Police Communications & Media Unit :
The Inspector General of Police, Francis Alieu Munu accompanied by Director of Operations, AIG Al Shek Kamara and Regional Commander, East, AIG Karrow Kamara, NRA Officials, the Local Unit Commander, Kailahun and other senior police officers made an unannounced inspection of border crossing points in the Kailahun District and other security installations in the Eastern Province over the weekend.
The operation was for the IGP to have first-hand information and familiarisation of the situation at Sierra Leone’s borders in order to arrest the increasing incidences of smuggling of food and cash crops, fuel commodities, timber and other materials into neighbouring countries of Guinea and Liberia. It should be noted that the Inspector General of Police has taken a very aggressive stance in combatting leakages in the economy that is resulting in unforced hardship. The activities of unscrupulous people in smuggling of produce, rice and other commodities such as palm oil and fuel have continued to hamper Government’s provision for the people of this country at the detriment of our local farm communities and the economy in general.
While there is a free movement of people, goods and services across ECOWAS borders, the proviso is for free movement of traded goods through normal channels. In the event, where these goods are available in the local market and produced internally, then issues around tariffs do not come up and such goods can be openly traded across borders.
However, commodities such as cash crops and fuel are not included in that freedom of movement because on the one hand, cash crops are foreign traded goods that are subject to country export monitoring and the trade of such goods across borders distort the data and export commodification records of the respective countries. For example, it would be nonsensical for Liberia to be registering increasing volumes of cocoa exports when their cocoa farms are shrinking or for Ivory Coast to register exports of diamonds, a commodity that the country does not own.
In the event, smuggling of goods and commodities are illegal if they are not covered in the ECOWAS protocol. These activities are wrong and detrimental to the development aspirations of the state. Addressing a cross section of the community and rank and file police officers at Kailahun Police Station, IG Munu told them that he was assured of the relative calm and tranquillity that has been restored to the District especially after the recent bye election when he had to impose a MAC-P to maintain the peace between the political factions.
He admonished them to be vigilant about the issues of smuggling as it tends to waste the resources of the country wherein foreign exchange and government subsidies are used to buy fuel for Sierra Leone only for that to be taken across to Guinea and Liberia, benefitting foreigners instead of Sierra Leoneans. He assured the community that the Police is taking a strong position against smuggling and also against youth crime, violence and gangs.
The acting Town Chief, Kailahun Town welcomed the IGP and his entourage and assured him of the support that the people of Kailahun town are pledged to give to the Police. He praised the newly appointed Local Unit Commander for his sterling efforts in restoring calm to Kailahun and the surrounding areas under his command. They mentioned the peace march which consolidated the peace in the Town and improved relations between members of the two main political parties in Kailahun. He announced that the relations between the people and the Police has itself shown remarkable improvements due to the manner in which the new LUC has engaged various sections of the District.
The IGP was presented with several concerns by the people of Kailahun Town, one of which was in relation to the bad conditions of the roads and the fact that Petrol tankers are unable to reach the town to deliver supplies. Thy also asked for a lifting of the Sunday trading ban and for additional resources to monitor the informal crossing points of which there were upwards of 48 such crossing points in Kailahun.
In response to these concerns, the Inspector General of Police, Francis Alieu Munu ordered the release of two trucks of fuel previously held under investigation by the Kenema Regional Commander, AIG Karrow Kamara. After consultations with Police Director of Operations, AIG Al Shek Kamara, the IGP opined that given the conditions of the road leading to Kailahun Town, there was no doubt that the fuel was needed to supply the people of Kailahun. The quantity involved was not of much significance in commercial terms to signify smuggling as a main intent.
IG Munu informed the people that the Sunday trading ban was a Government issue but he would transmit that request to the authorities concerned on his return to Freetown. In terms of resources, the IGP confirmed that government has ordered austerity measures aimed at managing the economy and as a result, there are very serious considerations that must be made before resources are released but nonetheless, he is satisfied that issues of security of the State would be given some serious considerations and as such, he is prepared to look again at the needs of Kailahun after having seen for himself the difficult challenges faced by the Police and the community and overall, given the need to protect our boundary which is very porous in the District.