His Excellency President Dr Julius Maada Bio has commissioned the 48 million Euros (Le 634 billion) Magbele Bridge, saying that the 163-meter-long modern two-lane bridge, now provides a safer corridor for trade and commerce.
“In less than 4 years alone in Port Loko District, my government, with our Eu partners, has constructed this 163-meter-long modern two-lane bridge. In less than 4 years, we are constructing a $270 million USD airport terminal at Lungi, Port Loko District even when the other people wanted to move the airport away from Lungi.
“In less than 4 years, we are reconstructing and modernising the Tagrin ferry terminal and working on bridging 4 new ferries. In less than four years, we have reopened the iron-ore mines at Marampa, expanded its operations, and created more jobs for our people in Port Loko District,” he said.
The President also recalled the billions of leones invested to refurbish the Port Loko Government hospital with a functional ambulance service and medical facilities that provided regular supplies of drugs, adding that Community Health Care Centres now had access to solar electricity after the government hired more nurses and midwives specifically for Port Loko District.
“Fewer mothers are now dying in childbirth and fewer children under five are now dying as there is better immunisation and primary health care. Our friends in the UAE have also invested in constructing a major health facility. In just four years, my government thought it fit to bring in agricultural investors to consider rice production in the Rombeh area. There is an investment in onion and vegetable production in Port Loko District.
“Add this to electricity access [solar] in Lokomasama and other places in just four years, my government – I personally came to Lokomasama in 2019 to switch on the lights. So, in just four years, my government has invested extensively in Port Loko District by all accounts,” he said.
Director General of Sierra Leone Roads Authority, Ing. Amara Kanneh, said the bridge was constructed with funds from the European Union, EU, under the supervision of the National Authorising Office (NAO) in the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development, saying that the two-lane bridge would replace the dilapidated one lane.
He further stated that the bridge was 7.2 meters on each side with a footpath of 5 meters as opposed to the old one that had no footpath, noting that the load-bearing capacity of the bridge was guaranteed.
“This bridge will stand the test of time, and if preventive measures are observed and maintained, it will serve for more than 100 years. Thank you very much President Julius Maada Bio for providing the requisite leadership. Thank you, the EU,” he concluded.
EU Ambassador to Sierra Leone, Manuel Müller, said he was happy that the bridge, which project they funded was being commissioned by the President of the country, adding that the construction of the New Magbele bridge started in March 2018 as part of the package of roads infrastructure projects Sierra Leone and the EU intended to round up before the 2023 rainy season.
He further noted that they had a long and strong relationship with Sierra Leone and with a track record of working together in education, governance, decentralisation, agriculture, environment, rural electrification and the management of public finances. He said that the EU would continue to work with the country to achieve its development agendas.
“What we are witnessing here today at Magbele, also, is part of a huge programme of building bridges between nations. The cooperation of the EU and Sierra Leone has contributed to more connectivity in the sub-region,” he concluded.
African Heritage Leadership Centre Launched
Musa Kwegoh Sowa, Founder and Head of Centre on the 26th April 2022 Officially Launched the African Heritage Leadership Centre- Sierra Leone (AHLEC-SL) at the City Hall, Lightfoot Boston Street in Freetown on the theme “Stimulating Youth Leadership to preserve and promote Africa’s Unique Heritage”
Talking on the topic, ‘The importance of the marriage between culture and travel and how it is helping close the gap in sierra leone and people of African Descent’ the Co-Founder of One African Properties Dynast Amir who happened to be one of the speakers for the event disclosed that he is a proud Sierra Leonean, that the #2 River beach is the best in the world, that all sierra Leone are obligated to promote the values of the country.
The land is blessed with beautiful landscape but shared that people only relate the country with Ebola, Blood Diamonds and corona to Sierra Leone and condemned the same old excuses that people give for not visiting the country.
He called on all Sierra Leoneans to promote the good image of the country by making it the number one destination in the world that would lure people to visit the country; Dynast Amir disclosed that South Africa is the most visited country in Africa.
He underscored that his job is to put Sierra Leone on the spotlight urging non-sierra Leoneans to visit the country and affirmed that initiatives like these are important especially for youths.
According to Dynast Amir, may all the objectives of the organization come to pass, and observed that tourism can be the game changer by creating jobs, economic empowerment and prosperity and appealed to all to read and explore about their culture and heritage.
The Founder and Head of Center, Musa Kwegoh Sowa, who happened to be the Premier Minister of Tourism and Cultural Preservation Fourah Bay College Students’ Union Government said the organization is a registered non-governmental organization with the aim of positioning the youth and advocates for global sustainable culture and tourism where authentic research and knowledge sharing thrives.
He noted that Sierra Leone is a heritage rich nation, that his team is tasked to work in an integrative approach with allied institutions public, private, local and international to restore, conserve and amplify Sierra Leone in a diverse world.
The Founder and Head of centre shared that his team had set objectives to enhance sustainable youth heritage leadership, few among them are.
1. To facilitate an increase in global and cultural competency via education, tourism and innovation.
2. Ensure youth leadership is pivotal in the holistic cultural restoration, conservation and promotion of Africa’s unique heritage with a collective global mind-set.
He concluded by saying his organization would be organising what he called ‘every time counts in shaping heritage knowledge in Sierra Leone’ a tour on independence day for estimated number of 100 pupil’s at no cost to parent to expose children and parents on the value of the heritage.
The second speaker, The President of Fourah Bay College Students’ Union Government underscored the importance for student to understand heritage and culture as well as to preserve and protect them. She went on to observe that in spite of the challenges, the African Studies department and Arts faculty at Fourah Bay College have helped to preserve the country’s culture and heritage but lamented that students are losing sight of their culture and heritage and rhetoric question “how do we ignite the fire to wake up our leaders to promote our culture and heritage”
Earlier, Augustine Bona who chaired the event asserted that they want to incorporate tourism into the society to promote the ideology of Africa, that there is beauty about Africa citing the values and great achievements of Africa Leaders like Nelson Mandela and Kofi Annan.
Shazel Muhammed who happened to be the third speaker talked on the topic; ‘The power of cross-cultural education in bridging the gap between the Afro-Diaspora and continental African youth leader’ Shazel addressed the Event via Zoom as she is presently resident in the USA.
Highlights of the program included a poem by Ibrahim Munu on the value of the Sierra Leone culture, storytelling by Methodist Boys High School about how what a lot of people call civilization has resulted to people abandoning their way of life and a drama performance by University Theater group on the conservation of our rich heritage and culture.
Naomi Mbayo the Center Financial Controller gave the Vote of thanks to audience. The event was climaxed with African food and cultural entertainment to the merriment of participants
Minister of Planning Departs for Timor-Leste (East Timor)
The Minister of Planning and Economic Development (MoPED), Dr. Francis Mustapha Kai-Kai has departed Sierra Leone today for Dili, Timor Leste on the invitation of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of the Southeast Asian nation.
The MoPED has been invited in his capacity, as Chair of the g7+ group of countries to attend the “Celebration of the 20th Anniversary of Restoration of Independence of Timor-Leste on the 20th May 2022” to be held in the capital Dili.
During his short visit, the MoPED is expected to greet leaders of the host country and express the g7+ appreciation for the political, institutional and financial support from the Government of the Democratic Republic of East Timor.
Minister Kai-Kai is also expected to meet with the Timor-Leste President of National Parliament, the meeting will also be attended by the Vice President and President of Commission B that focuses on foreign policies of Timor-Leste which includes g7+.
Later on that evening, Dr. Kai-Kai will attend a dinner hosted by the President-Elect of Timor-Leste, His Excellency Jose Ramos Horta, where he will have the opportunity to brainstorm the strategic direction of the g7+ and the role of Timor-Leste and other member countries.
The MoPED will also meet with H.E. Adaljiza Xavier Mango, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Timor-Leste to propose to establish diplomatic relation between Sierra Leone and Timor-Leste, which will also help in better relation between the 2 countries beyond the g7+.
He will later on meet with the President of National Commission of Election (CNE), H.E. Jose Agostinho da Costa Belo.
In a very brief statement, Minister Kai-Kai said his role at the g7+ would give Sierra Leone a stronger voice in the international scheme of things.
The Minister has been accompanied by the Director of Development Assistance and Cooperation at the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development, Abie Kamara. He is expected to return to Sierra Leone on the 24th May 2022.
THE THREE-FOLD CORD TO SUCCESSFULLY FIGHTING AGAINST FAKE DEGREES IN SIERRA LEONE
By: Joe Pessima
From “Ye Dominion Ye,” a slogan that first seemed humorous from a video that showed the conferment of post-graduate degrees under a mango tree in Waterloo, to radicalized Facebook posts from Dr. John Idriss Lahai, the awareness about the proliferation of fake degrees – be it undergraduate, post-graduate, or honoris causa – within the Civil Service, and public service has been kept alive by Dr. Lahai. Though Dr. Lahai maintained that he alerted Commissioner Francis Ben Kaifala about this societal menace a year ago, it only took the stubbornness of Ezekiel Samson Bangura, as Chancellor of Dominion University, to confer degrees on March 26, 2022, under the “power to rule” mango tree.
A JUDAS KISS FROM STATEHOUSE ON QUALITY HUMAN CAPITAL DEVELOPMENT
Typically, in Sierra Leone, to get the attention of the State House for authorities to review a situation and adequately solve it requires tremendous advocacy that will be backed up by violent strike actions from disgruntled citizens in the end. If not, there is this confidence from State Political actors that anything that puts pressure on the Political-will in State House won’t last for more than two weeks.
Well, contrary to this, a trailblazer was born for a moment like this. To change the narrative so that we can keep issues alive until we get the necessary action from Government. Keeping discussions on fake degrees alive is something we owe to the U-turn from Dr. John Idriss Lahai, who initially intended to release the names of all known phony degree holders in a one-off update, to reporting at least once every seventy-two hours. From Government Minister(s) to the Leader of Government Business and the Clerk of Parliament, a Managing Director of Rokel Commercial Bank, the Chairman Board of Directors at NRA, down to a Director of Human Resource at NATCOM, and Ordinary Civil Servants, degree-gate will live in the memory of all who was alive when it started.
Unfortunately, though Dr. Lahai has successfully dragged this issue for over six weeks, we are yet to see a direct action from the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone. Though Presidential political-will or “political-will” in general may be argued as ambiguous, where it is present, even the uninformed will take notice.
In short, despite President Bio being on record for prioritizing human capital development, he has not shown any interest in the fight against “fake-degree holders.” it portrays an image that all the President cares about right now is his re-election. Because there are key Political actors – HIS POLITICAL APPOINTEES – guilty of academic fraud, he has decided to stay silent on the issue. What he is failing to realize is that this issue will not go away before the elections. His commitment to QUALITY HUMAN CAPITAL DEVELOPMENT will be judged by his actions today and the promises to create jobs for deserving and qualified individuals. What manner of a President will genuinely claim to be committed to an efficient human capital and stay silent when policymakers, his appointees, and staff of various institutions are academic criminals with spurious degrees? His silence has led to many qualified Sierra Leoneans wishing we had a John Magufuli who, regardless of the Political storm, will be dedicated to sanitizing the civil service. Still, in Sierra Leone, we have a President who believes he can attain economic transformation by appointing CON ARTISTS.
Undoubtedly, for the APC government, education is not a right but a privilege. Still, the SLPP government has clarified that where Education is a right and quality education a must, they don’t think this right will guarantee you a job. They will ensure that you get a good education, but all they care about as a government is a fanciful Master’s or Ph.D. certificate, more precisely, a fake one. The SLPP will assure you of quality education, but while in governance, their jobs will be saved for SPURIOUS DEGREE HOLDERS by authorities as high as the Presidency. The New direction doesn’t share the opinion that there is a direct correlation between quality and qualified human capital and economic transformation.
THE UNPRECEDENTED U-TURN OF THE ACC’s PUBLIC RELATIONS DRIVE AND ITS INACTION?
Following this, when Dr. Lahai started the crusade because he called out the Commissioner on his refusal to open an investigation into the degree-gate saga, the Public relations team of the ACC was quick to attack the issue. The ACC has diverted the unsuspecting populace’s attention to the “conferring advantage” outreach festival. Effectively utilizing public relations tools, they propagated one message and transferred the burden to the institutions that created the problem.
Although the Commissioner and the entire outreach team are on record that they will only open an investigation when all evidence points to an advantage being conferred, we haven’t seen a single Press Release from the ACC informing citizens of the probing of a specific fake-degree holder. It has been a common practice for the ACC to routinely update the public on its intention to start an investigation and conclude the same. Their Public education strategy has been missing in the degree-gate saga. Do they want to tell us that of all the names mentioned, they have secretly investigated, and none of the mentioned names used a fake degree to confer an advantage?
On the contrary, what has been communicated is that the ACC is determined to sit on their hands until institutions send all the files of fake-degree holders to them for further investigation. A drive that syncs with the State House’s determination to look into this after the elections. Since opening an investigation into one person will force them to look into all who seemed to have to use the fake degrees for jobs, they are determined to wait for incompetent HR teams and Public Service Commission, knowing fully well that it is an investigation that the same people will drag because their laziness to verify documents and institutions created the problem.
Is the case of Braima Roonie Kargbo not a cause for the ACC to launch an inquiry? It has been over a week since Dr. Lahai challenged him to have a portfolio of phony credentials. Is that of Alex Elogima Massaquoi not of interest to the ACC? What about Theophilus Blaudfaust? Investigating a few cases now and setting a precedent will force many others hiding behind the protection of specific individuals to come out.
INTEGRITY IS THE CORNERSTONE TO A BETTER SIERRA LEONE
“When in Rome, do as The Romans do” seems to be a mantra in our Civil services. Most people believe that our society is deficient in right-mindedness; the seeming quietness of good people in speaking up against the corrupt status quo or their active recruitment into the bandwagon has been influenced by this deficiency.
Undoubtedly, when I joined the John Idriss Lahai crusade over a month ago, I did so because I believed it was and is a real fight, but I also thought that this was the greatest of battles the Anti-Corruption Commission would face. I knew that the case of restoring integrity in the Public & Civil Service was something entirely new for ACC and Citizens as a whole.
Though INTEGRITY is the very foundation of a corrupt-free or, should I say, less corrupt society, rarely have we seen Public officials resigning their position based on a refusal to violate ethical standards or their stance on maintaining the integrity and the trust that comes with Public office? IN
As much as we demand actions from the ACC and the Presidency, the burden is equally on those guilty of academic fraud to resign from their offices. Their defense is that it is only an “honoris causa,” but all the other certificates are genuine. This should not hold for Madam Memunatu Pratt. She is a woman who has served as Head of the Peace and Conflict department. She knows what it means to get an honorary degree, and payment for this is not part of her prior knowledge. Nobody would tell her to resign in a decent society. You don’t need Joe Pessima to tell a distinguished Lawyer like Tuma Adama Gento-Kamara about the effect of her actions on her mentees. What is she teaching Students of Fourah Bay College Law Department by acquiring and defending a degree from a fake institution? Not even a formal apology from Adama has been made. In the West, where she received most of her education, actions from Lecturers and Public servants are equally crucial as classroom lectures.
A clerk of Parliament stated in a Radio Democracy interview that he holds a Ph.D. from AGU and not Dominion University; him not apologizing after Tertiary Education Commission has proved that AGU as Dominion is a non-accredited University is disheartening.
It is the responsibility of these “distinguished” public servants to not only apologize for their actions, but their resignation is the only way out of this situation.
Whereas the ACC have argued that they don’t have the power to ask someone to resign from office on integrity grounds, they have also reiterated that for as long an advantage was not conferred using a fake degree, they cannot act. However, investigating those John has named who most likely used these spurious degrees to get jobs will be a step in the right direction.
Also, a commitment from the President in the fight against fake degrees will complement the efforts (if any) of the ACC. Whether authorities used these degrees in considering them for appointments or just an added decoration through honoris causa, the action of President Bio should be seen in him suspending cabinet Ministers, NRA Board Chair, Managing Director of Rokel Bank, Inspector-General of Police, and all those who have been named in the degree-gate mess until their names are vindicated or if found wanting, sacked. Further action of him setting up an independent commission to weed out all fake degree holders will be just fitting of his desire to improve the human capital of Sierra Leone. We cannot trust the Public Service Commission or HR departments to do this. For instance, if Dr. Lahai did not call out Braima Ronnie Kargbo, he would have been the one verifying the credentials of staff at NATCOM. A man whose entire academic career seems to be fraudulent.
Finally, though integrity is lacking, as Citizens of our beloved mama Salone, your resignations are vital to this fight. You will go down in history as the set of individuals who knowingly did wrong. Still, when society rose against your ills, you resigned and accepted to pay back all benefits you accrued from the day you used a dubious certificate to get the job.
It is a long shot but just like in a marriage that requires God, a groom, and a bride to be complete, the fight against fake degrees demands the uncompromising efforts of the President, the ACC, and ordinary citizens. Joint efforts from the President, ACC, and citizens are the three-fold cord that will eliminate the use of fake degrees in Sierra Leone. If we don’t use this situation to restore integrity in our workplace and society, it will take decades to have a similar opportunity as this.
Though faced with a ligament injury in my penmanship, my recovery proves that I STILL LOVE THIS GAME.