Â The Director General (DG) of the National Telecommunications Commission (NATCOM), Daniel Kaitibi, has explained the reason behind the proposed hosting of the Consumer Parliament in Bo on the 26th March 2021.
He explained the motive and importance of holding this meeting, which he maintained is to provide a platform where all stakeholders in the industry interact with consumers and have frank discussions on the critical issues affecting the sector, in a bid to arrive at a better understanding of their respective roles and build a better working relationship.
Daniel Kaitibi disclosed that with the interest of consumers paramount in the discharge of their duties, according to their mandate, the holding of such a session will create a platform where Consumers are given the opportunity to have a face-to-face dialogue with policy makers, regulator and service providers.
In that meeting consumers will be able to ask questions, make complaints or make suggestions relating to critical issues on services provided, regulations, consumer education and protection, etc.
He furthered that now that Information Communications Technology has become the trend, digital penetration is on everyone’s mind to be used to bridge the digital divide, thus, issues relating to consumer satisfaction takes center stage in the telecommunications sector.
The NATCOM DG intimated that the theme for this year’s Consumer Parliament is “DIGITAL PENETRATION FOR CONSUMER SATISFACTION IN TELECOMMUNICATIONS “, adding that the choice of this theme is in consideration of the premium put by the institution on Consumer welfare and vigilance, hence digital penetration for consumer satisfaction has to be assured and ensured. He furthered that the consumers will hear about issues which affect them from expert speakers during the session, and will be able to give their own input. Through this platform, consumers will be able to get better knowledge and understanding of issues in the telecommunication sector.
DG Kaitibi concluded that the primary functions of the regulator is to ensure that end users benefit from quality, affordable and available services, pursuant to section 9 (2) (b) of the telecommunications act of 2006 as amended. â€œThe need to have the Consumer Parliament in this direction cannot be over emphasised,â€ he stressed.
RMFA OFFICIALS IN HOT WATER
Review of the financial statements and other relevant documentation such as Board minutes, management meeting minutes, Loan agreements and other correspondences, revealed that the Road Maintenance Fund Administration (RMFA) contracted a ‘revolving Loan’ with a limit of Le50 billion.
The Loan balance as at 31st December, 2016 was Leaving 33.9 billion.
Further examination was done to ascertain whether the Administration have the mandate to contract commercial Loans. In light of this, a thorough review of the Road Maintenance Act was done but auditors from the Audit Service Sierra Leone were unable to find such mandate in the Act.
The Act in section 16(1) clearly states the various sources of the funding for the Road Maintenance Fund.
The auditors noted from their reviewed that the Loan was approved by the Board and further approval was sought from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development.
According to the Auditors from Audit Service Sierra Leone the report stated that, the said matter was brought to the attention of the management during the audit and management responded that RMFA is a ‘Body Corporate’ and hence can contract Loans. The auditors further reviewed other Acts promulgated by Parliament and they observed that the mandate to contract Loan was expressly stated in the Act of some of the other government agencies.
But the auditors concerned that the Administration is not mandated by Law to contract Loan.
Section 17(1) of the Road Maintenance Act, 2010 states:’ The Fund shall be used to defray the cost of maintenance of the core road network.’
The report further stated that the review of the contract documents, road maintenance expenditure and other related documentations revealed that the Fund had been used to defray road rehabilitation cost and other none related road maintenance expenses.
The utilisation of the Funds to defray these nonroad maintenance related costs have put huge financial burden on the Administration to contract Loans from Commercials Banks which attracts high interest rates.
Section 18(1) of the Road Maintenance Act state: “Not later than three more months before the commencement of each financial year, the Authority shall submit to the Administration in a form determined by the Administration, a core road programme and a request for its funding for the ensuring financial year”.
Section 19 (1) of the Road Maintenance Act, 2010 also states:” Not later than two months before the commencement of a financial year, the Administration shall approve a core road programme relating to that financial year”.
ECOWAS PARLIAMENT OPENS SEMINAR IN FREETOWN
The Speaker of Sierra Leone Parliament, Rt. Hon. Dr. Abass Chernor Bundu has officially declared open the First Parliamentary Seminar of the Fifth Legislature of the ECOWAS Parliament in the year, 2021 at the Bintumani Conference Center in Freetown.
The aforesaid Parliamentary Seminar is themed: “involving Members of the ECOWAS Parliament in monitoring the implementation of the protocol relating to the community levy”; ahead of its extraordinary session in Freetown on the 29/03/2021.
The ECOWAS Revised Treaty of 1993, Article 72 of the said Treaty provides forÂ Community Levy for the purposes of generating resources to finance community activities, it shall be a percentage of the total value of import duty derivable from imported goods from third countries outside the community, 0.5 percent levy was determined by the Council, conditions for the application of the levy, transfer and utilization of revenue generated in the form of community levy shall be defined in the relevant protocol, and that Member States are to undertake the facilitation and application of the provisions in this Article.
Welcoming participants, Head of Sierra Leone’s Delegation to ECOWAS Parliament and Leader of the Opposition in Sierra Leone Parliament, Hon. Chernor R.M Bah thanked the Government and the people of Sierra Leone for supporting Hon. Sidie M. Tunis for his elevation and election to the position of ECOWAS Speaker for the Fifth Legisature of ECOWAS Parliament, constituted in Niamey, Niger last year.
Speaking on the disruption of planned activities by COVID-19, he assured participants that Sierra Leone is full of warm and friendly people with a unique traveling experience of air, land and sea. Submitting on security, freedom and safety, he called on participants to explore the charming coast of Sierra Leone. He also talked about the challenges the country had gone through mentioning war, mudslide and Ebola.
Commissioner of Finance, ECOWAS Commission, Madam Halima Ahmed spoke on behalf of the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, she also joined Hon. Bah in welcoming participants to this very important seminar relating to increasing contributions regarding the Community Levy.
She called on the august body to stand and observe silent prayers for two dead persons including Ivory Coast’s Prime Minister, Hamed Bakayoko.
She also recognized Hon. Dr. Abass Chernor Bundu as her former Boss, when he served as Executive Secretary for ECOWAS several years ago. Speaking on excellent relations between ECOWAS Parliament and the ECOWAS Commission, she said the Seminar will reveal the status of each member states regarding resource mobilization in light of community levy.
Minister of Planning and Economic Development, Dr. Francis Kaikai described the movement of the Extraordinary Session of ECOWAS Parliament to Sierra Leone as a major honour and achievement for the country. However, he observed that the country is at peace now, but it was today 23/03/1991 that the war broke out and claimed many lives and property.
He spoke on some of the interventions of ECOWAS in Sierra Leone through ECOMOG and peace keeping, health, democracy and good governance and education.
He also talked on the construction of ECOWAS Depot at Lungi for the enhancement of security in the sub-region and a joint border post between Sierra Leone and Liberia to facilitate trade among Member States.
Minister of Finance, Jacob Jusu Saffa explained the process of collecting and transferring funds accrued from the Community Levy to the ECOWAS Commission to finance development activities in the sub-region.
Contingent on provisions in the ECOWAS Revised Treaty of 1993, he boasted that Sierra Leone is fully compliant and adhering to provisions in Article 72 of the said Treaty regarding Community Levy amounting to the equivalent of over USD 3 Million Dollars that had been transferred to the ECOWAS Commission through Bank of Sierra Leone as contributions from Community Levy.
Speaking on the debilitating effects of COVID-19 on economies and livelihoods, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nabeela Tunis espoused on the role of ECOWAS in the consolidation of peace and security, health resilience and education through the provision of funds for the construction of a University of Science and Technology in Kono District within the Community. She said all of these efforts are geared toward achieving sustainable development and common prosperity for the people of the sub-region. She said Sierra Leone is compliant to the community levy and that it has provided acres of land to ECOWAS to beef up and strengthen security in the sub-region.
She extended thanks and appreciation to the Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament, her husband for placing premium on serving mankind than himself, since he took the mantle of leadership at ECOWAS Parliament.
Encouraging the people in the sub-region to take the vaccines for COVID-19, Hon. Sidie M. Tunis, and Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament said, it will help greatly to breaking the virus strains of transmission. This, he said” we either win together, or we perish together.
Compounded by COVID-19 pandemic, he said the 0.5 percent import levy which accounts for 80 percent of the Community Levy has dwindled considerably. In light of resource mobilization amid these challenges, he has called on participants to innovate, and come up with strategies and proposals aimed at robust collection of revenue regarding the Community Levy for the enhancement of development and community integration among Member States; whilst thanking Administrators, Members of Parliament, and Ministers and spoke on the need for taking the ECOWAS Parliament to the people.
Welcoming participants, prior to declaring the ECOWAS Parliamentary Seminar Open, Speaker of Sierra Leone Parliament, and former Executive Secretary to ECOWAS some 28 years ago, Hon. Dr. Abass Chernor Bundu recalled the role he had played in the development of the Revised ECOWAS Treaty of 1993 that has proven to be effective and efficient to this day. He told participants that Freetown was founded for the enslaved and the oppressed. Speaking on the glorious and cosmopolitan nature of Freetown relating to social and economic activities, he cautioned visitors to be wary as all that glitters is not gold.
Speaking on the establishment of the Community Parliament as provided for in Article 6 of the said Treaty, he congratulated the ECOWAS Speaker on his return home; assuring that the confidence placed in Hon. Tunis will not be misplaced. He said the Community Levy was promulgated with the view of overcoming the financial obstacles of ECOWAS relating to its activities for development. He referenced Article 72 of the Treaty regarding the collection of 0.5 percent of import duty and transfer to the ECOWAS Commission to undertake development programmes in Member States. This initiative will help greatly in driving the integration process forward.
He was gratified that Sierra Leone is fully compliant and bears a great success to the Community Levy.
Submitting on the challenges relating to huge transfer of funds to the ECOWAS Commission, he spoke on proper management and utilization of funds relating to same in light of promoting transparency and accountability regarding better management and judicious use of such funds.
He boasted that the said Treaty remains valid and enduring to this day.
He also said that COVID-19 is a transnational virus that warrants transnational cooperation to defeat this roaring pandemic that is claiming lives and disrupting the economies of the world. Speaking on leadership by taking the first dose of COVID-19 vaccines himself, President Bio, his Vice President and other dignitaries, he encouraged other Member States to do same in order to defeat the virus.
Regarding the would-be expiration of the State of Emergency, passed almost a year ago in Sierra Leone to fight COVID-19, he said the regulations promulgated to fight COVID-19 must be strictly adhered to.
President Bio Makes Huge strides in the Youth Sector
By Elizabeth Satta Sengeh
President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Brigadier (Rtd.) Dr. Julius Maada Bio, has made tremendous success in the youth sector since he was elected President in 2018.
Youth empowerment-driven projects, which gear towards the improvement of the living standards of the youth, have been successfully implemented in the country.
Brief situation analysis of the youth before President Bio takes up governance
Before the advent of President Bio to State House in April 2018, the youth of Sierra Leone were seen as menace to society.
There was chaos across the country.
Cliques were created, and most times, these groups were misused by politicians.
Pick-pocketing, gang rape, daylight robbery, violent demonstrations, and unlawful killings were parts of the youths weekly agenda.
Drug misuse and abuse were noticeable across the country.
Peaceful citizens were afraid to attend social events at the National Stadium and other places because of the scary outcomes of those events.
Shop owners were forced to close their shops whenever there is a masquerade parade in Sierra Leoneas capital, for fear of being ransacked by ill-motivated youth.
Football, inter-secondary school sport competitions, and other sporting events were put to a halt because of the violent outcomes that used to overshadow such events.
Clashes between rivalry factions were always imminent.
In most cases, machetes were used to slash each other.
The youths future was dark and things were on the brink of collapsing.
President Bio: the saviour of the youth
In April 2018, President Bio, the youths saviour, emerged at State House.
A sense of optimism returned for the youth.
Clear signs of youth empowerment programs were noticeable across the country.
President Bio’s human capital development, which aims at improving lives and building resourceful citizenry, was quickly used to design programs gearing towards youth empowerment.
Clear guidelines, which aim at creating an enabling environment for talented youth to thrive, were mapped out, and things started to work positively in the New Direction administration.
President Bio appoints Kao Denero: Sierra Leoneâ€™s most popular musician
For the first time in Sierra Leone history, one of the most popular musicians, who brought Hip Hop music to Sierra Leone and owns the Black Leo Entertainment, Amara Turay Jalloh alias Kao Denero, was appointed by President Bio.
Kao Denero, who started his music career in 2003, was appointed as Special Envoy for Entertainment and Investment.
His appointment raises overwhelming congratulatory messages among the Sierra Leonean youth.
Praises were heaped on President Bio for such appointment on both traditional and social media, thereby heralding a new dawn in the once collapsed entertainment industry of Sierra Leone.
Kao Denero has represented the youth for almost two decades and his popularity among them has never seized.
Appointing him indicates that there is a platform now for the voices of the many youth, who are engaged in entertainment, to be heard.
Musicians, storytellers, film makers and casts, comedians, contestants in reality TV shows, among other entertainers, have now got a leader who is determined to positively transform the industry.Â
Recruitment of 500 Forest Guards to protect Sierra Leoneâ€™s environment
President Bio’s administration, through the National Protected Area Authority (NPAA), has recruited 500 Sierra Leonean youth as Forest Guards popularly called Rangers to protect the environment from degradation, which are mostly caused by human activities.
In addition to that figure, 12 administrative staff were also recruited, thereby creating jobs for the once unemployed youth.
It is the first time that a large number of youths have been recruited as Forest Guards.
Youth in car wash project: first in Sierra Leone’s history
President Bioâ€™s abled lieutenants-Mohamed Orman Bangura, the Minister of Youth Affairs and Luseni Kallon, the Deputy Minister of Youth Affairs-have constructed car wash centers to cater for unskilled youth.Â
In December 2019, the Ministry of Youths Affairs, handed over 10 newly constructed car wash centers to help alleviate unemployment among the unskilled youths in Sierra Leone.
The car wash centers, which previously appeared to be hotspots for violence and other crimes, and lost dreams for the youths, have now become a source of livelihood for many unskilled youths in the country.
These centers have been furnished with modern car washing equipment including water tanks, generators to provide electricity, modern office space, clean and safe parking environment for cars, among other facilities.
Thousands of unskilled Sierra Leonean youths are now benefiting from President Bioâ€™s youth empowerment scheme.
The reintroduction of the Sierra Leone Premier League
When President Bio did the kick-off for the first Sierra Leone Premier League match in 2019, there was a huge buzz among many Sierra Leonean youth, who were itching to watch their favourite sport.
Before President Bio came to power, the Sierra Leone Premier League and other footballing activities, was put to a halt due to the high rate of violence among the youth.
However, President Bio puts lot of strategies in place to alleviate the suffering of the youth, which subsequently saw the reduction of violence across the country.
Boom! Football and other sporting events returned to the country! The youth, who are talented in playing football, were recruited into various football clubs in the country and they took part in the Sierra Leone Premier League for the first time in a decade.
Youth in farming: President Bio creates employment for 10,000 youth
Efforts to alleviate the suffering and thereby reduce the unemployment rate among the youth, President Bioâ€™s government recruited 10,000 Sierra Leonean youth in the agriculture sector in order to boost rice production.Â
Among the 10,000 youth, fifty people will be selected each from all chiefdoms in Sierra Leone to develop chiefdom farms, which will create further opportunities for value chain addition.
The Ministry of Youth Affairs will cultivate eight thousand hectares of rice farm, 40 hectares in all chiefdoms.
Seedling, fertilizers, machines, training on modern agricultural techniques, growth enhancement, farm implements to supports their farm activities, have also be provided by President Bioâ€™s government.
This is a way of empowering youth to be self-sufficient and to become players in the private sector and contribute to national economic growth.
During the turning of the sod for the construction of a Farm Gate Market in the National Youth Farm at Masailia, Koya Chiefdom, North-Western Sierra Leone, the Deputy Minister of Youth Affairs Lusine Kallon, re-echoed President Bioâ€™s commitment to use agriculture as the engine for sustainable youth employment, economic development and food sufficiency.
In fulfillment of that dream, the Ministry of Youth Affairs has established four youth farms in Tonkolili, Kono, Kenema and Koinadugu Districts respectively.
President Bioâ€™s government, through the Ministry of Youth Affairs, has provided a whopping sum of one hundred and eighty-eight million, nine hundred and fifty thousand Leones (Le188, 950,000.00) as stipend to 451 farm workers in Tonkolili, Port Loko, Koinadugu, Kono and Kenema Districts.
Youth in Fisheries: President Bio provides 70 fishing boats with outboard machines
President Bio’s government disbursed over a billion Leones to the Youth Ministry Affairs for the construction of local fishing boats in the Western Area Urban and Rural Districts respectively.
After the 70 fishing boats were prepared, President Bio commissioned them alongside fishing nets and life jackets, which will eventually benefit 1,400 youths directly in the riverine areas.