to get the maximum benefit from our natural resources and keep this country united as a cohesive force, this government should be voted out next November and replaced by a farsighted SLPP government, which has a better and more nationalist outlook in such matters.
While other African governments invest – this APC government dis-invests.