Ernest Koroma to Head Continental African Union

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Ex-President Ernest Bai Koroma has been nominated to be the next Chairman of the African Union (AU), replacing ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria.

These options were extended to both ex-President John Mahama of Ghana and Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria. The two gentlemen declined, saying that they are interested to re-contest for the presidency of their country in the forthcoming General Election, as the Constitution gives them the right to do so as a result, they are not interested to be the next Chairman of the AU and replace, ex-president Obasanjo who is the current Chairman and will relinquish it anytime from now.

There was very significant reason to inform members of his political party, the All Peoples Congress party that he would not be contesting for any position in the party.

Not that he was terminating his membership in the party, but he is not contesting either for the position of Chairman as the new 2021 constitution dictates or any position higher than that of Chairman of the party.

His new assignment is bigger than the APC party and even Sierra Leone as country, therefore he was advised by his new employers not to assume the role of Chairman and Leader of his local political party.

That does not limit his moral of financial contributions to the party. His membership of the party remains the same; however, the task that will be assigned to him requires his total commitment and focus in his new job.

At the last Elders Forum meeting held in Nigeria, ex-president Koroma was president and the issue of Obasanjo’s successor formed part of the agenda discussed. The two ex-presidents had declined, it was agreed that since ex-president Ernest Bai Koroma is not going to re-contest for the presidency again as the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone does not grant him that privilege again for another term, therefore he should replace the outgoing Chairman who has worked so hard to push the AU forward and makes it a very strong and formidable Union.

It would be recalled that the former Libyan President who was brutally killed on a gun had nurtured the idea of the Africa Continent coming together to share their common interest and achieve their goals. The late Gaddafi did not witness the realization of his dream, but championed the establishment of it prior to his death. He should be commended and commemorated for his vision.

The assignment of the AU Chairman is huge, cumbersome and tasking. He will be assisted by his deputies and other members of the Union. The AU works with other global and regional organizations in the world.

Orange SL Spends Le300 Million monthly on Media houses

-SLAJ President

The President of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalist (SLAJ), Ahmed Sahid Nasaralla said Orange SL is spending 300 Million Leones every month on direct advertisement to the media (press releases, promotional articles). That excludes other support to the media sector in Sierra Leone.

The President made this statement at the first National media viability and investment conference at Bintumani Conference Hall in Freetown.

“Today we are making another history as the first-ever National Media Viability and Investment Conference kicks off, marking the first conscious and determined step taken by media stakeholders with support from the Government of SL and the BBC Media Action’s PRIMED Project to begin to address the economic and other systemic challenges facing the media in Sierra Leone.

There is no better time this media investment summit could have come other than now, almost two years after the historic repeal of the criminal and seditious libel law. And one of the strongest arguments we put forward for the repeal was that that law was preventing private sector investment into the media in the country because no sensible investor would want to invest in a sector that could easily escort them to police cells or the Pademba Road Prisons (now the SLCS). We pointed to the John Love and Atlantic Printers as typical examples of how the criminal libel law scared away private investment in the media. Those were legally registered private businesses providing printing services to majority of the newspapers operating in Sierra Leone in the 1990s and early 2000 or so. The owners got roped in a criminal libel law suit against certain newspapers at different points; they were remanded for a while and later acquitted. When they were released they wasted no time to close their businesses and vowed never again to go near the media.

That obnoxious law was finally repealed after 50 long and arduous years in 2020. Following the repeal, the expectation of the public was to see a media industry with heightened professional and ethical practice but to SLAJ, and other media stakeholders, the major concern was poverty of the media. How do we lift the media out of poverty?

His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio must have followed our campaign for the repeal, and so when he was appending his signature to the Public Order Amendment Act on 28th October 2020, he made a commitment that his government would support an investment conference to enhance private sector investment in the media in Sierra Leone.

Distinguished guests, Ladies and gentlemen, that is why we are here this morning. A warm welcome to the National Media Viability and Investment Summit!

However, let me caution at this stage that for those of you from outside the industry who have come with cash to buy or invest, we are not selling anything yet at this stage.

And for those of us from within the industry who have come expecting to receive investment packages for your individual media houses, nobody has come to invest yet.

What we are doing now is to continue to critically look at our content, the service of news journalism we offer the society, and what recipe can we use to enhance their quality, and come up with innovative ideas on how we can design and package them well to attract buyers.

The State of the Media

Your Excellency, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, nationwide consultations leading to this summit have been very engaging and holistic. The industry players and non-industry players highlighted the systemic challenges facing the media, we suggested practicable solutions, and then we identified potential investors.

During one of the regional consultations the Mayor of Bonthe Municipality, Rev. Joe Laymin, described the state of the media in Sierra Leone in this way, and I quote:

“The media in Sierra Leone is in a coma. All efforts to resuscitate it have failed.”

That is an outsider’s perspective of our media landscape. While we, media people, may not entirely agree with him, the Mayor’s description should make us pause, reflect and accept responsibility for the state we are in. Now, we all need to work together as we have begun this journey to find that doctor, that cure that will wake us from our coma.

According to the IMC records, this is the picture of media pluralism in Sierra Leone: there are 174 active radio stations (38 not active); 123 active newspapers (107 not active); 10 magazines active (14 not active); and 17 active Television and digital satellite service (7 not active). So during the consultations we talked about media pluralism within the context of media ownership and the overall size of the national economy, which is largely informal. Has media pluralism served the interest of the industry well or not? That is a question we will try to answer in the two days we will be here.

We also talked about the Legal framework, especially lack of advertising laws and a national information and media policy; and how unfairly government advertising is being distributed among the media, and the non-payment for adverts by government agencies.

We lamented the lack of tools and systems for credible audience measurement/research and potential return on investment; high taxation and the need to develop and implement the Digital Migration Policy, the need to invest in our national broadcaster SLBC and SLENA.

Furthermore, we highlighted the technical deficiency in the media:

In the print media, one layout and design professional handles an average of 15 to 20 newspapers.

For those media houses that have struggled to acquire printing presses, every time the machines breakdown they have to import technicians from Nigeria and Ghana to come and fix them.

For the electronics media, one studio engineer attends to 20 to 30 radio stations.

Investment in the media:

In terms of investment in the media this is the situation:

AFRICELL SL

Africell is spending close to One Billion Leones on the media every month on collocation- that is providing power supply and towers to about 30 partner radio stations across the country, plus direct advertising to the print and electronic media.

MERCURY INTERBATIONAL

Mercury International is spending Le330 Million on the print media every month.

Le36 million on Radio Stations every month.

Le194.5 Million on TV Stations and video producing companies every month.

So per month Mercury is spending a total of Le560.5 Million.

We don’t know how much government agencies are spending because they don’t usually honour their payments.

The money sounds huge, but when you share that among the number of media houses that are active the advertining revenue is very small but you can imagine the state of the media if those adverts were not forthcoming.

So we are looking at investment from two angles: private and public/Government.

For the private investment the benefit is profit maximization.

For the public it is building the capacity of the media and its professionals to perform their public interest role efficiently and independently.

Quite recently, SLAJ launched the Golden Jubilee Journalism Welfare Fund to support independent and public interest journalism, as well as to cater for the welfare of journalists during emergency situations. To ensure sustainability, the fund will be invested in bearer bonds and in shares in clean businesses. This is another form of investment we will be looking at in this conference.

In fact, Your Excellency, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, some of the suggestions in terms of solutions that came out of the nationwide consultations include:

i) The need for a national basket fund for the media.

ii) Government should allocate 3% of the national budget as subsidy to the media, especially to support the operations of community radio stations which are playing a very vital role in providing information to people in remote communities.

iii) Others called for tax incentives for raw materials used by the media that are imported into the country.

The Political will and the need to take advantage of it

Your Excellency, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, never in the history of our country has there been such a political will to transform the media in Sierra Leone, and as President of SLAJ I am taking full advantage of it.

Some have described me as the luckiest President of SLAJ because positive things are just happening for the media every year since I was elected three years ago. We achieved the repeal of the criminal libel law; simultaneously, the IMC Act 2020 was passed as one big step in addressing conditions of service of journalists and other media workers; the Government has increased annual subvention to the media from Le250 million to Le500 million; we are discussing with the Government the possibility of SLAJ acquiring the defunct Daily Mail Building to serve as our national media headquarters; in addition to the Ministry of Lands allocating land to all regional offices of SLAJ for the construction of our regional headquarters. For the first time in the 22 years history of the IMC, His Excellency the President approved all 7 persons nominated by SLAJ, including the Chairman to serve in the new IMC Board.

And now we having this media viability and investment conference.

SLAJ is focused on ensuring an independent media. Investment in media, lest anyone think otherwise, does not mean buying out journalism. SLAJ believes in free and fair journalism, which is important for the survival of democracy.

Conclusion

Finally, as we begin the conference this morning, let us remind ourselves that we all have a role to play to actualize all these efforts we are putting into this exercise.

The Government has a role to play. The private sector has a role to play. The public has a role to play. The international community has a role to play. But above all, we the media stakeholders have the biggest role to play. We must take ownership of this whole project and ensure that it works. This is for the good of our industry and our nation.

UBA Operates A Zero Tolerant Fraud Institution

UBA Sierra Leone as a member of UBA Group with over 70 years of banking operation experience has a comprehensive Enterprise-wide Risk Management process that aligns with its strategic intent and mission of building an enduring institution. A critical component of this strategic intent is the need to prevent and promptly detect any incidence of fraud and other irregularities in the bank and ensure full compliance with the laws and regulations guiding the practice of banking.

Consequent upon the above, UBA Group operates a Zero Tolerance Principle for Regulatory Infraction and Fraud across all its presence countries. Thus, when there is a regrettable incidence of fraud in the bank, the bank is ready to go the extra mile to ensure that the case is not swept under the carpet but rather effectively prosecuted to ensure that the suspect is made to face the full force of the law for his or her unprofessional conduct to preserve the integrity of the banking system and in compliance with banking regulations.

It is in the light of this Zero Tolerance principle for fraud that the bank recently reported its former Acting Head of Domestic Operations, Patrick Moore suspected to have been involved in some fraudulent practices to the police for investigation and the subsequent prosecution of the staff for the alleged theft by the police.  The discovery of this case emanated from one of the bank’s risk management and control techniques that involves monitoring of the life style of its workforce by their supervisors and audit personnel to ensure that they are not living above their means. 

As a customer-centric institution, UBA Sierra Leone detests and does not in any way tolerate fraud. Its policy is very clear against fraudulent practices both internally and externally as means of preserving the trust and confidence that the members of the public will have on the bank.  This is what informed the recent prosecution of the bank’s former Acting Head of Domestic Operations, Patrick Moore who was allegedly caught in the act of  fraudulently transferring monies belonging to the bank into  savings accounts which he had opened for himself in various names with a total sum of SLL594 million suspected to have been stolen.

It behooved UBA Sierra Leone to report this alleged theft to the relevant authorities instead of sweeping it under the carpet because of the bank’s uncompromising tolerance for any sort of fraud whether within its internal systems or one meted against its valued customers.

The matter was subsequently charged to court on the 19th April 2022. The accused, Mr. Patrick Moore was arraigned before Magistrate Court No.1 presided over by Magistrate, Shar Kekura on six count charges ranging from Larceny by servant contrary to section 17 (1) (a) of the Larceny Act and other related charges.

UBA remains a well-capitalized bank with strong risk management processes, excellent customer service and brand equity that continue to drive the impressive growth of the bank across all indices.

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