Over Koidu Holdings expansion … KONSU executive charged to court
Seven members of the Kono Students Union (KONSU) have been arraigned before Magistrate J.O.P. Wellington of Court No. 2 in Freetown, on five count charges ranging from malicious damage to disorderly behaviour, riotous conduct, public insult and provocation, and assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
Represented by defence counsels Umaru Napoleon Koroma and Junissa P. Bangalie, the accused persons pleaded not guilty to all five count charges and were granted bail in the sum of Two Million Leones each plus two sureties in like sum.
The matter stands adjourned to Wednesday 23rd March 2011. The complainants, Paramount Chief Paul Ngaba Saquee of Tankoro Chiefdom, Kono District and one Kai Francis Moiba (reportedly the chief’s aide), were absent in court during the proceedings.
The seven students include Emmanuel Sahr Jimissa, President of KONSU, Tamba Simeon Johnny, Ex-President of KONSU 2009-2010, Sahr John Songor Koadeoyorma, Ex-President of KONSU 2008-2009, Sahr Lamin, KONSU Unit President at the Institute of Public Administration and Management (IPAM), Sahr Foray Moiba, KONSU Unit President at the Njala University College (NUC) and Komba Perry Nyandebo, a member.
It could be noted that on Tuesday 15th March 2011 at the vicinity of Miatta Conference Center, Youyi Building, during the public disclosure ceremony organized by Koidu Holdings Limited (KHL) relating to its intended expansion plan, members of KONSU staged a peaceful walk-out in protest against the planned expansion.
The concerned students expressed worries that expanding the concession of KHL from its current 250 meters to 500 meters will only worsen the plights of the ordinary indigenes of Kono who will be directly affected by the operations of the company.
They accused the company of spreading falsehood on its website about its corporate social responsibilities and blamed their local authorities with particular reference to Paramount Chief Paul Ngaba Saquee, whom they claimed is in the payroll of the company. Chief Saquee happens to be a board member of KHL and also doubles as chairman of the Village Resettlement Committee (VRC), which is overseeing the construction of the new houses at the Kania Resettlement Site.
By way of registering their protest directly to Chief Saquee in whose chiefdom KHL is operating, the students, with placards in the hands, surrounded his vehicle with Registration No. PCS 005, chanting anti KHL and anti expansion slogans.
Not feeling safe in the midst of the protesting students, the panicked driver of Chief Saquee engaged the reverse gear and without applying any care or caution, ran into a stationary vehicle assigned to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, slightly damaging it and also damaging the left side glass of the chief’s vehicle.
The chief eventually made good his escape and wasted no time in reporting the matter firstly to Vice President Samuel Sam Sumana and then to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). Accordingly, the chief accused the students of being responsible for the damage to his vehicle. He pegged the price of the damaged glass at One Million Five Hundred Thousand Leones.
Independent investigations have it that the vehicle in question was actually bought by KHL and presented to Chief Saquee as compensation for damaging the engine of the vehicle he was originally using. The chief had apparently sent his vehicle for refueling at the KHL mine site, where it was loaded with petrol instead of diesel. The chief has not denied the fact that he got the vehicle from KHL; something most people consider as an inducement.
Up to press time, the students were still awaiting bailing, as the conditions attached were so stiff that relatives and friends who turned up to bail them were deemed unqualified because they lacked certain documentations like bank account.
In a snap interview with Emmanuel Sahr Jimissa, the President of KONSU, he expressed fears that if the bail conditions were not met before the close of business, they might have to spend the night at the Pademba Road Maximum Prison. He also spoke of their earlier detention at the CID headquarters on Wednesday 16th March 2011, saying they arrived at the CID at 4:00pm and were there till 12:00 midnight after being bailed by relatives and obligated to report the following day at 8:00am. Mr. Jimissa however maintained that the action against them has only strengthened their resolve to stand up for their right, adding that “We cannot be intimidated”.
Meanwhile, civil society groups have raised concern over the plight of the students, most of whom are on examination.
By Theophilus S. Gbenda
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