There are several areas where one can see the hand of Britain in its support to Sierra Leone. Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID) is here, helping our national reconstruction. Britain sent a medical team and much logistical support to help us in the fight against Ebola. Britain is supporting our anti-corruption fight. Britain’s assistance is here, Britain’s assistance is there, Britain’s assistance is everywhere. But what are we doing in return for Britain?
This is an important question because in recent times, British mining companies have been neglected, perhaps marginalized, in favour of mining companies from countries whose contribution to our national development is minimal compared to Britain’s. Some time ago, the concession of a British mining company called Bassama was taken over by the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources. Today it has been handed over to another company in Kono that has a very dubious corporate social responsibility record. And right now as you are reading this piece, some of the men His Excellency trusts to do things that will bring benefits to this nation by contributing to his Agenda for Prosperity are working in their own interests. They are working clandestinely to destroy the President’s good intentions.
They are doing this by attempting to take away the concession of a British mining company operating in the Kono district that has spent FIFTY ONE MILLION DOLLARS on exploration, with the intention to give it to a Chinese mining company. And there is the strong suspicion that the Chinese are ready to give a huge chunk of dollars under the table to those who are actually in charge of Government Mining negotiations. While the Chinese may well be ready to part with money under the table, the British are not; the British do not bribe.
Because the British do not bribe, that puts them at a serious disadvantage in any corrupt system which may favour companies and countries which practise less ethical behaviour. They do not bribe because Britain has an Anti-Corruption Legislation that affects even their companies operating overseas. The British also respect our Anti-Corruption Act even though some of our authorities have scant regard for it.
It would seem prudent that in future, British aid to Sierra Leone is tied to proper regard for British investment and interests. When that happens, all those of dubious intent who are advising the President to go against Britain’s interest and investment in Sierra Leone will bow their heads in shame.
But there is one thing we should note, and note very well. Legal, economic or diplomatic problems that will occur between Sierra Leone and Britain will be very much the responsibility of the Chairman of the Government Minerals Negotiating Team. For even now the matter between the Government of Sierra Leone and the Bassama mining company has not been legally concluded. And some people around our beloved President are scheming to cheat another British mining company of a mining concession on which it has already spent 51 million dollars on exploration, and is ready to invest One Hundred and Fifty Million dollars to start underground mining of gold once its Mining Development Agreement has been agreed and ratified by Parliament. Attempting to take away the mining concession is not acceptable to the many stakeholders and is not acceptable to Britain. We are hitting British interests and therefore Britain below the belt.
We therefore call on all patriotic Sierra Leoneans to put the activities of the Minerals Negotiating Team at State house under the microscope. For it may be recalled that in May/June this year, 57 mining licences were cancelled. Did all of them fall foul of the law? How come they were registered in the first place and then told to cease operation? It is not impossible that some of these mining companies were asked for kickbacks and when they refused to perform, their licences were taken away.
We may entangle ourselves in serious problems with Britain if we disregard the economic interests of British companies for no just cause. Right now as I write, I understand that legal advisers have been engaged by the British mining company that has received information that some highly placed people want to misinform the President that this British mining company cannot perform if it is granted the Mining Development Agreement. We are therefore calling on our beloved President to dismiss this misinformation with the contempt it deserves when it is brought to his notice. That is what a wise leader does. And President Ernest Bai Koroma has proved on many occasions that he is a wise leader. No group of self-interested senior governmental persons should be allowed to create a rift between Sierra Leone and Britain because they want to line their pockets with dollars.