• October 21, 2020

Timber Trade Exploitation is not an Investment

Timber Trade Exploitation is not an Investment
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By Joseph A. Kamanda

While joining the local and international media fraternity to briefly congratulate President Julius Maada Bio and his government for ‘meeting’ the expectations of the Millennium Challenge Corporation as commended by the Chief Executive of the MCC, Sean Stuart Cairncross let me in the first place call to attention the Ministry of Energy and Minister Alhaji Kanja Sesay of the undeserved return of erratic power supplies to residents of Freetown and its surrounding communities. My humble reminder also goes to the Ministry of Water Resource for erecting drought taps that are not quenching the thirsts of highly water needed Sierra Leone in the abundant of water resources across the country. These two ministers must be given red cards now if we were sober enough to win the MCC threshold and even the compact.

The MCC CEO’s commendation of government’s said efforts in those areas emerged at a time when bribery, corruption, lack of safe drinking water and regular electricity supply are nothing to talk about in terms of deliveries of those public service utilities, by the line ministries departments and agencies.

So one wonders as to what exactly the man from White House was commending President Bio and his government for, when there loud alarms of grand public sector corruption in the management of timber proceeds to the tune of ‘Le2.1 Billion Missing Timber Revenue’ –  Audit Report 2019, and huge financial wastages of tax payers’ moneys on overseas travelling, also captured in the 2019 Audit Report, which can be hardly contested by the Sierra Leone Civil Aviation Authority nor the Anti-Corruption Commission. Are these gains worthy of celebration Mr MCC CEO and the government of Sierra Leone?

To the level of massive exploitations in the extraction of natural resources ranging from precious minerals wealth, timber products among others, since imposing periods of British foreign rules to date, clearly implies that the country and its people are being hugely exploited for considerable period of time.

New form of trade under guise of investments poses a mere war on the country’s natural vegetation, wide life, with people from everywhere in the world heading northward of the country busy deforesting the country for commercial timber logging. That has virtually left the society and communities badly affected by loggings, with little or no alternatives but to describe such craft as mere exploitations. Exploitations indeed of not only Sierra Leone’s natural forest but also the wild life and host of other benefits farmers normally get from the forests for their cultivations, all for the gains of a single exporter; Babadi Kamara of Leadeway Trading Sierra Leone Limited.

The man unimaginably brought in through an executive order from President Bio. Kamara following out cries by good number of his compatriots in the industry for the liberalization of the climate unfriendly trade, claimed to have raised $45,225,750 with large deforestation of the natural vegetation of the country’s rich forests. The monopolist is busy doing image laundry all over the place of mainstream and new media but has so far not been able to convince the well informed public on the missing Le2.1 Billion Missing Timber Revenue’.

Sadly for us as a nation, I notice some writers called the exploitative and anti-climate deal ‘harvest.’ These are not harvests at all but deforestation of uncultivated crops at its highest. Thus can we call it an illicit exploitation instead of ‘harvest’ because even the Government of Sierra Leone since colonial regimes of mother Queen Elizabeth II can hardly call the brutal depletions of our rich natural forests ‘harvests.’

Much as I understand of the word ‘harvest’ is something or a crop one cultivates, unlike our timber products being looted from Sierra Leone are not anything one can boastfully refers to as ‘harvest.’ Therefore ‘harvest’ is not the right terminology for the deforestations of Sierra Leone’s forests by desperate timber loggers, exploiters and exporters under the cloaks of investments with little or no impact on the national economy. The more reason good number of timber traders want the executive order appointed monopolist’s position reviewed now for the benefit of all. They said his single handling of the process is not helping the country as it used to be before.

Certainly, nobody is in a hurry to peril the timber monopolist exporter, Kamara of the infamous Leadway Trading SL Ltd. He has absolutely recorded no impression but deliberately failed to turn into huge sum of ‘Le 2.1 Billion Missing Timber Revenue’ to the consolidate fund, which has come a long way in exposing the corrupt and dubious deals of the administration and Leadway Trading. There is no need to downplay such scam if at all authorities we were that serious about battling high place graft and out of this country.

Then the hue and cries about who is doing away with what in the timber industry that now stands as the most disgraceful topical issue, that now requires so many replies than further questions amidst loud noise in a politically motivated Anti-Corruption fight by the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), through the Anti-Corruption Commission-ACC.

A commission that is unprofessionally chasing past government officials, starting from former President Ernest Bai Koroma down to the least person that served in the last All People’s Congress (APC) led administration for corruption allegations, to a peak that the ACC is being heavily pushed to disgrace the elderly state man in home city of Makeni.

Frankly speaking nobody is against principles of democratic accountability in Sierra Leone, especially when it fundamentally requires as the responsibilities of state governance leaders; past and present to give accounts of their leaderships.

All what is expected from those carrying the mandates of probity of whoever is found as persons of interests by the recommendations of the Government White Paper is to go through the right procedures in the executions of their tasks, without fear or favour. So that we do not see it all appearing as an incumbent SLPP battling the main opposition APC, trying to eliminate every traces of the most popular political party from face Sierra Leone. Though it very impossible on the face of the earth.

Therefore the processes of probing people in question must be sanitized bringing all questionable persons to the fore to provide answers for their alleged wrong doings irrespective of one tribal, political, regional and social status to save the very credibility of the process and raise high level of confidence in it.  And by way of cleaning one’s backyard before pointing fingers at others, the ACC instead of eclipsing the current missing Le 2.1Bn timber revenue, should first of all brace itself up and start investigating the obvious corruption act by the Leadway Trading SL Ltd. timber exporting company jointly owned by somebody right at the top of the seat of power, and Babadi Kamara.

Financial impropriety deeds have been exposed by the 2019 Audit Report, compiled by Audit Service Sierra Leone, which needs to be cleared. And the anti-graft commission needs to set precedent to save its good name from accusations and suspicions of selective anti-corruption fights, only targeting opposition APC party members and their leader. For all we know Kamara and his company are no sacred cows, except if the ACC now wants to tell us that is has opened a ranch for the taming of consecrated cows.

Apart from the missing timber billion Leones, the ACC also needs to check at State House, where Minister Prof. David Francis was questioned by journalists of Times SL for allegedly receiving $1.5m into his ECOBANK account, the cases against recently reinstated Minister of Labour Alpha Osman Timbo and his staff, including deputy, the one that has to do with Hon. Ibrahim Tawa Conteh and the Clerk of Parliament, Hon. Param Tarawally, recent research surveys exposing corruption in the Sierra Leone Police and even in the House of Parliament which are all of serious public concerns that actually need to be looked into by the commission if we were very much serious about fighting corruption.

To the people’s timber missing moneys, right from the imposition of Kamara with an executive order from President Bio as if he came on a mission, is now a clear manifestation of grand corruption to the highest magnitude. No form of bidding was done; all his competitors woke up to see one morning was Babadi Kamara as the only timber exporter from Sierra Leone to anywhere on planet earth. That in itself must be corrected now before the ACC and government continue to accuse others for what they didn’t do, whiles the sitting government’s hands remain very much untidy with corruption acts.

Therefore to lend credence to corruption fight, Babadi’s placement over the heads of more other competitors needs to be revisited immediately as demanded by timber traders across the country and urge him to publically make known whereabouts of the missing Le 2.1Bn mission timber money.

Pro-government media handlers are trying tooth and nail to defend the climate unfriendly timber monopolist as if he has raised so much money for government out of timber export. That is not true, because timber logging communities are being exploited, badly devastated, by vehicles destroying the roads, deforesting the natural vegetation of farmlands for personal commercial gains. The proceeds of the exploitative trade is only benefiting government, the chiefs, the exporter and leaving communities of extractions basking in abject poverty as those in Falaba, Koinadugu, Tonkolili, Kono, Kambia districts and host of deprived timber logging towns and villages.

In fact, most of these communities lack social services including good road networks, health facilities, safe and pure drinking water and schools are absent in timber extracted communities in Sierra Leone. The exporter only pays dues to the chief and jump into the bushes and start to logging down trees to satisfy their selfish commercial desires. So it is deceptive on the part of paid up media entities, pro-Leadway Trading Babadi Kamara perception handlers trying to turn lies into true.

For those who are unfamiliar with these realities now need to make visits to the places mentioned above to have firsthand information on what being obtained in communities of timber loggings as far as the exploitative timber trade is concerned.

However promises by the government of President Bio to review the situation from what they described it were formerly, for benefit of all has left Sierra Leoneans basking in regrets as to why people opted for changes that are still far from the much expected realities. For the exploitations continue unabated at the very detriments of the country.

For the line ministries of Lands and Country Planning, Environment and that of Agriculture no concerns are heard from them on environmental degradations, deforestation, poor soil management and other climate endangered effects as well as exploitative deeds on the environments.

All they are concerned and care about are their fair shares of the loots. Nothing else finished! They care less about what forms of environmental disasters that will sooner or later befall the communities of loggings.

It is based on the existing situation that I categorically joined environmentalists, and climate change activists to call on exploiters including the timber monopolists, government, President Bio to give a bit of respite to the exploitations and deforestations of the country’s natural resources rather what government call investment.

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