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By Aiah Maoyei Matturie………………………………

There was a time when Sierra Leone was a paradise for investors, especially in the all-importantmining sector. That was the time when the economy was booming, relatively speaking.  That was the time when Government did everything to encourage investors. And they had no hesitation to come to what was an investor-friendly nation. These were the days of the National Diamond Mining Company (NDMC) in Kono, the Sierra Leone Development Company (DELCO) in the North, SIEROMCO and Sierra Rutile in the Southern Region, to name but a few. But this is no longer the case. Sierra Leone has today become a land where investors fear to tread, because of a few greedy senior public servants who are carrying out their duties in their own selfish interest.

They are carrying out their duties not in the interest of the Government and the country. If it were not for the greed and avarice of these senior public figures, we probably would not have been in the economic situation where we have found ourselves today, with very stringent austerity measures put in place by the Government this week. For the mining companies that have been discouraged to operate for over a year now would have paid taxes and royalties that would have bailed us out, if they were operating. But some greedy people have messed us up and want us to become beggars. They are secret enemies of this Government and the people.

How can anyone explain the fact that a British company which wants tofinance and develop the country’s first large-scale underground gold mine in Nimikoro Chiefdom in Kono District has been severely frustrated over concluding a Mining Development Agreement (MDA) when it is still paying its workers who were employed during the time the company had a licence for exploration? Our finding is that somebody close to State House is misinforming the President, the Minister of Mining and Mineral Resources, and Professor Strasser- King.

It is an irony that this person who is the Board Chairman of the only British bank in this country is discouraging British investment simply because he happens to work at State House and plays a key role innegotiating the terms of MDAs which are a key requirement for mining companies. He is like a man sitting on the branch of a tree but decides to cut it down. In his greed and avarice, he does not sit down to think that when the tree falls, he will also fall with it. He is certainly not in touch with reality. Since his surname rhymes with the word “Cloud”, we have reason to believe that as head of MDA negotiations he has his head in the cloud. He is not in touch with political reality, especially the current political reality concerning Kono District and the All Peoples Congress Government of Dr Ernest Bai Koroma.

But this person, knowing his background, is not all that stupid; he is greedy and selfish and will not accept his incompetence and lack of industry knowledge when it comes to negotiating MDAs. With his inflated pension alone as a retired U N employee, what he takes home at the end of the month can probably pay the monthly salaries of tenSenior Permanent Secretaries. Added to that, he is on a lucrative government salary. Plus his honorarium as Board Chairman of a British bank. So he does not care a dime if people who are in need of employment stay unemployed when investors of this British mining company get frustrated because of his action and may decide to quit and look for opportunities in countries which welcome investment in their mining sector. He is not in any way affected since he is more than wealthy. He and others from Government should go to the company’s site and talk with the people who have recently moved there in the hope of securing employment.

Although the President asked the Parliamentary Oversight Committee on Mines and Minerals to go to Kono in May this year and assess this company’s operation, which it did with positive results, this dishonest public servant is still holding on to the intransigent and pig-headed position he took a year ago. He does not want the negotiations to move an inch. We are being led to believe that he has a visceral hatred of the Kono people as well as of well-intentioned investors.

Our man With his Head in the Cloud either does not know the contribution Britain has made to the development of this country, or he is doing this purely out of personal pecuniary motives. Just imagine! This company is ready to bring in $150 million (One Hundred and Fifty Million Dollars) to develop its operation, once the Mining Development (MDA) has been signed and approved by Parliament. This is one sure way to express confidence in Sierra Leone and to assist to turn around our failing economy. For any injection of $150 million into the Sierra Leone economy at this time will be like manna from heaven. And yet some greedy functionary is blocking it.

If our Man with his Head in the Cloud wants fly- by- night Asian investors to take over serious mining operations in Sierra Leone at the expense of British companies that operate on principles and integrity, then we are even more suspicious of his role as Chairman.

We know, and are ready to prove it, that companies that were awarded mining contracts in this country just some few years back have collapsed for only one reason: these contracts were awarded to them because they were ready to put money into the pockets and bank accounts of some ofour greedy senior public servants. British mining companies do not go down that road by putting money into people’s pockets or private bank accounts.

Some three or four weeks ago we heard over the popular radio programme Monologue that Professor Strasser-King was to be appointed the man in charge of the MDA negotiations involving this company. We were told that he was on vacation but that he would return at the end of September and push the negotiations forward. He has returned but we are informed that in his absence, somebody at State House did something totally untoward to cause this British company to seriously consider quitting Sierra Leone. And so the negotiations are back to square one. All because of this man who has his head in the cloud. But unlike our man with his head in the cloud, Professor Strasser-King is a man of integrity with good knowledge of mining. He will not behave like this Board Chairman of a British bank who has ironically sworn to stifle British investment in this country.

Will David Tam-Baryoh please inform us whether the negotiations are on course, or not? We in Kono District, especially youths like me, are eagerly waiting for this mining company to start operation. We know it is not a silent policy of this Government to keep good things away from Kono District. Those who want to paint the President and the A P C government ugly in the sight of the Kono people by frustrating this British investor have embarked on a campaign of self-destruction, not just failure. His Excellency the President is doing his best for us in Kono. And we don’t believe he will destroy the good work he has started.

As things stand the present Chairman of the MDA Negotiating Committee has stalled the negotiations on three occasions. We know he has no experience in mining, let alone underground gold mining. In addition he has no track record of success in negotiating and finalizing a Mine Development Agreement.

In summary since our economy is a mining led economy, and the Chairman of the MDA negotiating team has a track record of driving investors away, there is no reason to retain him in that position. The sooner he is removed the better it will be for our ailing economy, the country and potential future investors.

So let the MDA negotiations resumenow from where they stopped in August this year under the able Chairmanship of Professor Strasser-King.

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