CHINESE TIMBER INVESTOR IN DISARRAY .. a state of disillusionment

It is memorable event to receive an invitation letter from any sitting president of any country to visit him/her, so when Mr. Zhou Guofu of #5, Industrial Avenue Xinhui District Jiangmen City Guangdong Province in China received an invitation letter from State House in Freetown Sierra Leone, stating that he has been invited by President retired Julius Maada Bio, he assumed himself to be home and dry. Little did he know that he was going to be introduced to a list of investment theories that Sierra Leone has in her portfolio to offer and nothing relevant or different other than what he has been briefed about. Reporting to his Chinese counterparts he wrote “It is a great honour to be invited by the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone on July 20, 2018 to get off the plane and take the VIP Passage-way” Indeed to his counterparts back home, it was a great honour, but the consequences are unknown. On July 29, 2018 an agreement was signed by the Central African Investment Group Limited and the Leaderway Trading Company and China African Investment Group solely responsible for timber exports cooperation business using the address of #1 Femi Turner ,Goderich. Sadly all these exercises accomplished have not paid a single dividend to Mr. Zhou Guofu even after parting away with the sum of Five Hundred Thousand Dollars, reportedly to Mr. Babadie Kamara via a Chinese woman resident in the Country who was also present when the numerous agreements were being signed.

The over ambitiousness of Mr. Babadie Kamara to get rich over night with the mental fixity that this was his time to make money has betrayed the timber business and disappointed the Chinese investor who signed several documents thinking that all will be well before his return flight took off from the Lungi International Airport.

In China, reports alleged that Mr. Guofu is beginning to express doubts as to whether the timber business under the New Direction would be a possibility or not, as promises continued to be made without being fulfilled. The debate in certain quarters is that whether Mr. Babadie was appointed or not, Government should be blamed for strangulating the timber business as no proper structures have been put in place during the ban so that when it was lifted, business would have continued without any hindrance or unnecessary delay that is currently hurting the economic survival of Sierra Leoneans who are involved in the business. The normal and productive measures, under which the timber business was operated, have been clearly neglected by the Government. This time round, accusations and counter accusations have been levied against the Government of selectivity in the timber business, which some of the importers have claimed that the business seemed to be shrouded in shady deals with some party supporters benefiting from the deal, whilst the majority of those involved in the trade are left to perish.





By Michael Massaquoi

Since returning to Sierra Leone from the UK a few years back, I have been closely following the political trend in this country, particularly during transition period. Of course, I have only witnessed the current period of transition arrangements from APC government to SLPP as events continue to unfold in an attempt by President Bio’s administration to clean up the political landscape for his new team. The formation of a new administration or rather a replacement of the old guards following the last elections appeared to have been a painstaking task for both President Bio and those who have been axed.

As the saying goes ‘old habits die hard’ such notion may have precipitated the action or actions of the former president and his successor to sack and replace those they don’t trust or perhaps, who they think may not work in their interest. There are countless names of those who were ‘’relieved of their positions’’ by the outgone administration during the hay days of the APC government much to the dismay of many who thought some of them should have been appraised on their performance rather than on tribal or political party line, as the overwhelming conviction was that many of them who were booted out of office was as a result of their perceived disloyalty to the incoming government. What is happening right now is much of the same as heads continue to roll that comes in most cases with punitive measures for alleged misappropriation of funds.

In all of this, the hammer tends to fall heavily on former big wigs in government departments, parastatalsetc who have enjoyed the spoils over the last ten years. Some of them are big financiers to the outgone APC party while others were die-hard party loyalist and supporters. Some occupied key and fat positions that came with astronomical pay packages and other freebies. Their appointments were purely political graced by the former President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma.

The expectation of them was to ensure the government they served remains in power in order to secure their interest. These fat cat positions are not contestable as they are offered directly by the president in return for their loyalty no matter how rough the weather becomes. They will mention the president after God in their Sunday prayers, and thereby making him a Demi-God in their efforts to satisfy their ever-increasing cravings for wealth and power. Knowing fully that they have the President’s backing, some will go to the extent to annihilate their peers or key members of their communities if they sense they are trouble makers.

The power that comes with such appointments is unimaginable- as they get closer to the seat of power arrogance kicks in; they are seen as the protected species of the president. Power and money with utter disregard for law and order become part of their DNA. They treat the public with disdain with brashness and colourful lifestyle. Until the grain goes against them as in the recent case when APC lost power, many realized that no one is immortal. Today, many of them are facing the wrath of the reality of life-some of them are still banged up in cells; their movements restricted, family names in disrepute and are completely stripped off of the respect they used to command. What’s more, several had to run away leaving behind their once protected credibility in tatters. Their sins, some people say is simple: they were once a party to the former government, and are suspects for allegedly pilfering the nations’ till. To the ordinary man, these people are ‘THIEVES’ and they should be punished.

Such is the pattern of politics in Sierra Leone. With President Bio’s SLPP in power, he has succeeded in compensating his loyalists with some bagging fat cat positions. It is no difference from the actions of the former government. The people the president has appointed so far are considered to be his loyal friends for they have been there for him thin and thick. Just a few months in office, President Bio has almost completed appointing his trusted friends to key positions except for the various attaché positions within the diplomatic circle.   Meanwhile, the appointees including some of the cabinet ministers have been seen quite dummy in expressing their delight over their appointment unlike those of the former government. Many are aware of the price that comes with such appointment if their emotions dwarf what is expected of them.

And while it is important to say that the country is at its cooling point with respect to the attitudes of public servants as a result of the current stringent measures, one can equally say that apolitical appointment is a curse and not a blessing. A curse because all appointees will have to give account of their stewardship as dictated by the condition of a political transition whether it falls in their favour or not. Worst still, it is not about whether your fingers are clean after leaving office these days, but your mere affiliation with a former government, particularly when you used to occupy a high office you are bound to be haunted by malice, grudge, and subsequent prosecution. So where is the joy in all this?



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