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Why the Environment Protection Agency is under attack in Sierra Leone

By Ishmael Kindama Dumbuya

Before I starts, I should first state here that I am neither playing a public relation game nor am I hired to do such but I am making clarifications as an environment journalist who have been opportune to witness the works of the Environment Protection Agency of Sierra Leone under the leadership of the hardworking and erudite Chairperson, Madam Haddijaou Jallow.

In one of the tabloids in the country this week, it is inundated that the Environment Protection Agency of Sierra Leone is a toothless bull dog which does not bite but backs aloud with the aim of extorting monies to mining companies. Such statement came when the EPA shut down Seidya Company which has been damaging the environment around the Peninsular for years without going through the necessary procedures stated in the Environment Protection Act of 2010 as amended was stopped to operate.

This is the site of the Seidiya quarrying Company. Most of the lands have been destroyed here.

This statement to me is really vague and aimed at bringing the leadership into disrepute. I have been covering and witnessing Environment Impacts Assessments launching by mining companies for long time now and had never seen any such aim from the EPA demanding monies from companies or bringing unnecessary burden to them without those specified in the EPA Act. I have also witnessed many environmental educations and sensitization to various companies and stakeholders across the country. May be it is for my presence in these processes that is against the writer because he had one time asked an official at the EPA that Standard Times Environment reporter is the only one they are travelling in the provinces and giving him monies.

The erudite and hardworking Chairperson by the name of Madam Jallow does not condone corruption at the EPA by members of his staff and this is the main reason why she always travels with her staff and a press man when they on routine checking to mining companies in the provinces. An independent press normally watches all their activities and here is no spot of any clandestine movement by the EPA officials. To also show that the head of the EPA is different, her government vehicle with registration number EPA 001 is not tinted like those of the ministers and their deputies. I am told she was forced to tint her vehicle but she clearly denied such because she wants all human beings to see her when she is on official works and movement in all parts of the country.

In one occasion when the EPA visited one of the companies that were operating illegally in the country called Jinong Company in Makeni, she found out that they were operating without any EIA. The Madam tasked them meet any official at the EPA office in Freetown and settle their EIA issue with stringent warning that they should not give any penny to one in the office and if they do, she will tell the ACC. I wonder why this writer said the EPA is a toothless bull dog that does not bite and the one that extorts monies from mining companies when those monies for the EIA licenses are deposited directly to the consolidated funds for the benefit of all Sierra Leoneans.

Here is where the Seidiya Company digs for stones within the WAPFOR area. Should this be allowed continuing?

 

Section 25 clearly states projects which requires Environment Impact Assessment licenses and industrial activities like mining, quarrying, extraction of sand, gravel, salt peat, oil and gas to name just a few all by virtues of the EPA 2010 as amended requires Environment Impact Assessment and sometimes social and health impact in the areas which the company may be operating.

This writer in one occasion has visited the site last year and saw the impact which the company is creating for communities in the area as well as animals closer to the western area peninsular forest reserve. It could be recalled that the Seidiya Company has been operating quarrying activities around the Peninsular without going through the EPA stated requirements. In fact, most of the land in its site has been destroyed and there are no plans for regaining such land again for proper and good use after the company had left the site. There are heavy machines here and the company uses chemicals when in operation. The loud noise is also not comfortable for the people around the site or even passers-by.

Because of these activities, the Environment Protection Agency has been giving warning to them and because there is resistance and negligence, the agency thought it right through its powers to serve them a letter to stop their operations past Friday. That writer was invited to witness so that no clandestine activity should take place during the process but he failed to surface because the company is owned by one of his tribe’s men as he clearly stated in his Wednesday edition. The writer should know that in journalism, there should be no tribalism and sentiments.

What sounds ridiculous to me is that the writer said the EPA is a toothless bull dog that does not back but it succeeded in closing the London Mining Company last year when the company failed to abide by the EPA regulations in taking an Environment Impact Assessment. The one day closure of the London Mining Company causes it to loss more than one million United States dollars in shares at the London Stock exchange. Let us forget about the London Mining issue and let’s look at the Seidiya closure. Is this also a toothless bull dog issue? To me, this is a marvelous job well done by the EPA in looking out for any company that does not abide by the stated regulations in its Act.

Even His Excellency, Ernest Bai Koroma who directly oversees the EPA knows that the agency through Madam Jallow is doing well for Sierra Leoneans. In this case, the Environment Protection Agency should not sit and listen to those kinds of detractors who want to operate their businesses and those of their allies illegally without going through the EPA and take EIA. The EPA should continue its hard work in hunting those mining companies and quarry companies like Seidiya that does not possess EIA in the country. If other companies like Jinong Company, London Mining Company to name a few can be forced to take their Environment Impact Assessment, the Seidiya quarrying company is not exempted as wished by the writer who brands the EPA as a money extorter.

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