The Minister of Information & Communications, Hon. Ibrahim Ben Kargbo, was not only eloquent as usual; he placed the latest dazzling All People’s Congress (APC) achievement in succinct and searing perspective, as President Ernest Koroma’s government fulfils for all Sierra Leoneans one of their abiding dreams, spanning almost four decades – completion of the Bumbuna Hydo-Electricity Project. (Photo: I B Kargbo)
Cocorioko could hardly wait for the testing phase to be over before having an exclusive interview with the spokesman of the government, Information Minister I.B. Kargbo, not only to give readers the opportunity to know the latest about Bumbuna, but also toÂ quash the misconceptions and misinterpretations a naive and unpatrioticÂ opposition partyÂ (that spent 11 full years in power but could not accomplish what the APC Government has just achieved), is trying to plant in the minds of innocent people about the status of the project
The Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), led byÂ one Mr. John Oponjo Benjamin, which runs business like it does not want to see any achievement in Sierra Leone, once these accomplishmentsÂ have the stamp of the APC Government on them, has been saying that Bumbuna will never be completed by this government . Assurances to the contrary by the government are made only to be greeted with derision by SLPP die-hards in opposition newspapersÂ and online forums, who like their party officials, areÂ fighting like injuns to block the APC from achieving anything, even attempting to have international aid to the government discontinued by spreading false and alarming stories about the government abroad (though the government’s achievements and care for the welfare of the people are reducing such manoeuvres to nonsense). But to their bitter and eternal disappointment, Bumbuna has become a reality at last. Thanks to the aggressive and determined efforts exerted by President Ernest Bai Koroma, as soon as he assumed power in 2007, to make the provision of electricity to the people of Sierra LeoneÂ one of hisÂ major priorities, the once-stalling Bumbuna Project shot to lifeÂ over the past two years and Sierra Leone is on the verge of joining the civilized world in having regular and sustainable electricity all the year round.
Information Minister Kargbo was beside himself with excitement on Friday July 31 to announce to the world the good news emanating from Bumbuna, via this exclusive interview with Cocorioko’s Kabs Kanu and Foday Mansaray.
KK/FM:Thank you, Mr. Minister, for taking time off from your very busy schedule to grant us this interview.
IBK: You are always welcome.
KK/FM: Mr. Minister, without much ado, let us hit the nail on the head from the word go : theÂ hottest topic in town that the whole world will be waiting to hear from you about -Bumbuna. The once comatose giant. It seems to have come to life.
IBK: Oh yes, it has. Bumbuna has become a reality. On Monday July 27, 2009 President Ernest Koroma, contractors, engineers andÂ managers of the National Power Authority (NPA)Â visited Bumbuna to commence testing of the turbines; to see if the turbines were working. At 11:19 a.m. sharp, the President pressed the button and that was the beginning of the test. Within a short while, electricity had been generated at Bumbuna itself. On Wednesday July 29, they tested the high-tension cables and electricity was generated through the cables from Bumbuna to the Kingtom Power Station . What this signifies is that the system now works from Bumbuna to the entry point of the city at Kingtom. The next stage is to direct electricity into the Kingtom Power House;then of course the power will then be circulated to Freetown. That process will be known as the commissioning period.
KK/FM: And when will that be accomplished?
IBK: We have poor wiring in Freetown, and theÂ wiring has to be updated. Only 25 megawatts of electricity will be absorbed during the commissioning period. At the end, Bumbuna will provide 50 megawatts to Freetown, Lunsar, Makeni and Magburaka . For it to be easier to generate electricity from Bumbuna to Freetown, all the structures within the right of way under the high tension cables will be demolished for security reasons, to facilitate flow to the logical terminals.Â When we have updated the wiring system, Makeni, Port Loko, Lunsar etc., need to be rewired and funding has been made available to the government.
KK/FM: So what happens to the people whose structures are being demolished?
IBK: Government is compensating all the people occupying structures under the right of way. The first compensation is going to all those occupying houses in the right of way. That does not include the owners of the houses. Occupants received $400 each with food and vegetable oil, until they are properly relocated. Later, the home owners will be compensated.
KK/FM: Who is providing the money for all of this compensation?
IBK: The Sierra Leone Government is providing the money for the compensation. US $3 million is what we are spending. Already, compensation activities have been completed in Freetown, Waterloo and Makeni.
KK/FM: So, Mr. Minister, in layman’s terms, when will Bumbuna really start operating?
IBK: Latest end of August, Bumbuna will be fully operational, but the testing period is now on.
KK/FM: What will happen to the emergency electricity project brought in 2007 by the government?
IBK: It is still being discussed. By the end of August, we may have a decision. But President Koroma is still insisting that electricity be provided to all Sierra Leoneans.
KK/FM: Bumbuna is a major project site.Â Who is going to operate Bumbuna?
IBK: Government has decided that on a temporary basis, the contractors – SALCOST will be given the priority to operate and manage Bumbuna until a full-time operator is identified.
KK/FM: We know Sierra Leoneans are eagerly awaiting the commissioning of Bumbuna. What happens after the commissioning?
IBK: Immediately after the commissioning, Bumbuna Phase 2, otherwise known as the YEBEN Project, will commence. When completed, YEBEN will generate another 100 megawatts of electricity, which means that places like Koinadugu and Kono will benefit from the project. The government is now undertaking a new project in Moyamba for 20 megawatts which will provide electricity for Moyamba and N’jala University College. The Dodo Hydro-electricity Dam which serves Bo and Kenema will soon be upgraded from the 6 megawatts to 10 megawatts so that these places can have more reliable electricity. Kailahun itself has hydroelectricity potentials which the government is going to harness to provide electricity from Kailahun to Koindu .At the moment, the Charlotte mini-hydro electricity project, which is a UNIDO Project, like the Port Loko, is underway. The contractors are Chinese and will provide electricity for the rural areas.
KK/FM: The government is doing well. The lives of our people are about the change, since electricity will spur many other developments.
IBK: Only yesterday, the President signed an agreement at State House for the construction of the road from Kenema to Kailahun. The contractors are a Korean firm called ISU and they will construct the Kenema-Pendembu Road for a start. This road project will cost the Sierra Leone government $56.3 million.Courtesy of Kabs Kanu and Foday Mansaray of Cocorioko