The Environment Protection Agency Sierra Leone (EPASL) has discountenanced a recent ‘21 days ultimatum’ slammed on it by the Sierra Leone Chamber of Agribusiness Development (SLeCAD) to renegotiate the matrix in calculating Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) liscence fee for local agribusiness companies. The said ultimatum by SLeCAD was given during a press conference on Thursday 12th September 2019, following the closure recently of the Bennimix Company by EPASL. According to EPASL, Bennimix was operating without a valid Environment Impact Assessment license which was in contravention of section 23 of the EPA Act of 2008 as amended in 2010. The Executive Secretary of SLeCAD Ahmed Nanoh had said that small and local agribusiness companies should not be charged equally as the mining companies who according to him ‘cause more threat to the environment’. Nanoh furthered that the methodology used in calculating the EIA fee should be discussed among stakeholders to allow the local companies to pay what they are supposed to pay rather than charging them as the bigger companies. In a rather defiant and strongly worded public statement, the EPASL described Nanoh’s statement as “malicious, deceitful and a ploy to undermine public confidence in the work of the Agency”. The EPASL statement said in as much as it (EPA) wholeheartedly welcomed investors in the country, investment must not be done at the expense of the environment.
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The EPASL stated that it was merely executing what the Sierra Leone Parliament had ratified. “The current EIA fee matrix is part of a 2010 Regulation that was approved by Parliament in pursuance of Section 62 of the EPA Act of 2008 and Section 170(c) of the 1991 Constitution,” it reiterated. The EPASL dismissed the 21 days ultimatum on it by SLeCAD as, “self-serving and therefore is of no moment”. Responding, Nanoh said, it was sad to see a public institution defying a call to come and negotiate issues from a chamber that works with thousands of agribusiness companies in the country and more so when it has to do with the survival of those local companies. “That means people in public offices are there to satisfy themselves rather than looking at the country and its economy as a whole,” he noted. Nanoh furthered that SLeCAD’s call to EPASL was for both institutions to sit down and negotiate the right matrix in calculating levies on local agribusinesses rather than ‘a one-size -fits-all way of dealing with different companies. He insisted that EPASL was still using the same matrix in calculating EIA liscence fee for all companies like mining companies, oil companies and agribusiness companies like Bennimix. “We will stick to our 21 days ultimatum and if the EPASL fails to heed to it, we would have no choice but to inform our international partners like African Union, ECOWAS, EU, World Bank and other stakeholders to stop funding its activities,” Nanoh said.
By Abdulai Gbla
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