February 14th 2020: Morlai Kargbo, All Peoples Congress ( APC) Zonal Chairman for Orogu Community, Constituency 113, Ward 339, Western Rural District of Sierra Leone is said to be on the run after persistent attack on his life.
According to family sources, Morlai transferred to the Orogu Community in 2007 but because he was developmentally oriented, the APC party executive earmarked him to be part of the leadership in the constituency. In 2015, he was officially appointed as APC Zonal Chairman for Orogu Community, Constituency 113, Ward 339. Hence, during the 2018 general elections, the APC appointed Morlai polling agent at the Evelyn Royal Academy in Allen Town.
Morlai was not only assigned as polling agent but also as coordinator of all the APC polling staff in the polling center. During that process, claims are that he obstructed the NEC officials because he alleged they were doing malpractices.
Based on that, following the announcement of elections results, at midnight SLPP supporters stormed Morlai’s house using uncouth language and also threatened to burn down his house.
Meanwhile, for safety reasons, Morlai was said to have left the house for another place.
During the Bye-Election in Constituency 58 Ward 196 in Tonko Limba Chiefdom, Kambia District at his hometown, the APC indigenes from that region stormed the region to sensitize the people about the importance of that election in Tonkor Limba.
They enticed the momentum of the people, but allegations are that when the ruling Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) stakeholders saw that, the SLPP allegedly brought in thugs and security personnel to fire at the scene killing a 14 yrs old boy who is the son of an APC supporter. They chased away all the APC stakeholders who ran through the bush from Mile 14 to Kambia Town.
Intimidation and sacking became overwhelmed and APC party supporters were constantly intimidated. Unfortunately for Morlai, issue happened at the Queen Elizabeth II Quay (Water Quay) where Morlai was protecting the interest of his office NSBT (Nectar Sierra Leone Bulk Terminal) and with the controversial redundancy done by the company, his political affiliation became a question.
The stakeholders at the Quay began to question his popularity and they said they knew he was a zonal chairman for the APC. Allegations are that he was whistleblower for the NSBT General Manager and his father’s office was use as the harbor to hold APC Party meetings.
Resulting from the issues which happen at the Quay, he started having attacks, text messages and intimidation. On Thursday the 16th January 2019, Morlai was attacked by 4 people who beat him and nearly killed him. However, because of the intervention of pedestrians, he was saved. The thugs went onto their vehicles and drove off.
Reports are that Morlai sought medical attention but they realized that he had native (fangay) attack in his neck. He sought traditional healing at Tonkor Limba where he hailed from. At which point, Morlai was advised to fully protect himself for the future. The herbalists in Tonkor Limba advised that he should join the native Limba Gbangbani society. He gave them assurances that he would join subsequently, but however returned to Freetown again.
However, upon returning to Freetown, the intimidation never stopped. Morlai’s life became more under threats that he had to run away from home. Until now, his family cannot tell journalists where he has headed to.
President of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, His Excellency Dr. Jean Claude Kassi Brou, has on Saturday 25th July 2020 congratulated Speaker of the 5th Legislature of ECOWAS Parliament His Excellency Sidie Mohamed Tunis, and pledged the Commission's total support to the Parliament.
Whilst delivering his speech to the regional members of parliament at the ECOWAS Parliament’s 2nd extraordinary session of 2020 held via videoconference between Monday 20th to Saturday 25th July 2020, the President of ECOWAS Commission said: “It is together, strong and united that we will win, that we will triumph over the evils which overwhelm us to turn resolutely towards the objectives of regional integration. In this regard, I would like to assure you that the Commission and all the other ECOWAS Institutions stand ready to work together with you for the achievement of all the objectives of our Organization.”
In addition, the ECOWAS Commission President dilated that for ECOWAS Parliament to be able to play its role, they must work in “coordination and synergy, revitalize and re-establish our framework for exchanges between Parliament's standing committees and Departments of the ECOWAS Commission; contribute in a concrete and effective manner to the development and implementation of Community programs which have an impact on our populations; strengthen institutional dialogue and communication; cooperate in a judicious manner to make the ECOWAS area a space of peace, security and development; put to good use the input, utility and support of Parliament for the visibility of ECOWAS in member states.”
Furthermore, HE Dr. Jean Claude Kassi Brou added that the Community Levy (PC) remains the most important source of income and funding for ECOWAS programs and activities. However he said, one of the harmful consequences of the coronavirus pandemic is the significant drop in imports in the region, which necessarily affects the mobilization of products from the community levy. Thus, he said “as of June 30, 2020, the Community has only succeeded in mobilizing 11.8% of PC revenue. This is why we ask you to advocate for the mobilization of your respective Parliaments for the timely contribution of your countries to the fruits of the Community Levy. In doing so, the Commission will include in its field missions, the Honorable Members of the Parliament of ECOWAS to reap the fruits of the PC in accordance with the strengthening of inter-institutional cooperation.”
Moreover, the ECOWAS Commission President added that the significance of the gathering for the second time in the Extraordinary Session of the Fifth Legislature of the year 2020 is in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Additional Act relating to the strengthening of the prerogatives of Parliament that the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the ECOWAS adopted on December 17, 2016, in particular in its Chapter V, relating to the competences and the processes of adoption of the community acts, in Article 5 relating to the modalities of participation in the processes of the community acts which stipulates that: "the Parliament express its opinion when adopting Community acts, either by: Notice or Compliant notice."
Meanwhile, in his closing remarks, the Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament, His Excellency Sidie Mohamed Tunis on behalf of the members expressed their profound gratitude to the President of the ECOWAS Commission, His Excellency Dr. Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, and his “team of competent Commissioners and Technocrats, for the collaboration between our two important Institutions.”
HE Tunis furthered that: “Over the years since the inception of the Parliament, our collaboration with the Commission had grown wider; covering virtually all areas associated with the integration process. Ours is a symbiotic relationship, in which we as politicians are expected to promote the ideals of the Community at the level of Member States, while the Commission, with its team of competent technocrats, is to ensure total implementation of programmes and policies. We are determined to reap maximal benefits out of this relationship and we expect it to yield adequate rewards for the promotion of the vision of our founding fathers.”
In addition, HE Tunis said, unfortunately, the 5th Legislature of the ECOWAS Parliament had to encounter a great challenge almost immediately after inauguration due the global Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic. He added that “there is no doubt that the remaining part of 2020 and early 2021 would be highly challenging, both economically and socially. Ours is to collaborate with our Governments, both at national and regional levels, to ensure that we protect the interest of our people and work towards easing their affairs during this anticipated difficult period.”
Whilst concluding and closing the 2020 2nd Extraordinary Session, ECOWAS Parliament Speaker HE Tunis said their “duty as Community Parliamentarians is not restricted to when we hold meetings or other activities. We remain Community Members of Parliament where ever we find ourselves. We should, therefore, endeavor to preach the ideal of ECOWAS at all times and in all places.”
Meanwhile it could be recalled that for the very first time, the community parliament met via videoconference for a six-day virtual extraordinary session to consider some referrals from Community institutions on germane issues that border on the wellbeing of the people of the sub-region. Notable among the referrals are: Request by the President of the ECOWAS Commission seeking assistance from the Parliament in implementing the ECOWAS protocol on the community levy; That Parliament takes decision relating to the contribution of ECOWAS Member States to the African Union Solidarity Fund in the fight against COVID-19; Referral from the ECOWAS Commission on the fight against COVID-19, the stabilization and recovery of the economies of ECOWAS Member States amongst others.
Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has urged member states to collaborate in academic researches.
This point was raised during the discussions on Wednesday 23rd July 2020 at the Joint Committees meeting of the Committee on Education, Science and Culture and the Committee on Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) of the ECOWAS Parliament held virtually.
During the session, the ECOWAS Parliament committees were to consider and also present to the plenary the referral from the ECOWAS Commission on: (1) Adopting the Rules for the Support Programme for Research and Innovation; and (2) Adopting the ECOWAS operational Strategy for Spatial Sciences and technologies.
Meanwhile, as the session continued, one of the ECOWAS parliamentarians who dilated on the significance of regional collaboration on academic researches, Honourable Chantel Fanny called on regional governments to teach at the preliminary stages all three regional languages such as English, French and Portuguese as she said this can help greatly in regional integration.
Deputy Speaker 4 of the ECOWAS Parliament, Honourable Adja Satu Camara Pinto spoke about the importance of research in Agriculture. She called on the ECOWAS Commission to look into issues of researches into insecticides and flooding which she said are direct link to scientific research.
ECOWAS Commissioner on Education, Science and Culture Professor Leopoldo Amado whilst responding to points raised by the Honourable Members said the commission scientists are all working together irrespective of country of origin. He said it would be prudent to use traditional languages like Hausa, Madinka and Fullah which are non-Western languages to help in academic researches.
Director of Education, Science and Culture at the ECOWAS Commission, Professor Abdoulaye Maga was pessimistic that teaching the three regional languages has not been met. He cited that it is very difficult for West African schools to get expert teachers in all three regional languages, apparently because of what he referred to as funding issues.
In addition, Professor Abdoulaye Maga said that the harmonization of West Africa schools’ curriculum and certificates would be very difficult. Hence he said it would be very much not useful if we harmonize tertiary institutions’ curriculum and certificates without first of all harmonizing the primary and secondary schools curriculum.
Meanwhile, on her side whilst addressing and presenting the report of the ECOWAS Commission on Education, Science and Culture to Parliamentarians virtually, Mrs. Rachel Ogbe, Principal Programme Officer (PPO) on Education of the ECOWAS Commission, stated that ECOWAS seeks to achieve a number of specific objectives, the first being to develop regional criteria for the harmonization of pre-university qualifications, in particular the period of study, content of curricula, qualification assessment and other prerequisites for the establishment of equivalence of Member States’ accreditation systems.
This according to her presentation will involve defining benchmarks/criteria to match university and professional qualifications in the region, draw up a list of courses in Member States’ universities as well as admission requirements, number of years of study, required credits and certificates.
Other specific objectives contained in her presentation will be to clarify the classification of academic qualifications (certificate, diploma, bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate, etc.) in Member States and develop a road-map for the implementation of the ECOWAS Convention on equivalence of certificates.
As he says the task of providing a voice for the voiceless is beyond holding virtual meetings… ‘Parliament will revert back to our physical meetings once the situation permits’- Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament Assures
The Speaker of the Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS) Parliament, His Excellency Sidie Mohamed Tunis has assured that the sessions of the community’s parliament will soon return to physical meetings once the situation permits. This situation been referred to here by the Speaker is the deadly Coronavirus Pandemic which has hit all countries of the world and has greatly prevented physical meetings due to social distancing measures to curtail the spread of the virus.
HE Tunis made this disclosure on Tuesday 21st July 2020, whilst delivering his opening speech to the plenary of the 2nd 2020 Extraordinary Session of the ECOWAS Parliament. This session was done online via Zoom Virtual link and saw ECOWAS Parliament’s Members of Parliament (MPs) from all fifteen (15) community members’ state in attendance. During the session, a motion was moved by Honourable Mahama Ayariga from Ghana for the session to be done by virtual meeting as online session has never happened in the history of the ECOWAS Parliament. It was seconded and moved on with.
Meanwhile, it could be recalled, according to an earlier news release from ECOWAS Parliament, following guidelines on the Covid-19 protocols for ECOWAS Institutions, issued by the President of the Commission, Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, the Parliament is holding a five-day virtual Extraordinary session to consider some referrals from Community institutions on germane issues that border on the wellbeing of the people of the sub-region, in line with the provisions of the Supplementary Act relating to the Enhancement of the Powers of the Parliament.
Notable among the referrals are: Request by the President of the ECOWAS Commission seeking assistance from the Parliament in implementing the ECOWAS protocol on the community levy; that Parliament takes decision relating to the contribution of ECOWAS Member States to the African Union Solidarity Fund in the fight against COVID-19: and Referral from the ECOWAS Commission on the fight against COVID-19, the stabilization and recovery of the economies of ECOWAS Member States.
Meanwhile, whilst dilating on the impact of Coronavirus on the operations of the ECOWAS Parliament, His Excellency Tunis in his opening statement said: “I honestly cannot imagine that we were unable to hold the 1st Ordinary Session in May. This was the first time in history that the Parliament would miss holding an Ordinary Session as scheduled. I also couldn’t imagine holding an Extra Ordinary Session virtually. Many thanks to technology; at least we will be able to use this obviously imperfect avenue for a Parliament to meet.”
On the area of achieving the 2020 work plans of the 5th Legislature of the ECOWAS Parliament, Speaker Tunis said: “We will also pursue the 2020 work plan as vigorously as the situation permits us to. In collaboration with the General Secretariat, we are watching unfolding events as they relate to the safety of holding physical meetings. I wish to recall that we are yet to hold the 2020 1st Ordinary Session. We also need to organise several Committee meetings around our Member States as is customary.”
In addition, HE Tunis said “I am, quick to add that Parliaments cannot perpetually hold their activities virtually. The task of representing the people, embarking on oversight functions, conducting parliamentary interpellation and providing a voice for the voiceless is beyond holding virtual meetings.”
Therefore, he said: “We as a Parliament will do our best to discharge our functions online, but will revert back to our physical meetings once the situation permits.”
Meanwhile, during the opening session of the plenary, several other speakers made statements. This includes the President of the ECOWAS Court, Mr Edward Asante who said that the court started on the route of using virtual meetings about a month ago when they initiated the use of this technology after the pandemic forced the adjournment of 71 cases including 27judgments and 12 applications for accelerated hearing.
The ECOWAS Court President further said that “With the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, it is increasingly becoming obvious that we would have to rely on virtual sessions for the foreseeable future beyond the pandemic because; for the Court, the technology has the additional benefit of improving citizens access to the, with savings from transportation and associated costs of traveling to Abuja for sessions, not to talk about saving of hotel expenses for both parties and the lawyers.”
On the area of referrals, Mr Edward Asante said “Just like the Parliament, the Court also has the power to entertain referrals under its original mandate as the principal legal organ of the Community.” However, he said unlike the ECOWAS Parliament, the “the Court has never in its history received any such referrals from any Member State, a worrisome development which has implications for the development of Community law and its integration into those of the States.”
Hence he said: “we look forward to work with Parliament and ECOWAS parliamentarians towards ensuring that the ECOWAS Court receives referrals from national courts because of its salutary impact on our integration project. In this way we will be strengthening the collaboration between both institutions in the service of the Community and furthering the delivery of justice.”
Another speaker who made a meaningful presentation at the Opening session of the ECOWAS Parliament’s Plenary was the Director General of the West Africa Health Organization (WAHO), Professor Stanley Okolo who said that since 1970 the world has average disease outbreaks every year. He said several factors including over population and lack of hygiene facilities result to that. He warned regional governments to be very careful in reopening borders as that could result to a second wave of the Coronavirus outbreak.
ECOWAS Commission presented the briefing on the status of the Community Levy.
Before the end of the opening session, the ECOWAS Parliament considered and adopted the draft agenda and draft Work Programme of the first 2020 Extraordinary Session; it considered and adopted the draft report of the inaugural session of the Fifth Legislature of Parliament; it Considered and adopted the draft Work Programme of Standing, Joint and Ad Hoc Committees; and it also considered and adopted the draft Plan of Activities of Parliament for the second half of 2020.
The plenary was adjourned to Saturday 25th July 2020, but between now and then, several committee meetings are scheduled to take place until Friday 24th July 2020.
Abuja, 20 July, 2020 - ECOWAS Parliament has joined the league of Community institutions to deploy the use of technology in conducting its sessions and meetings, with the Second Extraordinary Session commences today Monday, 20th July, 2020, using the Zoom virtual platform.
Following guidelines on the Covid-19 protocols for ECOWAS Institutions, issued by the President of the Commission, Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, the Bureau of Parliament is scheduled to hold a five-day virtual Extra-Ordinary session to consider some referrals from Community institutions on germane issues that border on the wellbeing of the people of the sub-region, in line with the provisions of the Supplementary Act relating to the Enhancement of the Powers of the Parliament.
Notable among the referrals are:
- Request by the President of the ECOWAS Commission seeking assistance from the Parliament in implementing the ECOWAS protocol on the community levy
- That Parliament takes decision relating to the contribution of ECOWAS Member States to the African Union Solidarity Fund in the fight against COVID-19.
- Referral from the ECOWAS Commission on the fight against COVID-19, the stabilization and recovery of the economies of ECOWAS Member
This virtual Extra-Ordinary session heralds an era of a new normal, occasioned by the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic. Consequently, Parliament’s administration has concluded all technical and manpower arrangements to ensure a seamless session.
The virtual session is an innovation that is yet to be ventured by many national and supra- national parliaments around the world, an indication of the level of importance the ECOWAS Parliament arrogates to its duties and responsibilities towards the Community’s Citizens, preferring that its work is not stalled regardless of the ravaging pandemic.
Preceding the opening of the Extra-Ordinary session would be the Conference of Committees Bureaux, statutorily composed of the Bureau, Chairman and 1st Rapporteurs of the 14 Standing Committees as well as Chairmen of Parliamentary Groups, with the mandate of considering and adopting the Draft Agenda and Work Program of the session, legitimizing those documents to be considered and adopted by the Plenary. The meeting is usually convened and chaired by the Speaker of Parliament.
The virtual Extra-Ordinary Session is scheduled to end on Friday, 25 July, 2020.
Speaker Sidie Mohamed Tunis Says ECOWAS Parliament’s 2nd Extraordinary Session 2020 to hold via Videoconference
Second Extraordinary session of the Parliament of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is due to hold from July 10th to July 17th 2020, virtually (online).
According to the Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament, His Excellency Sidie Mohamed Tunis who spoke to me today Wednesday 8th July 2020 from his office here in Freetown, Sierra Leone said he directed for the conveying of the extraordinary session to get the participation of the entire membership of the ECOWAS Parliament to discuss important referrals received from the ECOWAS Commission and also to consider the parliament input in the implementation of the community levy.
His Excellency Sidie Mohamed Tunis confirmed that there are certain documents which are going to be tabled by the ECOWAS Commission at the Heads of States meeting, but procedurally these documents are to be reviewed by the ECOWAS Parliament for the opinions of the members.
His Excellency Sidie Mohamed Tunis added that though the Bureau of ECOWAS Parliament which consists of the Speaker and his four (4) Deputies has the power to review and approve the documents on behalf of the Parliament on behalf of parliament in line with the supplementary Act 2016, but he says he feels it right to get the input and thorough scrutiny from all the parliament’s 115 (one hundred and fifteen) members.
Meanwhile, it could be recalled that the first inaugural session of the parliament this 2020 was held in Niamey, Niger, in March this year and was convened by the Chairman of the Authority of Heads of States and President of Niger, His Excellency Mahamadou Issoufou. That session saw Sierra Leonean Member of Parliament Honourable Sidie Mohamed Tunis unanimously elected as Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament.
The second extraordinary session of the parliament in 2020 which is going to take place virtually from 10th to 17th July 2020 will have the composite activities lined up as follows:
- Meeting of the Bureau: 10th July 2020
- Meeting of the Conference of Bureau: 11th July 2020
- Extraordinary Session: 13th to 17th July 2020
Meanwhile, it is prudent to note that the Bureau of the ECOWAS Parliament is the governing organ of the Parliament. The meeting of the Bureau on the 10th July 2020 shall consist of the Speaker and all the four (4) Deputy Speakers of the Parliament. At their meeting, they will determine the draft agenda and all programmes or business of the extraordinary session.
Furthermore, the meeting of the Conference of Bureau on the 11th July 2020, shall consist of the Bureau, the Chairmen and the first Rapporteur of each of the Standing Committees. They work with the Bureau of the Parliament to prepare the draft annual work-plan taking into account the priority Community programmes.
The ECOWAS Parliament is composed of 115 seats from each of the 15 Members states. States have a guaranteed minimum of five seats. The remaining seats are shared on the basis of population. Consequently, Nigeria has 35 seats, Ghana 8 seats, Cote d’Ivoire 7 seats, while Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali, Niger and Senegal have 6 seats each. The others – Benin, Cape Verde, The Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Togo have 5 seats each.
The ECOWAS Parliament, also known as the Community Parliament, is a forum for dialogue, consultation and consensus for representatives of the people of West Africa with the aim of promoting integration. It was established under Article 6 and 13 of the ECOWAS Revised Treaty of 1993. The Protocol relating to the Parliament was signed in Abuja on 6th August, 1994 and entered into force in 14th March, 2002. It provides for the structure, composition, competence and other matters relating to the Parliament. At its 25th session held in Dakar, Senegal on the 21st and 22nd December, 2001 the Authority of Heads of State and Government decided that Abuja should be the headquarters of the Parliament.
Normally, based on directives from the Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, the Parliament chooses a venue to convey their meetings. However, this particular 2nd extraordinary session is to hold via videoconference apparently because of the dreadful impact of Coronavirus in the West Africa sub-region. So far as at Tuesday 7th July 2020, according to estimates from the West Africa Health Organisation (WAHO) 88,453 (eighty eight thousand four hundred and fifty three) cases of Coronavirus have been confirmed in the region, with 51,535 (fifty one thousand five hundred and thirty five) recoveries and 1,473 (one thousand four hundred and seventy three) deaths and still 35,445 (thirty five thousand four hundred and forty five) active cases in the region.
The Coronavirus Pandemic has caused all ECOWAS Members to shutdown airports and because of social distancing, individual conveying for the 2nd ECOWAS extraordinary session is impossible. However, the parliament based on the directive of the Speaker His Excellency Sidie Mohamed Tunis has resolved to hold a videoconference 2nd extraordinary session from 10th to 17th July 2020.
Chairman of the ruling Sierra Leone Peoples Party North America (SLPPNA) branch, Mohamed Bah has at their party 2019 regional convention spoke greatly on the successes he has scored exactly one year since he took the mantle of leadership.
Former All Peoples Congress Party Government (APC) Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden has referred to the current Sierra Leone Peoples Party Government (SLPP) Minister of Finance Jacob Jusu Saffa as a “flippant speaker.”
The APC strongwoman who is currently outside the country made this statement in a social media dispatch over the weekend when she was reacting to an arrogant statement made by the country’s Finance Minister during a local radio interview in which the Finance Minister said in our native Krio that Sierra Leoneans normally “labo way den don belleful”. This statement in English means “talkative after been well-fed”.
Responding to ‘the bread and butter’ issue in Sierra Leone, which relate to the hardship of the economy on the poor Sierra Leoneans, the Minister of Finance in another interview at the state owned Sierra Leone Broadcasting Coorporation (SLBC) Good Morning Coffee Programme said “the bread and the butter nor day na Ministry of Finance. The bread and the butter is in the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Trade, Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Construction Works, Ministry of Mines...” Minister Saffa added that “People can buy mayonnaise even for their bread if they don't want butter. If they want they can put sausage in their bread as well..."
Against this backdrop, several other politicians from both the main opposition APC Party and the National Grand Coalition (NGC) have reacted to the statement of the Finance Minister. The former Gender Affairs Minister Dr. Sylvia O. Blyden said “people knew J.J. Saffa was flippant. They also knew what H.E. President Bio’s previous tenure in NPRC Junta yielded this country and yet, certain Sierra Leoneans still believed the likes of Hon. J.J. and H.E. Bio could effectively govern us. Those are the ones who are disappointed.”
Dr. Blyden added, “as for flippant utterances of the Minister, well I have known J.J. Saffa for some 15 years now since he worked at the local World Bank office. He has always been a flippant speaker,” ending that “I am certainly not disappointed over the ‘labo way den don bellehful’ comments as I expected nothing more.”
Meanwhile, in an interview conducted by the Sierra Leone Telegraph Online Newspaper, the 2018 Presidential candidate of NGC Alhaji Dr. Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella whilst deliberating on the current state of Sierra Leone economy said “success in economic management is ultimately measured by GDP growth rate, inflation, interest rates, jobs and the exchange rate, among other variables. Ok, maybe you can go further to consider the social or developmental or welfare impact of these variables on poverty, health, education. So the minister’s, and by extension the government’s, performance in managing the country’s economy must be assessed against these variables and not just their rhetorical flourishes.”
As a result, NGC Alhaji Dr. Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella said “macroeconomic fundamentals can be very stubborn and they cannot be fooled by good intentions and propaganda.”
Meanwhile, we publish below a verbatim of the social media statement of Dr. Sylvia O. Blyden and the Sierra Leone Telegraph interview with Alhaji Dr. Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella
FINANCE MINISTER J.J. SAFFA CANNOT BE BLAMED; HYPOCRISY IS TO BLAME!
By Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden OOR (A Member of the APC)
Our Economy problem is bigger than J.J. Saffa and bigger than all financial actors in governing SLPP regime. Even if heavenly Angels serve as next Finance Minister, next Financial Secretary and next Bank Governor, the financial problems will continue until Sierra Leoneans stop the hypocritical refusal to acknowledge the fantastic work that Former President Ernest Koroma and his APC-led Government did with the Sierra Leone Economy.
The wonderful astronomical growth of our Economy, stimulated by Koroma’s leadership style, was sadly affected negatively by the sudden twin shocks of Ebola Crisis and Iron Ore price drop between 2014 to 2016! Our Economy has never recovered but we are still carrying out huge expenditure that is not realistic of a still-constricting Economy.
As for flippant utterances of the Minister, well I have known J.J. Saffa for some 15 years now since he worked at the local World Bank office. He has always been a flippant speaker.
People knew J.J. Saffa was flippant. They also knew what H.E. President Bio’s previous tenure in NPRC Junta yielded this country and yet, certain Sierra Leoneans still believed the likes of Hon. JJ and H.E. Bio could effectively govern us. Those are the ones who are disappointed.
I am certainly not disappointed over the ‘labo way den don belleful’ comments as I expected nothing more.
My own source of umbrage is because we are refusing to end the hypocrisy. Let us accept the Koroma-inspired Economy is constricting itself. Let’s adjust our expenditure accordingly. Let’s end Hypocrisy and start Honest introspection.
© Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden OOR
What direction Sierra Leone’s economy? Dr Kandeh Yumkella speaks out
Sierra Leone’s Finance Minister – JJ Saffa, was at the studios of Radio Democracy 98.1 last Monday. By all indications, his performance during a live interview did not offer Sierra Leoneans much hope for an improvement in their economic wellbeing, as rising food prices and the rapid fall of the value of the Leone take their toll.
The interview left many labelling Saffa as “arrogant”, “condescending” and “insensitive” to the plight of the suffering masses – the same people he was appointed to work for, on behalf of the Julius Maada Bio administration.
On a previously scheduled call I had with Hon. Kandeh Yumkella (KKY), I took the opportunity to ask him about the state of the economy, given that I had just listened to Minister Saffa’s interview.
This is what he said:
Question: The common topic of discussion for Sierra Leoneans at home and abroad is about the economy and the “Bread and Butter” issues. What is your view about our economy?
KKY: Well, macroeconomic fundamentals can be very stubborn and they cannot be fooled by good intentions and propaganda.
Question: What do you mean? Help the man at the Ataya Base and the market woman along Kissy Road understand your response.
KKY: That is to say, success in economic management is ultimately measured by GDP growth rate, inflation, interest rates, jobs and the exchange rate, among other variables. Ok, maybe you can go further to consider the social or developmental or welfare impact of these variables on poverty, health, education.
So the minister’s, and by extension the government’s, performance in managing the country’s economy must be assessed against these variables and not just their rhetorical flourishes.
Question: So how would you frame the debate on the economy?
KKY: The debate on the economy today should examine how the indicators I mentioned earlier changed? Remember, I talked a few minutes ago about exchange rates, interest rates, jobs
Thus, during the period 2017-2019, have the indicators changed for the better, or have they remained stagnant? Have they gotten worse? For now, all indicators tell us that the economy is in deep trouble.
The fact is, we witness the catastrophic depreciation of the Leone due to the absence of any export activities in the country, high inflation, high taxation of the private sector, and more importantly, the absence or paucity of foreign investment due to the unstable and risky governance environment.
It is not too late for the government to take a deep breath, recalibrate, and do a course correction.
Question: There is a lot of talk about the revenue being generated today under the Bio administration compared to President Koroma’s. That was one of the things the minister tried strenuously to stress during his interview. Does that not factor in the state of the economy?
KKY: Well, revenue collection is a necessary condition, but it is what we do with the money we collect that matters. Economies are similar to our household budget; if you receive a high salary every month but you spend it on jingoism and hedonism instead of investments, you will be poor in your old age.
Economies are the same, raising revenue and spending on the wrong things, without deep structural and institutional reforms, will simply postpone the crisis for a bigger meltdown in the future. It is like putting new wine in old wine skin.
Question: Is the New Direction economic management different from what you aptly referred to as “Rankanomics”?
KKY: (laughs) Without a doubt, a NEW Direction was and is NECESSARY! However, we expect the current regime by now to put us in the right pathway to growth. The question then, becomes, in which direction are we heading? Are we on the RIGHT direction/trajectory?
Question: Where do you think they are getting it wrong?
KKY: The managers of the economy have basically maintained all the structures left by the previous regime. I am yet to see radical shifts from business as usual. For example, the wage bill has not reduced. In some sectors there is over-hiring and huge expenditures in other areas, and the same parastatals and agencies exist.
Furthermore, still over 80% of our revenues go towards wages and debt payment and this must change. This fiscal capture or overhang trumps all the efforts at enhanced revenue collection.
Question: What would you advise President Bio to do?
KKY: a couple of things: first, appoint a 15 member Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) – on a PRO-BONO basis comprising of businessmen, some bankers, former credible bank governors and former Sierra Leonean IMF staff to hammer out his own economic blue-print. Past leaders in Malaysia, Singapore among others have maintained such an advisory group during their tenure.
This same group can monitor implementation of the president’s economic agenda which should be aligned with private sector aspirations and investment plans.
More importantly, they will give him sound apolitical advice rather than just what he, the president, wants to hear. Second, end inflated procurement and government contracts. Third, aggressively lower the cost of doing business by making it easy to clear goods at the port and lower some import duty and private sector taxes. We need deeper changes in the productive sectors – agriculture, fisheries, mining, etc.
Question: Even before his interview, there have been calls from the public for Finance Minister and the Bank Governor – Kelfalla Kallon to be replaced. Your thoughts?
KKY: I think that question should be addressed to the President. However, don’t forget that it is the President’s prerogative to hire and fire those appointed to serve in his administration. It is the President’s prerogative to hire competent people to help him run his administration so every Sierra Leone can benefit from his stewardship. It is the president’s responsibility to seek the best untainted advice, beyond his immediate circle.
Question: As an MP, have you discussed these concerns over economic management with the government?
KKY: The locus of my discussion with government has been Parliament. But our concerns as MPs or as an opposition are always ignored. If you go to our first budget debate, I raised strong concerns about frivolous spending, and the danger of “jobs for the boys”. I called for rationalization of institutions and more aggressive fiscal consolidation.
The tendency in our country is that ruling parties acquire hubris immediately they are in power (they suddenly seem to know-it-all and damn every other point of view). Another example is that as a party the NGC went to Bintumani-III as a genuine attempt to promote social cohesion. But after that event we have seen the rise in selective justice; we see an increase in political violence and other actions that will cause investors to be cautious about bringing money to the country.
As we head into three bye elections over the next few weeks, we are concerned about the trend in political violence and whether our people will be allowed to exercise their right to vote. If these bye elections are marked by violence, intimidation and fraud, then the world will know that this is not a country where the rule of law, property rights and good governance prevail.
Sometimes I even wonder whether the Sierra Leonean people want genuine change. The deep seated Pull-him-Down syndrome, Do-me-ah-Do-you Syndrome, and Nah-We-Turn Syndrome will make economic management very challenging.
Question: What is your take on the recent floods?
KKY: First, our thoughts and prayers are with the victims. It is a sad spectacle every time.
We hope the impact of climate change will be taken seriously.
This nation still exports massive amounts of lumber in spite of all the expert advice of uncontrolled deforestation. I myself did an article and a video on the latter last year. The Speaker of Parliament hosted a briefing to enlighten members about the long term impacts of deforestation. The recent episodes of flooding in Freetown shows that we are putting bandages on a bad sore.
The Mayor is trying her best efforts; this has to be backed up with bigger public investment to direct the flow of water from the hills to the sea (via ducts); we must move some folks from various disaster-prone areas.
Building climate resilience for infrastructure, agriculture and other development projects is expensive. However, there are many climate funds to help countries undertake such projects. (END)
As their party’s interest supercedes patriotism and nationalism… Sierra Leone is between an Arrogant SLPP & a Selfish APC
Many will say it is political propaganda which geared towards making their parties seen as the better option for Sierra Leone. However, what has been so shocking over the years is that the two leading political parties in the country- the ruling Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) and the main opposition All Peoples Congress (APC) have both never for once put the plight of our suffering masses into consideration whenever they take their actions.