• October 5, 2023

Kingho, ARISE IIP Controversial Lease Agreement GOV’T IN DILEMMA 

Kingho, ARISE IIP Controversial Lease Agreement  GOV’T IN DILEMMA 
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Following recent media publications, it is but fitting that as a media institution we should waste no time to raise the red flag regarding the silent controversy in relation to the transfer of a lease agreement from one company to another.

FORUM NEWS is therefore calling on the Government of Sierra Leone to do the needful or else the credibility of the Government will definitely be at stake.

Since the refurbishment of the Pepel Railway and Port by the African Minerals Limited with loans provided by China Exim Bank and Standard Bank of South Africa to the tune of $ 1.2 billion under the (BOT) Build Operate and Transfer project for twenty (20) good years, the assets were handed over to the Government of Sierra Leone in 2020, thereby becoming hundred per cent government property.

A year down the line, that is, in 2021, the Government of Sierra Leone leased the said assets to Kingho Railway and Port Company Limited, which lease was short lived.

In 2023, the government in its wisdom decided to terminate Kingho Railway and Port Company Limited agreement on 10th January, 2023.

According to the government, the reason for the termination of the Kingho Railway Port Company Limited lease agreement was based on the fact that the company’s license expired.

Such reason given by the government was like a shock to the spine of Kingho Railway Port Company Limited and Sierra Leoneans that were already gainfully employed.

Sources have it that before the termination of the lease, Kingho Port Company Limited was paying a flat rate of US$1.25 million as annual lease rent to the Government of Sierra Leone.

FORUM NEWS was carefully informed that during the years that Kingho Railway Port Company Limited was paying the above stipulated cost as annual lease rent, several companies applied for the same lease with much better offers presented to the government.

The said amount has been widely criticised by industry experts as a mere pittance which cannot be unconnected to the reason the government decided to call it quits for Kingho Railway Port Company Limited.

Ironically, sources filtering into this medium reveal that Kingho Railway Port Company Limited is about to sign a twenty (20) year agreement with an understanding to pay US$1.5 million as a yearly lease rental to the government.

Other media critics have referred to the proposed US$1.5 million as ridiculous and therefore urged Kingho Railway Port Company Limited to disclose the amount paid to the government as lease rent for the use of the facilities since the lease agreement was terminated in January, this year.

A cross section of the Sierra Leone media is calling on the government to put on hold the ongoing negotiations with Kingho for the management of the Pepel Railway and Port until the issue of the lease agreement signed with ARISE IIP is fully addressed on the grounds that the government can’t afford to undermine investor confidence by engaging in such illegal ways of handling signed contracts or agreements.

ARISE IIP has in a letter dated 22nd September, this year, addressed to the Minister of Transport and Aviation, Alhaji Fanday Turay, informing the ministry and by extension the government about their operation of rail passenger service in the country.

ARISE IIP further reminded the minister of the Railway and Port Lease Agreement between the Government of Sierra Leone and ARISE IIP of 17th January, 2023 to operate and maintain the rail and port in the country.

ARISE IIP informed the minister about having already procured and shipped seven passenger railcars and associated critical spares from Japan that is expected to arrive at the Freetown Port on 26th October, this year.‘The rail infrastructure is currently under Kingho’s control and therefore kindly request the office of the minister to engages with Kingho for permission to park the railcars anywhere available along the rail corridor until they commence operations of the rail passenger service in the country,’ ARISE IIP letter pleaded.

The very attempt by ARISE IIP requesting the Minister of Transport and Aviation to engage with Kingho for permission to park the railcars anywhere available along the rail corridor indicates that the atmosphere seems dusty with regards ARISE IIP’s true ownership of the railway and port facilities.

As it stands, the only agreement that is supposed to be in force is the agreement signed between the Government of Sierra Leone and ARISE IIP for the management of the Pepel Port and Railway that was approved by cabinet, mining pundits say.

As a result, those mining experts therefore urged the Government of Sierra Leone to reflect on the international reputational damage that any decision to unilaterally cancel a signed agreement or contract can do to the country if they are pursued.

With the negotiation for a new lease agreement with Kingho at an advanced stage, other schools of thought are advising the government to tread carefully insisting on the point that the only valid agreement currently in force for the management of the Pepel Railway and Port is the one the government of Sierra Leone signed with ARISE IIP.

Say what you may but from a distance one can easily detect that there is fire on the mountain.

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