Square Pegs In Round Holes – Timber Trade In Total Mess
As Sierra Leone is now glaringly ruled by Executive Orders under the leadership of the former junta leader, Brig. (Rtd) Julius Maada Bio, so also is the faith of the Timber business which has now fallen in the hands of novice that controls every aspect of it all thanks to an Executive Order of the president.
Like putting square pegs in round holes, the timber business, which falls directly under the control of both Agriculture and Trade Ministries, has now been placed in the absolute control of Leadway Trading Company, who has little or no knowledge about the trade and hence, full of mess
It could be recalled that about three or four months ago, the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) government through an Executive Order, lifted the temporal ban it had earlier placed on timber business immediately after coming into governance and appointed one Babadie Kamara of Leadway Company as its agent to oversee exportation of a whopping thirteen thousand (13,000) containers of timber logs in order to ensure that the government gets all taxes due to it.
By this arrangement, the role of Babadie Kamara and Leedway is to only serve as an eye for the government in order to recovers all monies owing to it in terms of taxes and other duties from timber exporters and not to be the exporter himself. However, this is now turning out to be the contrary as he is now alongside Finance Ministry, in absolute control of the timber trade without the inclusion of the relevant ministries including Agriculture and Trade ministries.
Also important to note is the fact that there has long been laid down criteria for anyone to hold the gateway for the exportation of timber and one of which is that the holder must have a local factory doing value addition amongst others. Unfortunately in the case of Babadie, he did not meet most of the criteria set out for one to have authority over the export license. He was only a handpicked of the SLPP government who is now benefitting as a result of his loyalty to the ruling government.
On a sad note, the timber trade, which is supposed to benefit Sierra Leoneans and the government, is now left in the hands of foreign nationals especially the Chinese to determine the faith of Sierra Leoneans engaged in the trade. Almost all the Sierra Leonean stakeholders who had been in the trade for donkey years have now been sidelined by Babadie. Even the Timber Association comprising Sierra Leonean young men and women has been kicked out of the trade by Babadie and his cohorts without recourse to the negative impacts the decision will have on them and the families of those who rely on the trade to make ends meet.
It is even alleged that the Chinese are now the ones going into our bushes to cut down our forest reserves all in the name of timber logging while our environment is badly exposed to an irreparable damage.
By Ibrahim Alusine Kamara
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