NVSL Written Submissions




Sierra Leone, our glorious land of liberty, diamonds, gold, bauxite, rutile, fish, cocoa and coffee, has, over the past four decades suffered serious socio-economic decline. This decline is to say the least, as a result of bad governance and the decades old civil war. In fact, there is that general belief that it was former (bad governance that gave birth to the latter – civil war.

From the 1973 elections up to the overthrow of the then A.P.C. regime, there had never been free and fair election in this country. Elections were marred by violence, vandalism, maiming of opponents, arson, physical intimidations and threats gun hold-ups etc etc. In fact in most parts of the country no elections were held at all. Instead, through violence and trickery, candidates were returned unopposed, much to the disappointment of the opposing candidates and their supporters, the general public and the international community. As a result of that, Sierra Leone’s problem of isolation began. The western world decided to turn their back against us. We soon became a dead dog, an abandoned lot. That was the genesis of our economic decline. The Leone, the country’s legal tender started moving down steadily against all major currencies. From 75 cents to the United States dollar the Leone soon merged with the dollar at Le 1.00 to the United State dollar. This trend continued up to 1980 when we prematurely hosted the O.A.U. conference, coupled with the request for special dawning right. Immediately, we moved to one Leone twenty-five cents (Le 1.25) to the United States dollar. And shortly afterwards, it went to one Leone fifty cents (Le 1.50) to the dollar. From there, it took another leap to two Leones fifty cents (Le 2.50) and straight to six Leone (Le 6.00) to the dollar. In 1986 when the “NEW ORDER” was introduced, it took another leap to twenty Leone (Le 20.00) to the dollar. And all these heavy jumps never left price hikes behind. Prices of essential commodities increased concomitantly. Things started getting loose. This situation started slipping through the fingers. Those who could not bear the brunt applied the sparrow method (ran away). That was the birth of brain drain in this country. All our academics and professionals ran away. Decline in the standard of education began. The health and sanitation sector suffered a major set back especially when the doctors who applied the lizard method – lying flat on their stomachs to watch situation – while their colleagues were sparrowing, started demanding consultation fees.

The worse thing happened when we decided to mortgage our mineral resources to the foreigners. The Lebanese were the fore-runners, closely followed by the so called ‘Marakas’ from neighboring West African States, Notably Mali, Senegal, the Gambia and Guinea. Instead of building Sierra Leone, our diamonds were now used to build these other countries. Not only diamonds were affected by that broad day stealing, but other minerals as well. Gold, of course, is now a thing unheard of these days. The then government of the day connive with other mining concessions like Sierra Rutile Ltd, Sieromco etc to deny this country her basic right to development. All taxes paid by these concessions went into the pockets and bank account of corrupt government officials. Even the areas where the physical mining took place remained devastated with nothing to show that mining actually took place out there.

Agriculture, the life blood of any economy, also had its own share of the decline. Initially, we had large state farms in parts of Northern and Southern Sierra Leone where mechanized agricultural activities actually took place. These included Mambolo and Rokupr in the North and Tormabum , Torma Gbangnahun, Pinila, Bo down river and several other areas in the South. Rice importation into this country took place during the rainy season and even there at a very small scale. But all of these things gradually died over the years due to neglect and massive corruption. Tractors, caterpillars and fertilizer started finding their way into the open market. And all of a sudden, the system cam to a standstill and we now reverted to rice importation.

But it was not only rice that suffered here, but also major produce area. This country through the SLPMB was a major exporter of coffee, cocoa, ginger and pissava. We also had the SLPMB sponsored Gambia-Mattru oil palm project that produced at least one thousand (1000) drums of red palm oil a day. That was also a major economic booster. Daru oil mill also contributed its quota. But all of these are now things of the past. Nobody hears about them these days. These are some of the factors responsible for Sierra Leone’s many problems today.

Having looking at where we stared from to get to where we are today, let us now consider the future. That is, where we are heading towards and what the future hold for this country.

In the first place, this country has suffered a lot over the years due to, as mentioned earlier, bad governance and the decade old civil strife. But all is not lost. We still have a long way yet to go. Every sector of this country’s life has a potential to develop beyond where we are today. All we need as a people is a change of attitude. We must now begin realize that the only country we own is Sierra Leone. We must endeavor to prioritize its development. It is often said that there are no hopeless situations. There are only men who have grown hopeless about them. Sierra Leone still has the potential to forge ahead. Below is a brief synopsis of my vision for this country.

This country had over the years, witnessed some ugly political developments, which almost led to the demise of the country. Political opponents were seen as enemies. And, where possible, we killed them, maimed them, burnt their houses down and sometimes got rid of their entire families. 

VISION: If we continue on this new of our democracy and political tolerance, it will take us a long way. Now politicians in different political camps can sit together and that, champagne and dine on the same table. That is a positive development, which must be encourage. Also, the total eliminations of elections violence, vote rigging and voting on tribal and regional lines must form part of our focus if we mean to keep together as a people and forge ahead.

As I mentioned earlier, bad governance and decade – old civil conflict inflicted serious injuries to this country’s development. Every section of the country’s development suffered major set backs during the past three decades. There was a decline in agricultural activities, primary health care delivery, education and the economy as a whole. But that not withstanding  however, there is still room for positive changes.

VISION: I want to believe that with a positive change of attitude on the part of all Sierra Leoneans, we have the potential to stand once again as a nation and people and one way we can do that is to first of all get rid of the canker worm to development – CORRUPTION.

Corruption is almost a household name in this society. There corruption is every sphere of our life. There is corruption in job placement, the banks, government ministries and parastatals, the transport sector and even the private sector. And as we all know, it is this massive corruption that is responsible for the partial demise of the country. It is this same corruption that led to the ten year old conflict I must say. But the big question is, what is actually responsible for this massive corruption? Several factors can be outlined; prominent among which, are greed, poor monitoring mechanisms, the shortage of jobs in the country and low salaries offered to most of the workers in the country, particularly government employees.

Everybody will agree with me that our monitoring mechanism is to say the least, completely weak. And it is that has opened the door to massive looting of state coffers and property. The treasury doors are wide open to corrupt elements in our midst every jack and Jill, Tom and Harry can just get up today prepare a voucher for millions of Leones and submit same to the Accountant General office for endorsement.

God alone knows what will become of funds collected there after. In most cases such funds end up in private bank accounts or pockets or used to build houses and to buy cars or spent lavishly on girl friend. This trend still continues to reign supreme in this society. And in all these developments the average Sierra Leonean is still totally ignored and neglected. He remains poor, deprived, disadvantageous, illiterate, uneducated, unemployed and politically exploited. It was this total neglect that contributed to the massive participation of our idle youth in the decade – old war. And if this tread does not change, people who are suffering from neglect may soon start nurturing grudge and a repeat of what we have just gone through cannot be over-ruled

SUGGESTIONS: I want to believe if situations continue as they currently are, stealing of government funds without proper accountability may continue. This is because of poor monitoring mechanism. Why can’t we return to the old Crown Agent System where we only service (SUPPLY) government ministries and Agencies instead of allowing them to withdraw raw cash? That method worked very well in the past. I want to believe if we return to it situation will improve tremendously. On the line of middle manpower, this country can boast dozen these days especially with the proliferation of Tech/Voc. Institution in the country. Thus, instead of giving out bogus contracts, the services of the youths from these institutions could be utilized. There is need for a General Service Agency like the Crown Agent to be responsible for supplying all government ministries and agencies and also carrying out rehabilitation work on all government buildings ad equipment. Construction of minor building can also fall under the domain of that Agency. There are lots of facilities to house such an agency in this city and elsewhere in the country.

This will eliminate the idea of government contracts. While it is good to empower the private sector through the insurance of contracts, we are also of the view that these contracts have not paid us much over the years. In most cases those awarding the contracts had always connived with the contractors to deprive this country of much-needed funds and resources. Let us try the General Services Agency, which does not only provide employment opportunities for our jobless youths, but also saves from the hands of crooked contractors.

One other area that needs attention, if we mean to eradicate corruption, is provision of job opportunities for the majority of our jobless compatriots. While we agree that government cannot provide jobs for everybody, we equally hold the view that she can create the necessary atmosphere for such. We must create the environment that will encourage investors to come and invest in this country. One such area is security. We must let the business community have confidence in the security situation in the country as nobody wants to invest in chaotic situation. Another area is economic stability. This is another area we need to work on very seriously. Any environment where the economy fluctuates is not a reliable environment for good business. That is why I believe it is necessary for us to arrest the current fan of the Leone against other world currencies. The Ministry of Finance, Bank of Sierra Leone and the Development and Economic planning Ministry must galvanize efforts to ensure that this tread is reversed and the economy stabilized. This will encourage investors to pump in their cash and create more jobs around for our youths, the idea of going to Uncle Joe for or bribing one’s way to get one will be very much minimized; if not totally eliminated.

One major factor responsible for the level of corruption in this country is the low salaries paid out to employee in this country. Here in Sierra Leone, especially n government departments, it is the big-title low salary affair. We call a man DIRECTOR GENERAL and pay him three hundred thousand (Le 300,000.00) Leones. The man’s title alone has increased his responsibilities in society. Public expectations of him are now extremely high. Where he used to spend ten thousand (Le10,000.00) Leoenes when he was not a Director General, he may now spend one hundred thousand (Le 100,000.00) Leones as Director General. And so, he now has to look for somewhere else for addition funds that enable him meet these social responsibilities. He therefore has to engage in various forms of dubious activities in a bid to augment his meager salary. And that is where corruption comes in. in a bid to put a halt to this ugly development it is incumbent on all Sierra Leoneans to go back to the drawing board. We need to revisit the salary situation. Government must endeavor to reduce some of the extra economic burdens on her head and make working condition better for the working class of this country. One-step government has taken towards this direction is the on-going privatization exercise. But privatization, to me, must not affect government parastatals but the educational sector as well. Government by all standards, cannot fully sponsor all educational institution in this Country. This is one of government headaches. And it is one of the areas with high level of corruption. There are very many ghost teachers on our payroll. And amounts collected by corrupt individuals on behalf of these ghost workers run into millions, if not billions of Leones monthly.

To halt this situation, government must be thinking seriously of returning the schools to their proprietors. Government can, as it happened in the past, provide subsidies for these institutions so that they would not charge high fees. Monies generated from this cut could be used to increase salaries of other workers, which in turn, may help them sponsor their kids in any institution teach, thereby giving rise to in balance in the delivery of instructions to our children. The return of schools to their respective proprietors is one solution to this problem. Also, the reintroduction of the payment of remote area allowances would go a long way to address this problem of teachers leaving the classroom en masse. Of course, it goes without saying that a total hauling of the entire system, including a review of the teachers salaries creating more opportunities for growth within the ranks lessen the current burden the 6-3-3-4 system has imposed on the teachers are all rooms for development. Apart from Senior Teachers, departmental Heads, Vice Principals and Principals, other senior position like dean of student, Business manager, deputy registrar, registrar to name a few which exist in schools in other countries, must be included on to or list of positions. Additionally; our educational system must now be re-designed to meet the current needs of the country – appropriate technology. By so doing, mass unemployment currently in existence in this country may be reduced to some extent.

This must be give utmost priority. No country can develop without the proper security properly work on the attitudes and minds of the people into whose hands we are going to surrender our security. An unsatisfactory security force is a disgruntled force and a recipe for security compromises and lapses. We have to be very careful with our methods of recruitment into our security ranks. The involvement of local chief’s and community leaders in the recruitment of all security forces, especially the army and police, must be prioritized. Also, condition of service for the service personnel must be given the utmost attention. Over and above, our attitude as a people, to our country must be changed. You cannot be a service man and indulge in unwholesome activities.

Any compatriots must agree with me that our immigrating system is almost nil. Here is virtually no immigration in this country, which is, indeed a big threat to our internal security. Without a sober immigration in place =, criminals can enter the country, have a field day and go out at will. I suggest that we institution the exit and re-entry section at our immigration department to monitor people entering and leaving the country. By so doing, we would be able to monitor all those entering the country up to the time they leave or obtain permit of residence. The involvement of local chiefs in this all-important exercise is also very paramount.

It goes without saying that majority of our city dweller are without lands and houses. This has left them either at the mercy of wicked landlords and ladies or sleeps in slums, market places etc because of high cost of hiring houses. To salvage this ugly situation, there is an urgent need for land redistribution in, particularly the cities and construction of housing estates in various parts of our major cities and hiring them to unfortunate compatriots. By so doing, the current high cost of hiring houses may be reduced, as there is now serious competition between private house owners and government. 

This is another area that, over the years, suffered major set backs, mainly due to neglect and massive corruption. My dream now for this area is the speedy return to mechanized farming. There is no way we can use the cutlasses to brush, axes to fell trees and hoes to plough to provide us the food that we need for our so-called food for all program. So the distribution of seed rice to hungry farmers is an ordinary waste of resources. Not that we cannot sponsor subsistence farmers. We can do so order to lessen the burden on government in providing food for everybody. We actually need state farms like those we had at Torma Bum, Rokupr, Mambolo and other areas before. We need to rehabilitate the old rice mills and, where possible, build new ones all over the country where agricultural activities are in full force. Hoes and cutlasses must now be replaced by machines. There and then, our dream for food for all in the year 2007 would be realized. And with that, citizen would be happy and the idea of somebody going to the bush to fight for social justice would be reduced.

The health sector is also another area that suffered from decline in the past three decades or so, all as a result of neglect and massive corruption. But with the war now behind us and the on-going rehabilitation and reconstruction works on hospitals and clinics I am very much optimistic that this sector would also pick up with time. But one area we need to work on is human resources. The doctors and nurses must be encouraged to give of their best. Better condition of service must be provided for them in a bid to brain drain and to also encourage those who have already left, to return. Of course the provision of medicines and equipment for these hospitals and clinics must not be over-emphasized. That should be a matter of policy. And now that we have our medical school capable of sending out men and women of sound academic and professional backgrounds, I have no doubt that if we and women of sound academic and professional backgrounds, I have no doubt that if we provide the necessary and conducive environment for these young men and women, our health sector would surely improve. Also, with good condition of service, several highly placed professional would move in to help beef up the academic staff of the medical college. With that our doctors would be able to specialize in various professional fields. Similarly extra incentives such as remote area allowance must be provided for doctors and nurses deployed in the rural areas.

In the post war Sierra Leone, our focus has been on the rehabilitation of damaged schools and the construction of new ones. Government had also provided free education for our primary school going children and paid BECE, NPSE and WASSCE fees for our children taking these exams. These are positive developments indeed. But more need to be done especially in the area of human resource development. The teachers are very poorly taken care of that I must say. They suffer from late payment of salaries and sometimes non-payment of salaries, loading to huge backlogs of salaries. The delays are mainly caused by the many bureaucratic practice such as photo-verification etc etc. And in most cases these backlogs remain unpaid. Teachers are unwilling to go to the provinces and remote areas to

Port charges, customs tariffs and other taxes must be revisited now. I see no reason why Guinea, Liberia and Gambia can enjoy free port facilities while Sierra Leone cannot. After all funds generated from these charges only benefit a handful corrupt elements.

Almost everyday, hundreds of Sierra Leoneans depart the shores of this country for Guinea, Gambia, and Dubai to buy goods that they sell in this country. And each one of them carries with him or her thousands of United States dollars bought here in Sierra Leone. Now assuming 200 persons leave Sierra Leone monthly for each of these countries and each one carrying, on the average US$ 2,000 to buy goods. That means US$ 400,000 must be leaving monthly for each of Guinea, Gambia and Dubai, making a total US$ 1.2 million. And where are we getting the foreign currency from to replace the departing dollars? But if we have a free port here, merchant ships can land here and our brothers and sisters would be able to buy goods here even in dollars and other nationals from the sub-region may come in with their dollars to buy goods here. That will help to stabilize our economy to some extent. It is the free port that has improved the economic of Guinea and Gambia over years. That idea must be introduced here now, if we mean to change the status quo.

Some of our mineral, particularly diamond, gold has ever been a blessing but a course to this country. Instead of granting mining concessions to formidable mining companies, we issue out mining licenses to individuals to mine and smuggle the diamonds out of the country. And so, in the mist of abundant diamonds, the country is suffering from foreign currency starvation. This tread must be reverse now. Let us copy the Bostswana example. And to avert future confrontation like the situations in the Delta region in Nigeria, the mining areas must be made to benefit from all mining activities done in their areas. They must be properly compensated for their farms lands that we destroy and their children given in priority in job placement.

For the export of agricultural produce, the SLPMB must be revived and the entire exercise placed in its care once again. We all know the contribution the SLPMB toward and development of this country. There is, therefore, an urgent need for its re-establishment. And also, to avert future confrontations between government and the natives of the areas where the produce are coming from, there is a need to bring about sober development activities in those areas. Take, for instance, Kailahun district where the bulk of our cocoa and coffee come from. The roads leading to those communities are so deplorable that it would be even difficult to transport produce there to Freetown. Instead the people are selling their produce to Guinea and Liberia, which are more accessible. There is need to work on the road leading to all economically viable areas.

It goes without saying that our judicial system is in a complete mess at this point in time. We always cry about corruption in the judicial system. Yes, that must be expected considering the poor conditions of service and low salaries for the judges and magistrates. And because of the poor conditions of services on lawyer wants to be a magistrate or judge. They would instead want to engage in private practice where they make more money. Just imagine, there is only one resident judge (Patrick Hamilton) for the three provinces of the North, South, and East. There is need to improve on the conditions of service for judges. Judges must also be paid salaries commensurate with their status in society. As soon as we make these conditions favorable for our magistrates and judges corruption within the judiciary would be reduced or totally eliminated. That could also attract other to the bench and case could be speedily handled.

Sierra Leone still has a brighter future. Only change of attitude and embracing patriotic tendencies. Patriotism and a change of attitude are the only way out through and the only way forward.