The company left behind huge liabilities including backlog salary of workers and other entitlements. It is also indebted to companies including the NP Company Sierra Leone Ltd.
The Executive Director of the Legal Aid Board, Ms. Fatmata Claire Carlton-Hanciles took the decision following a meeting with the Minister of Labor and Social Security, Mr. Adekunle King on Thursday, June 28 in which it was revealed that very Senior officials of SLRA had made a public commitment to pay the workers seven months of backlog salary at a meeting held in Moyamba Junction on 27 April 2018. This was reaffirmed at another well attended meeting in May 2018. According to Mohamed Will, the SLRA officials went further to promise that they will be paid within three months.
The officials from SLRA include the Director of Maintenance, Chief Auditor Mr. Senesie and the Senior Engineer Mr. Faya. In attendance at both meetings were nearly eighty former workers of MSF Construction Company, the Local Unit Commanders for Mile 91 and Masiaka and the representative of the Legal Aid Board Algassimu Sesay.
Following this commitment, the private lawyer contracted by the Legal Aid Board, Ms. Audrey Williams of Shears-Moses and Co. decided against filing an application at the High Court for an order to sell off the company’s assets to pay the workers their salaries. Shortly afterwards, the NP Company Sierra Leone Ltd went to court and secured an order to sell off the company’s assets to recover monies owed the company.
As it stands, it is pointless for Ms. Williams to file an application for an order to sell off the company’s assets because there are no assets left. ‘The SLRA misled the workers,’ Ms. Williams said. Ms. Carlton-Hanciles thinks the same. She holds the view that had it not been for the assurance from SLRA the Board would have beaten the NP Company Sierra Leone Ltd in securing a court order to sell off the company’s assets.
This is because; the Board had been providing legal assistance to the workers since October 2017. This is less than three months since the owners of the MSF Construction Company left the country. At the time, there was panic among the workers as the Human Resource Manager, Umaro Deen Sesay was busy selling off the assets and withdrawing money from the company accounts without paying their salaries. It was the Board which referred the matter to the Criminal Investigations Department in Freetown and the Ministry of Labor and Social Security after receiving a complaint from the workers in October 2017. In addition, the Board also placed its lawyer at the disposal of the Ministry. These moves succeeded in putting a stop to the sale of assets and withdrawals from the company’s accounts.
Also, prior to the meeting at the Moyamba Junction, the Board and the Ministry of Labour and Social Security had done an inventory of the assets of the company in Mile 91, Moyamba Junction and other parts of the country, thus setting the stage for legal action. ‘It is a pity, the NP Company appears to be the sole beneficiary from all our efforts,’ Mrs. Carlton-Hanclies said. ‘It is so painful seeing these young workers come to our offices almost every day and still have not addressed their plight.’
On a positive note, the Minister of Labor and Social Security, Mr. Adekunle King disclosed that the European Union has stepped in to pay salary for three months even though they are not obliged to do so. ‘This is out of kindness,’ he said. ‘The EU has decided to pay salaries out of a moral obligation and not legal obligation.’