Fifty two (52) houses were on Tuesday 16th January 2018 commissioned at 6 Mile by President Koroma, a testament to the fact that what was promised by Gento Group of Companies, Pavi Fort and SeCoN (SL) Ltd working under the name Gento Alimu & Parpah (GAP) in addressing the housing problems in the aftermath of the mudslide of August 14 last year has been accomplished.
According to Parpah Chendeka, the CEO of SeCon and senior partner of the GAP initiative, this action is a result of an initiative to provide houses free of cost to victims. Over eight billion Leones was spent on building these houses but it is left with the government to dispose of the houses as it pleases.
Parpah Chendeka welcomed all guests to the ceremony and spoke about the private initiative to address a national tragedy. He recalled how over 1000 citizens lost their lives last August to the mudslide disaster, adding that they have provided 52 homes, a mosque and a church and additional buildings to hold a market, community center and school. He added that they are only promoting the Local Content Policy Act which gives preference to Sierra Leoneans for contracts and other public works.
He called on Alhassan Cole the outgoing Chairman of Constituency 109 who took permission from President Koroma for a minute’s silence and continued to say that the day is historic. He went on to sing “Have faith in God” for the fact that the president has faith in God. He added that the president should be praised for his resilience in bringing the Local Content Policy to fruition.
Parpah Chendeka, thanked the audience and then reverted to speaking English and reminded his audience about the August 14 mudslide and extended condolences to the bereaved. “We saw the destruction and we were moved that it affected the Mount Sugar Loaf communities and caused widespread damage to lives and properties worth billions of Leones”. He maintained that the “GAP” initiative for the construction of phase 1 started on the 20th September 2017. He commended the engineers of the 3 companies and thanked them for their services.
Mohammed Gento Kamara in his brief speech said it is a great honour for him to hand over the buildings and praised President Koroma for promoting the Local Content Policy. He recalled being admonished by President Koroma when he won the Hill Cut Road contract that as a young man the contract is not for personal gain but for the development of the nation. He expressed sincere gratitude to him for the trust and faith he had in them, a thing that is not common in Sierra Leone. He had words of praise to all those who contributed to making this venture a success.
In her short statement to the audience, the Minister of Social Welfare Madam Isata Kabia was overwhelm at what she saw and praised the GAP for such a wonderful work. She maintained that this is an example of what can be achieved by the private sector when engaged. She commended the 3men for this initiative and hoped that the private sector will replicate similar concern in her ministry. She maintained that in the aftermath of the disaster the government and its partners including other Sierrra Leoneans at home and abroad did all they can to make life better for the victims but had one major challenge, Housing. This gesture in her view will lay the foundation for future housing development projects.
Permenda Bra, World Bank Representative, called on the government to strengthen the private sector and support the local content policy. He warned that the monies received for the Mudslide is intact, contrary to rumours doing the round that it has been chopped, the money is safe he added and admonished government to train more staff on the private sector to manage the account of the mudslide. The World Bank, he explained, provided 23million dollars of which $10 m is presently in the bank.
As he commissioned the 52 houses, President Koroma admonished the survivors and all Sierra Leoneans to turn every disaster into an opportunity. Had this mudslide not happened they would not have been there to commission any house. He recognised that ordinarily, Sierra Leoneans are resilient and though they had buried their loved ones they did not bury their hopes. He maintained that these events should keep all Sierra Leoneans thinking about what lessons to draw from the disaster. As they celebrate this day of commissioning the houses, he called on all to reflect on the kind of leadership which will take them to where they expect to be in the future. Whilst commending the GAP, he noted that the private sector can achieve things if they take the initiative and praised them for this venture. The 3 men he said have inspired the private sector as they have shown what Sierra Leoneans are capable of doing. Their actions, he said, gives justification to the Local Content Policy. He is pleased to see the private sector respond to National Development. Their action has now thrown an open challenge to the government to address the housing problems in the country.
He called on banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions to come on board and follow the examples of these men. He then called on all Sierra Leoneans to come together and build the country. He challenged learning institutions to fine tune the youths with skills to enable them contribute meaningfully to national development.
Other speakers gave short statements: Buya Kamara, General Manager SALHOC,
Ishmael Tarawally, ONS, Capt Alieu Momodu Pat-Sowe, Minister of Trade and Mbalu Bangura, a mudslide survivor.
President Koroma then commissioned the 52 houses. The CEO of Pavi Fort, Alhaji Alimu Barrie handed over the keys of the 52 houses to President Koroma. The vote of thanks was given by the Director General of SLRA, Memunatu Jalloh.