|By State House Communication UnitFREETOWN, Sierra Leone, 26 April, 2016// —President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma Monday 25 April launched the Widening and Tolling of the Wellington – Masiaka road project.
The project will address the traffic congestion, significantly minimise road accidents and facilitate trade and commerce.
Launching the project, President Koroma pointed out that he inherited a country where roads were being constructed only by donors until when he decided that government should start implementing its own infrastructural projects.
The President described good road network as a means of reducing garage bills adding that it is because “we are the people’s government that is why we are going to continue to improve the living standards of the people.”
“Nothing will distract me and we would continue to remain focused; I will continue to do more roads and other development projects until I hand over the baton to my successor,” he said.
President Koroma emphasised that his transformation agenda is not limited to roads but it’s inclusive of energy, water, health, education and other sectors and the evidence is for all to see.
The President stated that the Wellington-Masiaka highway project is an experiment for government and that the contractor – China Railway Seventh Group – will run the toll system for the first ten years after which they would redo the second layer for the next fifteen years before handing over the road to government.
President Koroma observed that there are too many accidents along the roads and that being a caring government it was imperative that something be done about the situation.
He also announced that government has done so many projects to win the approaching 2018 elections and beyond. But stressed that ”we are not doing the roads out of political interest only but more importantly, to satisfy the needs of our people”. In the end, ”we are assured that they would vote us in the succeeding elections”, he said.
President Koroma announced that this event is only the first in a string of infrastructural development projects he would launch in the next few weeks. ”In the next two weeks, I will be launching the widening of the Magbalay bridge, which will be followed by that of the Magbang bridge”.
And then, to the thunderous applause of the audience, he further stated, ”Funds have been secured for the completion of the Lumley-Tokeh and the Hillside Bye-pass roads’’.
Alhaji Hon. Ibrahim Kemoh Sesay, Minister of Works, Housing and Infrastructure, explained that (prior his appointment) his ministry signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with CRSG, granting the latter the right to investigate, implement and operate the project for the Widening to Four-Lane and Tolling of the Wellington – Masiaka Highway on a Finance, Design, Build, Operate, Maintain and Transfer arrangement.
Following that development, a committee of MDAs, with SLRA playing a leadership role, was requested to critically examine the Technical, Legal and Financial proposals submitted by CRSG, with a view to making professional recommendations to government, prior to the signing of the Concession Agreement.
The Chairman of the ceremony Alhaji Kemoh Sesay appealed to key stakeholders, including parliamentarians, councilors, traditional leaders, civil society, trade unions and the media to help in carrying out effective sensitization on the benefits of the project especially the toll system which is a new phenomenon in Sierra Leone.
Chinese Ambassador to Sierra Leone, Zao Yanbo said, “if you want to get rich, you have to build roads first,” because we believe that infrastructure is one of the key elements for a country’s progress. As a matter of fact, the vulnerable infrastructural facility constitutes the main bottleneck impeding the socio-economic development of Sierra Leone, the Ambassador asserted.
On behalf of the contractor, the representative of CRSG said the project is a way of strengthening the close friendship between Sierra Leone and the People’s Republic of China. “The frequent mutual visits between governments of the two nations in recent years and the deepening of civilian cooperation have already consolidated the friendship and accelerated mutual development of the two countries,” Luo Yu Gui of CRSG said.
Hon. Claude Kamanda, of Constituency 95 said that good roads save lives as well as promote socio-economic activities. He explained that a toll system means you have to pay a small fee to access it and that will help government to maintain the road network.
Patrick Saidu Conteh, Minister of State, Ministry of Finance and Economic Development spoke on the huge volume of traffic the Wellington-Masiaka Highway has attracted being the only inland accessible road. Mr. Patrick Conteh went on to state that the Wellington-Masiaka road was done over 22 years ago and there has been no major overlay since.
Mr. Conteh also noted that with the rapid development and growth potentials of the country, it is evident that the existing two-lane is no longer adequate to meet the increasing traffic demand and the loss of productive time to congestion and sometimes the loss of lives through accidents is hampering development and economic growth.
He further noted that the project cost stands at about US $150 million, saying that the contractor will, raise debt financing from their Bankers in China at a very competitive interest rate payable over 25 years, inclusive of a four year grace period. “The related amount plus interest will be recouped through the “Toll” Revenue of the road,” said Mr. Conteh.