By Joseph Kamanda
The Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) and its obsession with negative news about the ruling All People’s Congress (APC) government is unbelievable. The opposition SLPP’s mouthpiece – Unity, especially in its Tuesday 26th July 2016 publication – could do the people of this country a lot of good by reporting efforts of government in tackling the economy and where it needs to do more. It could also help to disseminate government plans to revamp private sector led growth and what more needs to be done. But to claim that the Agenda for Prosperity (A4P) has derailed from its target and that government has reduced the people to destitution will not cut ice with the public amid the tremendous work that has been put into the ongoing transformation drive under this result-oriented leadership of President Ernest Koroma.
It even pays little or no dividend to try to create political capital out of the blunders of Universal Impex and shift the blame on government. The A4P is a clear roadmap for the country’s self-sufficiency and a solid foundation enroute to middle-income status by 2035. Also, it would do the SLPP spinsters a world of good to accept the fact that prosperity does not come on a silver platter. “Government is not an importer of chicken nor does it attempt to subject its people to destitution in any shape or form because the forward looking leadership of President Koroma has always proved to be responsive to the needs of the people,” said Mohamed Kuyateh, a petty trader at Hagan Street in Freetown.
For the benefit of the narrow minded SLPP Unity newspaper editor, government is on track to return the country on the pathway of the A4P following the effective and successful implementation of the President’s Recovery Priorities already enjoying the full cooperation and support of the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and other development partners. Social service delivery is on track ranging from clean and safe pipe borne water supply to regional, district and chiefdom headquarter towns by the Sierra Leone Water Company (SALWACO), constant electricity supply to Freetown, Bo, Kenema, Makeni and Kono, increased industrial and agricultural productivity, with subsidies to farmers, modern road infrastructure network in major towns and cities, free health care services for under five children, pregnant women and lactating mothers. To turn a blind eye to these developments by engrossing in outright negative propaganda against the people of this country is just disingenuous to say the least.
It’s for this reason that many pundits have described as “unfortunate” the Unity newspaper persistent penchant to distort information relating to the steady progress on the sustenance and ongoing successful implementation of the A4P projects. So the sooner ‘The Unity’ spin doctors realize that the A4P is here to stay to deliver development on the doorsteps of the people of this country, regardless of region, tribe or political affiliation, the better it will be for them and their cronies.
Now to the contaminated chicken matter which the non-operational and inconsistent opposition mouthpiece is trying to rope government in on as if people were forced to clamour over the ‘rotten’ chicken after it was disposed at the Bomeh dumpsite for destruction. This shouldn’t be blamed on government but the importers, MASADA Waste Management Company, the Senior Public Health Superintendent, Head of Ports Health Mr Sallu Deen and the Maersk Line shipping agency who actually failed to search for a suitable site for the dumping of such mess. Therefore as a responsible government, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MOHS) on Friday 22nd July issued a stern warning in a press release, calling on the public to refrain from buying or consuming the product as it is unfit for human consumption. This is a clear warning to vindicate the MOHS.
However what is left to be properly grasped by the editor of the Unity newspaper is that the consignment of ‘rotten’ chicken was not brought in by government but Universal Impex; a company that has engaged in the business of chicken importation for ages. “Where does the government come into all this? if one may ask.
Moreover, it’s quite clear all trade monitors assigned to the Queen Elizabeth II Quay from the Ministry of Trade and Industry and other MDAs responsible for the inspection of food consignments coming into the country should continue to keep up their guards to ensure that all imported food stuff are safe and fine for human consumption. As for inspection of the terrible chicken container, to ascertain as to whether it was fine for human consumption, Communication Officer Sierra Leone Standards Bureau Abu Bakarr Sallieu Bah said they were not informed about the exercise and adds that the right procedures were not followed especially by the line ministries and the importers as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Bureau as well as the Consumer Protection Agency were not part of the ‘rotten’ chicken disposal exercise. This lends credence to a huge lack of coordination of efforts between partners including the Freetown City Council’s Mayor; Franklyn Bode Gibson has pronounced that another dumping of similar products is underway. It is only hoped that this time around a suitable location will be identified to dump ‘expired’ food instead of the traditional Bomeh, so as to protect the people from such hazardous wastes as well as keep the environment safer as boldly encapsulated in the AFP.
So far Universal Impex Managing Director, Manoj Shahana said the chicken did not leave Brazil contaminated but went bad aboard the Maersk Line ship, due to hot temperature that led to the malfunctioning of the container beyond repairs. He said the chicken was not even expired, adding that shipment from Brazil to Freetown normally takes more than thirty days. He added that the shipping agency only informed them (Universal Impex) back home that the product had gone bad aboard the vessel, which Universal Impex considered it as a breach of initial arrangements by the shipping company.
Mr Shahana flatly disowned the contaminated forty feet chicken container arguing that his company didn’t order damaged chicken and denied having knowledge of how the consignment reached Freetown. He however accepted that the cargo was destined for Freetown as per initial order agreement between the producers and Universal Impex. Asked how the destruction of the ‘rotten’ chicken was conducted, Mr Shahana explained; “We didn’t know when, how, and where it was disposed.” He alleged that Maersk Line shipping agency contracted MASADA Waste Management Company and the consignment was taken to the Bomeh dumpsite for ‘voluntary destruction.’ On the other hand, with more containers loaded of similar products left in Universal Impex warehouse, Mr Shahana is worried as the ‘rotten’ chicken scam has damaged and left his company with a bad reputation, and thus threatened to lay off staff if fall in sales continues.
But the Project Manager MASADA Waste Management, Aminata Dumbya whose staff are reportedly held in police custody, said her company was contracted on July 22nd by the Ministry Health and Sanitation Senior Public Health Superintendent, Head of Ports Health, Mr Sallu Deen for the crushing and disposal of a forty feet container frozen chicken that had gone bad.
A MASADA report complied on the operation states that the forty feet container of the frozen chicken was evacuated from Queen Elizabeth II Quay to the Granville Brook dumpsite, Kissy in the East of Freetown to be disposed of, adding that a frontend loader was provided by MASADA, cleared the way, dug a pit and the contaminated chicken was brought to the dumpsite by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, who inspected the pit before the disposal of the chicken.
The reported furthered that the container truck was stuck in the mud which created a spectacle of onlookers before Mr Deen ordered the container to be opened to start the crushing and dumping process. It revealed that there were close to twenty-five Police personnel at the dumpsite for the exercise, though there was a gap of thirty-feet between the pit and the container. It noted that the frontend loader transported three trips of the contaminated chicken to the pit and broke down having dumped about 80% of the ‘rotten’ chicken. The MASADA reporter revealed that the operation attracted over 800 unauthorized persons at the dumpsite, who had grown into a disorderly crowd and started closing in on the Police with intentions to grab the crushed chicken.
Head of Media and Public Relations Assistant Superintendent of Police, Brima Kamara said the Sierra Leone Police was fully involved in the disposal of the ‘rotten’ chicken and provided security for the exercise. But due to fuel shortage from the frontend loader provided by MASADA the operation was halted at a particular point, which led to scramble for the chicken by onlookers. Mr Kamara said the frontend loader was refueled but later developed airlock, and added that if there was no delay and conspiracy from the crushers, the disposal process would not have been interrupted out of lawlessness. The Police Spokesman said six people including the tractor/frontend loader operator have been arrested and are presently at the Criminal Investigation Department helping with elastic investigations into the matter.
Meanwhile, Police search continues for the ‘rotten’ chicken in markets and all food stalls and shops across the country.
With the availability of social services across the board, including uninterrupted power supply, it tells that the A4P has not degenerated from State House to Bomeh dumpsite and there is no doubt that the APC government’s development trajectory will not be distracted and the AFP will continue to deliver on its set goals to the wishes and aspirations of the people. So my candid advice to The Unity is for them to take a break from their obsession with negative news about Sierra Leone – land that we love.