Thursday, January 27, 2022
spot_img
Home Blog Page 3

Theft at Rokel Commercial Bank

0

By Dauda Koroma

CSP Francis Lebbie attached to the Criminal Investigations Department updated journalists last week Thursday that seven A.K. Security guards have been arrested in connection with an alleged theft at Rokel Commercial Bank.

CSP Lebbie was speaking at a news conference held at the Police headquarters on Oct. 7, 2021.

He told journalists that they received a report from the branch manager of RCB Umaru Abdul Salam Shyllon on Monday, Sept. 27, alleging that thieves broke into the bank and stole two plasma TVs, laptops and four thousand United States Dollars.

CSP said they arrested the security guards because they were in the bank at the time the incident occurred. He said these suspects are still in their custody helping out with the investigation.

Sierra Leone’s Minister of Youth Affairs named in election violence

It appears as though the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) has adopted a dogged approach to elections; and they will stop at nothing to edge their opponents even if it means promoting thuggery, gangsterism and machismo in the process of achieving their goal. This stratagem was first introduced in the Constituency 110 bye-election where observers noted the commandeering of political thugs who went berserk destroying ballot boxes in full view of police personnel and election observers.

And it is clear that the destruction of election materials during elections is a Paopa phenomenon; a trick deliberately contrived to steal votes in situations where a loss to the ruling party is imminent.

In the two local council bye-elections for Ward 115 and Koinadugu District Council Chairmanship held past Saturday, it was observed that the ruling party employed the same or similar strategy but it eventually boomeranged as the opposition All People’s Congress (APC) had upped its game to raise the red flag on any irregularity or political gerrymandering. 

According to the unbendable election watchdog group, National Elections Watch (NEW), the two bye-elections were characterised by widespread violence and political intimidation, destruction of election materials, and use of thuggery. The tense atmosphere in which these bye-elections were conducted signals an early warning of the mayhem that will be unleashed by Paopa thugs come the next general and presidential elections.

What is shockingly shocking in these elections is how Cabinet Ministers conducted themselves during the poll. NEW observed a strong presence of political party stalwarts in the district on polling day, and this contributed to heighten chaos in the elections. Two prominent senior government officials named in NEW’s report are Amara Kallon, deputy minister of Political and Public Affairs and Mohamed Orman Bangura, the minister of Youth Affairs.     

NEW said these two government ministers “forcibly pushed people out of the polling station” in centre code 6048. Having witnessed the exhibition of their commandos, the marshals accompanying the two ministers then went on the rampage vandalising the driving mirror of a vehicle belonging to Minkailu Koroma of the APC.   

NEW also reported that the SLPP agent in polling station 2 DEC Kagbasia ordered some hoodlums who had entered the polling station carting away with voting and election materials to forcefully take away observation documents including mobile phones belonging to NEW observers deployed on the ground. These observers narrowly escaped the scene.

Also, the SLPP candidate for the Koinadugu District Council Chairmanship election physically assaulted a disabled party agent for the APC and assaulted and wounded another party agent who was trying to have a photograph of the scene. During the tallying process, it was observed that a staff of the National Electoral Commission (NEC) altered the figures in favour of the SLPP candidate. The commotion that ensued led to the suspension of the tallying process. And this was seen as the last straw that breaks the camel’s back.

13-year-old commits abortion

The alleged perpetrator

By Lawrence Williams

A 13-year-old victim of persistent sexual abuse has aborted a pregnancy few days after her parents discovered that she was impregnated by a family friend.

Mary (not her real name) said she aborted the pregnancy after drinking some tabs she bought from a drug peddler.

According to the mother of the victim, the suspect, Mr. Quee, 50, is a very close friend to her husband and family.  She said they usually exchange common favours with Mr. Quee and she occasionally sends her daughter to take things to and from Mr. Quee’s house. The mother said more often than not, Mary would go to Mr. Quee’s house accompanied by her younger sister and so she could not have suspected anything was going on between them.

Speaking to the victim, she said the whole affair started in March this year when she first went to collect about 60 cups of rice from Mr. Quee.

“He had promised to give my family the rice so they sent me and my younger sister to go and collect the rice,” she said.

Narrating her experience, the innocent, pale-faced Mary said: “When we got to the house, Mr. Quee gave his phone to my younger sister to play game whilst he took me inside his room, pushed me on the bed, gripped my mouth, removed my clothes and pressed his penis right inside my vagina.” 

She added that the experience was very excruciating.

Asked why she did not tell her parents, she said Mr. Quee threatened her not to tell anyone otherwise the blood that oozed out from her vagina would fight against her and would cause her to go mad.

Speaking further, Mary said Mr. Quee slept with her more than two occasions.

“Every time we went to his house, he would give his phone to my younger sister to play game and then lured me into his room and sexually abused me,” she cried.

Speaking how she came to abort the pregnancy, Mary said she stole Le 10,000 (1 dollar) from her mother and bought some tablets from a drug peddler which she drank to terminate the pregnancy. She said she did so secretly because her aunty had broadcasted the news of her being pregnant to the entire community and she was very ashamed of people calling her names and pointing fingers at her.

She explained that after taking the tablets, she began to experience stomach pain and bleeding.

She said: “The pain was very severe. But one morning when I went to the toilet, I felt something like a lizard coming out of my vagina.” 

Approaching the police at Akon Police Station (located at the back of American Embassy) where the matter was being investigated, they confirmed that in Mr. Quee’s statement, he affirmed that he slept with the victim but doubted whether the pregnancy came from his loins. According to the police, the suspect told them that in the first instance when Mary’s mother confronted Quee with the issue, he gave the sum of Le 250,000.00 to Mary’s mother to abort the pregnancy and begged her not to reveal his evil deeds to anyone.

But the mother had earlier stated that she knew nothing about the abortion.

“When she collapsed at the police station, we immediately rushed her to the hospital. That was the time I knew that my daughter had committed abortion,” the mother explains.

Though Mary claimed her mother was unaware of the medicines she took to abort the pregnancy, a concern citizen has questioned the veracity of that statement on the grounds that no pregnancy-killer tablet is sold for Le 10,000.00. This citizen is suspicious of how Mary came to know that those tablets would terminate the pregnancy.

Another resident within the area holds the view that both the mother and Mr. Quee are duty-bearers whose responsibilities are to provide care, guidance and mentorship for Mary but instead connived to destroy her future.

Conversing with some youth in the neighbourhood, they told this writer that sexual abuse of minors is very common in their community and that the community elders, stakeholders are very complacent about it. These youth claimed that their community is not safe for women and girls. They further intimated this press that Mr. Quee is a building contractor who has money. They say he is particularly fond of playing with young girls but cannot tell whether Mary is the first to have fallen prey to Quee’s romancing antics.

Mary, on the other hand, is coming from a poor family that can barely afford three balanced diets a day.   

During our engagement with Mary’s mother, we came to learn that Mary’s cousin who is also 13 years of age has been abused by one alias Jericho. The abuse took place in the same compound where Mary and her family reside.

The police at Akon also confirmed that Jericho was in their custody. They informed this press that Jericho had earlier raped a minor of which he was being investigated for before this latest complaint was filed against him.

It is not yet clear whether Jericho is a serial rapist but sources within the community have it that Jericho is in the habit of abusing young girls. The Leicester Road/Tree Planting is a community where both the rich and poor are simply cohabiting. It is home to lawyers, doctors, policemen and other people of higher caliber but the high rate of sexual abuse of girls, as alluded to by the youth, leaves one to ponder over the future of children growing up in the community.

Radio Managers Call on NATCOM to de-dollarize Spectrum Fees

23 August 2019.

Some managers and owners of radio stations in the country have raised concern over the dollarization of payment for the use of radio frequency spectrum payable to the National Telecommunications Commission (NATCOM).

In a meeting with managers of radio and television stations on regulatory compliance and enforcement held at the National Stadium Atlantic Hall past Wednesday, these managers called on their regulatory body to de-dollarize the payment of spectrum fees and to adopt a fixed Leone rate for licensing of spectrum frequencies across the board.

This call by radio station managers came at a time the Bank of Sierra Leone has instituted strict monetary policy measures to curtail the pervasive dollarization of economic and financial activities vis-a-vis the overall impact of exchange rate changes on inflation.

It should be recalled that NATCOM recently shut down several radio stations who defaulted in paying their annual license fees, including those who were broadcasting without a guaranteed legal status. Nonetheless, the Commission has rescinded its decision to create room for the affected parties to comply within a reasonable timeframe. 

An Open Letter To HE Julius Maada Bio

0

Your Excellency, it is with a pained heart and broken spirit that I write to raise a concern about what impact the current trend of heightened and unprecedented election violence might have on our democracy, good governance and the rule of law.

As Your Excellency may be aware that on Saturday 24th August, the National Electoral Commission (NEC) conducted a re-run Parliamentary bye-election in Constituency 110 pursuant to a court order dated 31st May 2019.

The electoral climate preceding the election had been marred by violence as evidenced in the July 29 incident at Hamilton.

During the conduct of the said bye-election on Saturday August 24, the police, joined by their military counterparts, deployed about 300 personnel to provide security coverage for the entire election.

Media coverage by Africa Young Voices (AYV) showed that the polls started on time and the election went on peacefully in all the polling centres but one: the Sulpon Community Primary School (Centre Code 15074) where voting was temporarily suspended due to issues with the Voters Register of SLPP agents in polling stations 6, 7 and 9. This issue was addressed by the NEC much to the satisfaction of all players and voting resumed in a peaceful manner.

Your Excellency, very close to the end of the polls, violence erupted in Polling Centre 15086 – Sarah Modern Preparatory School. During the course of the violence, ballots and other election materials were destroyed. On this note, Your Excellency, the NEC in their Press Statement of Sunday 25th August, 2019, cancelled the entire election result. 

Who are behind the attack?

Your Excellency at this juncture you may want to know some of the alleged perpetrators behind such a heinous crime.

The National Elections Watch (NEW), undisputedly the most credible election observer group in Sierra Leone, stated in their Press Statement of Monday August 26, that: “A man who NEW cannot recognize and who throughout the day was being consulted by the SLPP party agents in the centre ordered voting to stop and started the destruction of ballot boxes and election materials after which a group of men rushed into the polling stations destroying ballot boxes and other election materials.”

NEW went further to identify a vehicle whose owner and those on board may be linked to the violence. “A black RAV4 vehicle with no number plate but with an inscription ‘CEO of Soja Team Paopa’ with the SLPP logo was plying the elections centres vicinities.

Furthermore, video evidence seen on social media portrayed the destruction of ballots and other election materials were choreographed by your ruling party operatives much to the chagrin of voters, election observers and the international community. Added to that, the presence of the Honourable Minister of Transport and Aviation at the scene made the whole incident looked like a state-sanctioned attack on our democracy; and a deliberate attempt by the ruling party operatives to subvert a fundamental human right of the electorates of Constituency 110.

Your Excellency, the decision by NEC to cancel the entire election result has provoked outrage and widespread agitation among the citizenry who are apprehensive that such a decision runs contrary to the principles of equity and justice.

Following their cancellation of the results, a civil society group called Legal Link enquired from NEC to show the “extant” law that supports their cancellation of the result to which the NEC retorted.

NEC’s reply to this very important legal question did not find comfort in the eyes of the people.

Section 36 of the 1991 Constitution ensured that voting in any public election shall be by secret ballot. The scattering of those ballots exposed the secrecy of ballots as many people would have come to know how and who the people voted for. Also, the Public Elections Act of 2012 makes it an offence for anyone to obstruct, disrupt, interfere or destroy election materials without lawful authority.

Recommendations:

Your Excellency, upon assuming office, you declared war against indiscipline and lawlessness. The violence perpetrated by your ruling party operatives should be regarded as the highest form of lawlessness and indiscipline. Your Excellency, to exonerate your good name and reputation as the ‘talk and do’ president that does not condone lawlessness, I recommend that you set up a special investigation panel to, among other things:

  • Investigate the circumstances that led to the destruction of ballots boxes and other election materials at Constituency 110 Parliamentary re-run election.
  • The complicity and complacency of the police during the violence
  • Identify, name and shame perpetrators
  • The specific role Minister of Transport and Aviation

Your Excellency, I further recommend that you use your good offices to subject the NEC boss to a medical examination to adjudge his mental competence which is a key requirement for anyone holding such a sensitive office in the land and to conduct an integrity check on NEC and its entire staff.

Yours faithfully,

Lawrence Williams

Journalist and Pro-poor activist, Publisher & Managing Editor, Fritong Post Newspaper.

Clampdown on peaceful protest…Police brutalize students

0

By Lawrence Williams

It was a state of pandemonium. Students were running helter-skelter in fear of their lives as armed police officers pursued them like common criminals. Panic engulfed the entire area giving an inclination that all hell had broken loose.

What started as a peaceful protest suddenly became rambunctious. Both male and female students were seen manhandled by armed personnel. Those who barely escaped were chased after from Pademba Road right through to Circular Road/Mends Street axis. Even students invited by the Africa Young Voices Television (AYV TV) to be interviewed were arrested right inside the compound the media empire.

The fact of the matter is that students of Limkokwing University had assembled in a peaceful and orderly manner at the Cotton Tree roundabout to express their dissatisfaction with the Bio-led government for refusing to honour the scholarship granted them under the previous Koroma-led administration.

Over forty students and the leading right activist for the students protest Thomas Moore Conteh were arrested and placed behind bars. The police claimed that they have breached the law.

Journalists too were not spared. Five journalists reporting for Radio Democracy 98.1, Concord Times Newspaper and other media houses were all arrested while covering the news. They were later released in the evening. The students were released afterwards but Thomas Moore Conteh remains in custody.

“The arrested students and journalists have been released. But Thomas Moore Conteh is still in custody.” Deputy police spokesman, S.S. Conteh confirms. This confirmation was made at the time of going to press.

Alphonsus Gbanie, Executive Secretary of Human Rights Defenders Network is the first activist who has come out to boldly condemn the actions of the police. He stated in no uncertain terms that “the highhandedness of the police is an affirmation that what they are doing is regime policing rather than democratic policing.”

But this is not the first time the police have brutalized university students. In March 2017 for instance, police officers opened fire at Njala University students, killing one and injuring several others.

Following that ugly incident, Amnesty International West Africa researcher vocalized that “…the bloodshed and loss of young life is a tragedy and suggests a heavy-handed response by the security forces to a student protest.”

Comparatively speaking, yesterday’s incident has again brought into sharp focus the conflict that exists between the right to peaceful protest from a human rights perspective, and the law from a legal standpoint.

In view thereof, section 17 of the Public Order Act of 1965 would come into play. While human rights defenders would always argue that section 17 (1) of the Act gives them the right to hold a peaceful protest, the police would rather bank on subsection 2 of the Act to negate the exercise of that right. Be that as it may, the right to peaceful protest is universally recognized as a fundamental right of citizens that should be guaranteed at all times.

Section 17 (1) states that “any person who intends to take part or takes part in organising or holding any procession shall first notify the Commissioner of Police in writing of his intention to do so and any person who fails to give such notification as aforesaid shall be guilty of an offence.”

The succeeding subsection 2 reads: “The Commissioner of Police shall by order in writing addressed to such persons giving notice, disallow the holding of any procession or impose such conditions as he shall think fit on any procession where in his opinion the interests of defence, public order, public safety or public morality so require.”

All this is happening at a time the World Internal Security and Police Index (WISPI) ranks the Sierra Leone Police as the 10th worst police force in the world, positioning them at 117 out of 127 in the global ranking.

Preceding reports have also not put the country in a good spot. The Global Peace Index, World Press Freedom reports marked deteriorating standards for Sierra Leone in terms of our level of peacefulness and press freedom.

The question many people are now asking is why the police failed to arrest individuals who were seen destroying ballot papers and other voting materials during the rerun of Constituency 110 Parliamentary bye-election but could hurriedly manhandle and arrest students engaged in a peaceful protest?

Resident Minister Embarrasses Bio

By Lawrence Williams

The recent outburst of the Resident Minister North, Hon. Abu A. Koroma could have triggered an unanticipated social disorder in the whole northern region if His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio had not reacted speedily by distancing himself from the remarks of the minister and at the same time suspending him from office with immediate effect.

Analysts on mainstream media as well as the vuvuzelas on social media have not spared the minister any nice comments but bashing and blasting.

In a short video that has already gone viral on social media, Hon. Koroma is seen making divisive partisan comments and further threatening to kill anyone who dares to protest against the government or attempts to engage in a riot.

It is believed that the conduct of the resident minister not only misrepresents the position of government in addressing recent spates of violence across the country but his threats of “shoot-to kill” clearly undermine President Bio’s avow proclamation of acting within the confines of the law to curb lawlessness and indiscipline in the country. Furthermore, such remarks by no less a person than the resident minister, being the direct representative of the president in the whole northern region with the powers to exercise executive powers and authority granted under the 1991 Constitution, has caused a great deal of embarrassment to His Excellency both in and out of the country. Though some people welcomed the decision by the president to suspend his this loosed resident minister, many are of the view that suspension is a lukewarm punishment when taking into account the gravity of the statement and the potential damage it could have caused the country to suffer at a time when violence, disruptive and widely destructive conflict behavior has apparently become the new order.

Meteorological Agency Predicts Mudslide If…

By Lawrence Williams

Sierra Leoneans should brace up for frequent thunderstorms, heavy winds this rainy season resulting from the direct impacts of climate change on the environment. The likely unprecedented nature in which these occurrences will take place is strongly associated with climate change and human-induced activities such as deforestation for logging and charcoal burning, and indiscriminate construction of unplanned and uncoordinated settlements.

Sierra Leone is listed among countries most prone to experience climate change and natural disasters. Its population of about 7.2 million is at great risk and remains vulnerable to major ecological threats of water shortage and food scarcity, according to scientific projections in this year’s Global Peace Index.

The GPI estimated that hundreds of millions of people worldwide will be hit by water and food insecurity by 2025, and sub-Saharan Africa would be the most affected region. Studies show that many African countries already faced food insecurity before the Covid-19 pandemic, and Sierra Leone is one among fifteen countries ranked at the bottom of the Global Food Security Index 2019.

Two of the world’s largest exporters – Kazakhstan and Vietnam – have temporarily suspended wheat flour and rice exports amid Covid-19. This may likely create shortages in countries like Sierra Leone that strongly depend on imports.

The GPI projections also suggest that extreme weather conditions are likely to cause major disruptions to industrial agriculture and water conservation. It predicts major flooding resulting from an astronomical rise in sea levels and heat temperatures would occur in this region.

The Meteorological Agency’s seasonal forecasts last November indicated a rise in heat temperatures of about 35 – 37 degrees Celsius during the dry season, with Freetown and Makeni the hardest hit. Because this prediction in many ways turned out to be true we now turn back to the Agency to hear its predictions for the rainy season and to know whether they agree or disagree with the GPI projections.

The Agency’s Director-General, Ibrahim Sinneh Kamara, told Fritong Post that Sierra Leone would experience low rainfall in the rainy season and this will affect crop production.

“Low rainfall will affect crop production this year and farmers will suffer huge losses if the Ministry of Agriculture does not advise them on the best crops and rice varieties to plant,” he said.

Kamara asked that this information be cascaded to rural communities to help farmers better prepare for the worse if need be.

He said the heavy winds and thunderstorms experienced lately are the attendant consequences of low rainfall but more importantly signaled that climate change projections for this region – Gulf of Guinea – are real.

Though the DG did not wholesomely agree with the entirety of the GPI projections, he however affirmed the strong belief that the conclusions contained therein cannot be overstated.

“Those people are experts in the field of Meteorological Science. But I think that we should conduct a national survey to gather more specific data, identify specific threats and come up with more concrete and realistic predictions. This will then inform policy formulation and adaptation and response plan to mitigate the risks and impact of climate change in Sierra Leone,” Sinneh Kamara stated.

Mr. Kamara further said that the massive deforestation for the construction of unplanned and uncoordinated settlements along the Freetown Peninsula could aggravate several risk factors that could trigger a mudslide or landslide to occur in that area. He predicted that such disaster could happen in the future if regulations are not put in place now to control it.

He believes that widespread public education and awareness-raising on climate change and its attendant consequences; strong early warning systems and effective legal frameworks can change the narrative in terms of strengthening Sierra Leone’s adaption and response mechanisms toward climate change.

The Government strategies, objectives and policy actions for disaster prevention and mitigation are clearly articulated in the National Medium-Term Development Plan. 

President Bio on many occasions has affirmed his government’s commitment to protecting the environment. He told the nation in this year’s State Opening of Parliament that his government is pursuing policy actions that will bring about a change in environmental governance, forest management and ecosystem conservation. 

The United Nations Environmental Programme projects that almost all sub-Saharan African countries will be water-scarce by 2025.

Sierra Leone’s Medium-Term Development Plan indicated that almost half of the population of Sierra Leone has no access to safe drinking water, and only 13 percent of the population has access to improved sanitation facilities.

The demand for water in Sierra Leone has increased considerably over the past years. The increasing demand is driven by population growth, increased economic and industrial activities. The huge demand for water use for domestic purposes as well, especially during the lockdown measures implemented by the government, has led to some communal disputes that resulted in an open confrontation between affected communities and law enforcement agents.

Commonwealth Suspends Sierra Leone

The Speaker of Parliament has announced Sierra Leone’s suspension from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association(CPA).

In yesterday’s plenary sitting, the Rt. Hon. Abass Bundu publicly disclosed that the suspension came as a result of the country’s failure to honour its financial obligation to the CPA for the year 2019.

The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association was established to support the work of Parliamentarians in Commonwealth countries; and to help them identify and implement benchmarks of good governance in their respective countries, and to also abide by the principles and values of the Commonwealth.

Expressing his disappointment over the news, Hon. Ibrahim Tawa Conteh representingConstituency 132 asserted that thesuspension does not bode well for the international reputation of the country.

He questioned why Sierra Leone could not pay its annual subscription to the CPA for 2019 even though Parliament has received over sixteen billion Leones as budgetary support from the Ministry of Finance. The suspension of Sierra from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association means that the country will not take part in the 64th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference thatwill bring together over 500 parliamentarians, parliamentary staff and decision makers from across the Commonwealth. This event is scheduled to take place from the 22nd to the 29th of September 2019 at the CPA Uganda Branchand theParliament of Uganda.

Corruption scandal at Maritime Administration

0

By Lawrence Williams

Even though the Bio-led administration has put in place stringent measures to block financial outflows and prevent the abuse of public resources by public officials appointed to serve in his ‘New Direction’ Government, some individuals would certainly defy established protocols just to have a way to pocket monies meant for development programmes.

Recently, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) raided the Sierra Leone Maritime Administration (SLMA) headquarters at Government Wharf and arrested four senior government employees who have been swindling taxpayers’ monies at the expense of the public good.

These employees are now being investigated for allegedly diverting public funds into their own private use.

The Director of Finance Hassan Lahai, Director of Shipping and Marine Protection Department Rolland Moore, Snr. Account Officer Carlton During and Shipping Officer Mohamed Fatorma were all arrested by the ACC Scorpion Squad on Wednesday and whisked off to the Criminal Investigations Department where they were detained till the following morning.

The ACC’s Director of Public Education and Outreach, Patrick Sandi confirmed that all four suspects were arrested but later granted bail pending the outcome of the investigations.

Margaret Murray, Public Relations Officer for the Commission hinted that the funds allegedly diverted into private use by the four suspects ‘might amount to billions of Leones’.

When this press telephoned the Executive Director of the Sierra Leone Maritime Administration for comments on the issue, Mr. Ken Philip Sondai told this writer to go to his office. This writer then went to Mr. Sondai’s office accompanied by a colleague journalist.

After waiting for about an hour along the corridors of Mr. Sondai’s office, a lady attached to his office approached us and enquired about the purpose of our visit. She then went inside Mr. Sondai’s office to inform him about our purpose of visit. When she came outside, she told us that Mr. Sondai said he was not going to entertain journalists.

Whether more individuals occupying top positions at the SLMA would become persons of interest to the ACC will be determined by the scope of the investigations as this is not the first time the ACC is probing the Maritime Administration for corruption related activities.

The Sierra Leone Maritime Administration (SLMA) is an autonomous body responsible for the registration of ships and other vessels, the licensing and safety of maritime personnel, protection of the marine environment and for the regulation and development generally of maritime, coastal and inland transport and for other matters connected therewith.