The Executive Chairman of the Petroleum Regulatory Agency, Brima Baluwa Koroma, has on Monday 21st March 2022, hosted officials from the United States Embassy in Freetown at his Tower Hill Office.
The courtesy call visit by Frisco McDonald, Counselor for Commercial and Economic Affairs, Commercial and Economic Affairs Section, and Karmoh Allieu Lahai, Economic Assistant of the Embassy, was to have an insight in the downstream petroleum sector, and to identify possible areas of intervention that might be needed amidst the current global fuel crisis.
In his welcome address, Chairman Baluwa Koroma thanked the Embassy and the Government of the United States, for following development in the downstream petroleum sector, as it demonstrates the strong bilateral relationship between Sierra Leone and the United States.
Chairman Baluwa Koroma said that, despite Sierra Leone being a net-importing country and the current non-participation of government in the petroleum value chain, government has been able to ensure product availability even when the world is currently going through a global crisis.
“Sierra Leone is currently using less than 40% of its 198,000 metric tons storage capacity due to major refurbishment ongoing. He noted that the largest market player, the NP SL is currently refurbishing its gantry and storage facilities. Due to limited number of importers and storage companies , there is always a two weeks replenishment period for products. Our focus is to open the sector and have more players including government participation in the value chain. The strategic plan is for government to maintain strategic stock level for months to mitigate any external shock,” he said.
Chairman Baluwa Koroma underscored the vital role the agency has been playing in boosting government’s revenue as it has been punching above its weight.
Another area of intervention Chairman Baluwa Koroma seeks, was the issue of foreign currency to boost theTrade finance of the Oil marketing companies. This he said has been putting government under intense pressure to meet the demand of importers. The average weekly demand for forex is USD$20,000, 000 of which the government has been supporting under difficult circumstances.
“There is investment opportunities in Sierra Leone, as we only have one working petroleum Jetty, and three importers to meet the growing 1.5 million liters per day consumption. The investment climate is attractive and this government is ready to promote and protect investment in the industry,” he said.
In his response, Frisco McDonald, said that Sierra Leone has the potential to attract foreign direct investors, and they as development partners will assess key areas that might be of interest to investors, but certainly the petroleum downstream sector in Sierra Leone is a possible destination
He said with critical intervention, he believe Sierra Leone can be able to change its narration in ten years like Ghana and other developing countries, and that there should be more assurance and PRA must continue with it open door policies to protect investment.
He assured the agency of a continuous collaboration and engagement to see how best the sector can benefit from the relationship particularly in the areas identified.
EFCC, Interpol & NACIWA up ACC
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of Nigeria under the leadership of its Executive Chairman Abdulrasheed Bawa, the Network of Anti-Corruption Institutions of West Africa (NACIWA) and WAPIS Pogramme of the International Criminal Police Organization, commonly known as Interpol honoured Francis Ben Kaifala Esq., outgoing President of NACIWA and Commissioner of the Anti-Corruption Commission of Sierra Leone, for his trail blazing and exemplary campaign in the fight against corruption in the sub-region.
Francis Ben Kaifala had at the just concluded 5th Annual General Assembly (AGA) of the regional block NACIWA, handed over the mantle of leadership after three years of success as head of the Network.
There is no gainsaying that whilst he served as head of the NACIWA, Commissioner Kaifala significantly contributed to the fight against corruption both nationally and internationally. Besides being overwhelmingly elected to serve as a distinguished Board Member, on the African Union Advisory Board on Corruption (AUABC) in 2021, and his appointment amongst twenty-five (25) selected leaders for Africa’s most prestigious Archbishop Desmond Tutu Leadership Programme; the Sierra Leonean renowned legal luminary has injected significant reforms in the fight against corruption in Sierra Leone making his reign since 2018 very successful.
During his work as Commissioner of Sierra Leone’s ACC, Francis Ben Kaifala has received and won several awards, laurels and accolades including; the US State Departments’ “International Anti-Corruption Champion 2020“; 50 Influential Young Global Leaders” by the Global Initiative for Good Leadership; Africa’s “Obama Africa Leader 2019”; “West Africa’s Young person of the Year 2019” by Confederation of West African Youths; “Public Servant of the Year 2019” by the AWOL (National Achievement Awards); to mention but a few.
Therefore, these recent regional honours and recognitions by NACIWA, the Interpol and the EFCC of Nigeria do not come as a surprise to many, considering the fact that Ben Kaifala has demonstrated resounding leadership and commitment in all spheres of the fight against corruption at local, sub-regional and continental levels.
Responding to the honours, the Commissioner, Francis Ben Kaifala dedicated these honours to Joseph Kangaju Esq. Head of the Policy and Ethics Unit in the Prevention Department who is hospitalized at the Connaught Hospital.
Kabala School for the Blind needs help .
The Kabala School for the Blind is located three miles, Katombo 2 off from Kabala Town, and serves as Hostel for Blind People from Koinadugu and Falaba District and other parts of the Country.
The School is currently hosting Blind Pupils from Primary to Senior Secondary School with some going parts of the Country to attend Colleges and Universities.
Emmanuel Amidu Mansaray, Head Teacher, Kabala School for the Blind, said the School started in 1986 from Students of Milton Margai School for the Blind and further extended it to Kabala Town as the first School for the Blind in the Provinces.
The school is free for all Blind Children and Adults who wants to go through Formal and Non-Formal Educational empowerment.
It was further moved from Ismaia Road to Three Mile and Officially Opened on the 8th October, 1988 but was completely burnt down during the war but later built through the Sababu Education Project by Building 3 classroom structures.
He thanked the good will actions of Father Antony and Father Peter who helped with many things like, Bulgur, Oil, Desks and Tables, Tape Recorders, Papers, Typewriters etc.
However, Mr. Mansaray expressed dissatisfaction over the too much challenges the School is facing. Stating, the only vehicle they have has stopped working for over three years which makes life very unbearable for the Blind Children staying off the School and those attending Schools in Kabala Town.
He said the Vehicle was having a Gear Box and many other Problems but the part are not sold in the Country except Guinea.
“The only cost requested was ten million Leones and I made several efforts and advocacy to stakeholders but no one helped. This situation is very pathetic and unbelievable” He added.
Other problems he highlighted were; Lack of Library, Teaching and Learning Materials, late disbursement of Subvention, Psychological mentoring, No fence to ensure security, Not enough clothing and Shelter, Not enough Staff Quarters, No Sick Bay or Clinic, no better access to Medical Service and many other problems.
“I nearly closed the school as there was no subvention from January to almost the month of March. It’s became so unbearable to run the school effectively and I am worried about the future of these blind children” He affirmed.
Mr. Mansaray however boasted to accomplish some notable successes under his leadership pointing at, building of hostels from Peter Bayukun Conteh and friends from Italy, getting a second hand vehicle-although currently faulty due to the costly spare parts, Nasarah and U.M.C. Clinic built a staff quarter of two apartments, built a water well, Kitchen, Teaching and Learning Materials, Constant lobbying through the Media and succeeded in getting donations of water, clothes and other things.
He ended by calling on stakeholders, NGO’S INGO’s Religious Organizations Humanitarians Sierra Leoneans and the diaspora to urgently intervene.
The Matron, School for the Blind, Aminata Sawdatu Njai, the overall care taker said, the blind children used to be fed there times but now only got food two times a day which is greatly affecting the kids.
She further revealed that, the vehicle breakdown is really affecting the children as most of them attends school in Ahmadiyya Muslim Agricultural Secondary School Kabala Town, Loma Secondary School Kabala Town, Kabala Secondary School and other schools outside their hostels.
“We used to have light and water supply but all these opportunities have just stopped. How can we survive such disposable circumstances? We are currently very discouraged as a result of our almost hell on earth suffering” the Matron exclaimed.
One of the School Pupils who currently lives in the School for the Blind, attending the Kabala Secondary School for Girls in JSS 2, Saio Marah says, her aim of going to school is to be empowered to be a Good Contributor to Society and the world.
She said, she most often treks to school and normally faces discrimination amongst his colleagues.
“We need more soaps, clothes, Typewriters, Teaching and Learning Materials, tape recorders and other basic social facilities. We are sick and tired of the unusual system of suffering. If you don’t help us urgently, prepare for our constant knocks on your doors or get ready to bury us at early ages” Saio Reiterated.
She said their pressing needs are; tape recorders, teaching and Learning Materials, Dining Hall, Fence as they were once attacked by thieves.
Francis Mara, A grade five Pupil of the Kabala School for the Blind assured his joy for attending School and encouraged others to do the same, saying, being a blind person doesn’t only means you have to always be in the streets to beg but have the right to be educated and empowered.
He noted problems of Classroom structures, Library, Teachers, food, transportation and others is really affecting them In such a way that, some of his colleagues have dropped out of school and some blind children and parents aren’t motivated to undertake Educational ventures, is making life more tougher.
Isha Kumba Koroma, living back of School for the Blind, and a former Pupil of the School for the Blind Kabala Town.
She said she stopped in S.S.S. 111 due to countless challenges and now decides to learn Soap Making for further empowerment.
She re-echoed her ordeals of walking to attend Kabala Secondary School and the odd life of falling into gutters and the constant discrimination from different people.
She therefore called on Government to support the Kabala School for the Blind with Skill Training Centre for those who can’t afford to finish schooling.
In a phone call with the current Council Chairman for the Koinadugu District Council, Lawrence Teteh Kargbo, he said such challenges were not to his notice due to the many administrative work but faithfully promised to do his best in addressing some of the concerns raised by the School and encouraged other people to assist them conquer those challenges.