By Sahr Eric George
Freetown, SIERRA LEONE – Honourable Francis Amara Kaisamba, a member of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) representing Kenema District, has brought attention to the alarming depletion of the nation’s forest reserves and questioned the effectiveness of forest guards in safeguarding these vital ecological areas.
The concerns were raised during the parliamentary session preceding the approval of Mr Thomas Fayia Kamara as the Commissioner of the National Protected Area Authority (NPAA), among other appointees by President Bio.
Hon. Kaisamba expressed dissatisfaction with the perceived lack of understanding of their roles by forest guards, alleging that some are complicit in activities that contribute to the degradation of the forests they are tasked to protect.
“Our forest reserve is being depleted, and climate change issues are actual issues which are with us,” remarked Hon. Kaisamba. He raised concerns about allegations that forest guards may be colluding with external entities to sell protected lands.
Addressing Mr. Kamara, Hon. Kaisamba urged him to take immediate action to address the situation, emphasizing the need for comprehensive training programs to reinforce the responsibilities of forest guards.
In support of these concerns, Hon. Bashiru Silikie, the Deputy Leader (1) of the SLPP, condemned the reported activities of forest guards selling state lands, stating that such actions are outside their official mandates.
“NPAA staff have connived to sell the national reserves without legal authority from the government,” Hon. Silikie declared, calling for swift corrective measures.
Hon. Veronica Kadie Sesay, also of the SLPP representing Moyamba District, raised additional issues about forest guards presenting themselves as military personnel and engaging in arrests in villages. She urged Mr. Kamara to redirect the focus of forest guards to their primary duty of safeguarding the forests and national reserves.
Hon. Abdul Kargbo, leader of the APC in parliament representing Port Loko District, underscored the global importance of environmental protection, urging Mr. Kamara and NPAA staff to recognize Sierra Leone’s commitment to international treaties on climate change.
From Kailahun District, Hon. Quinton Salia Konneh of the SLPP emphasized the shift of some forest guards from protectors to landowners, allegedly selling state lands without proper authorization. He called on Mr Kamara to intervene and redirect forest guards to fulfil their designated roles.
The concerns raised by parliamentarians highlight the critical need for immediate action to address the depletion of forest reserves and alleged misconduct by forest guards, emphasizing the importance of preserving Sierra Leone’s natural resources for future generations. SEG/22/12/2023