By Alpha Bedoh Kamara
The alleged signed agreement between the Lebanese and Sierra Leone governments for trash in Lebanon to be dumped in Sierra Leone has raised nationwide criticism in Sierra Leone and the sudden pronouncement by the Sierra Leone Government debunking the claim.
The story published on 9th January, 2016 in the AS – SAFIR Newspaper of Lebanon attracted interest in the Sierra Leone media and is so far making the trends in social media circles in the country and in communities.
The preliminary stage of the waste disposal was even suspicious as reported by The Daily Star.
On January 4th 2016, The Daily Star of Lebanon reported: “BEIRUT: “…Each ship will carry a customs declaration at its departure – the [trash] bales will be weighed and counted – and the receiving country must sign that that same amount arrived,” Abi Ghanem said. “What concerns us is that before we load any trash on the ships, the companies must present agreements from the destination countries”.
The destinations remain a secret.
“Once the trash reaches the ship, it becomes the responsibility of the company, solely,” he added…”
According to the contentious story published January 9, 2016 “……the Lebanese Foreign Ministry received a letter Thursday from Sierra Leone authorities informing it of the country’s willingness to accept its waste.
The letter, which was originally addressed to Holland’s Howa BV firm, is signed by an adviser to Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma, according to the report.
As-Safir said the West African nation consented on the condition that the waste be free of toxins, underlining that the approval remains at a preliminary stage until Sierra Leone’s government and president confirm the deal….”
The circumstance surrounding this supposedly murky agreement might prove to be another underground dealing by an individual or group of individuals who used the image of the government to sign the business agreement with the Beirut authorities.
Activities of people posing as government representatives abroad and swindling millions of monies from unsuspecting individuals and corporations are nothing new and the level of transparency and accountability in the country also plays a major role for illegal activities to thrive.
Let us hope the supposedly sign agreement was a fake one but then, who is this adviser to Sierra Leone’s President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma?
Why should an adviser to the President sign an agreement on behalf of the country when there is a ministry responsible for environmental issues in Sierra Leone as well as a well-structured National Environmental Agency to look at such issues?
Would it not be prudent for officers from the Environmental Agency and officials from the line ministry to be present and be part of a process that has to do with environmental issues rather than an unnamed adviser to the president?
The Government of the Republic of Sierra Leone must investigate and expose this schemer!
However, the pronouncement by the Government to instruct the Office of National Security (ONS) and the Sierra Leone Police to conduct criminal investigations into the circumstances surrounding this matter is a welcome move, and a prudent one.
But the Lebanon- Sierra Leone trash story should serve as a lesson for our Government. This is not the first time that murky dealings of criminals have dug a hole in our country’s national image.
We’ve heard stories of foreigners with knowledge about Sierra Leone as well as some immoral Sierra Leoneans posing as mineral agents and representatives of investment firms in Sierra Leone to hoodwink unsuspecting foreign investors into million dollar deals.
Few years back the image of the former Vice President, Alhaji Samuel Sam-Sumana, was almost put to ruins when people with no connection to his businesses and office used his name to commit criminal acts until action was taken by the Government.
The cases are many but the Government of Sierra Leone could address this negative development by ensuring unfettered transparency and accountability in all ministries and departments and give responsibilities to the right ministry or department.
It’s sickening for our country to again be associated with such a story which purportedly has to do with an adviser to Sierra Leone. Who is this adviser to Sierra Leone’s President?