Police officers of the Rogbaneh Police division in Bombali District have released on bail three persons accused of the attempted theft of 85 bags of World Food Programme (WFP)-supplied rice meant for those living under quarantine after having been exposed to Ebola. A WFP vehicle seized by police has been returned to the agency.
WFP driver Edith Jeneba Kargbo, WFP Programme Assistant Momodu Kamara and Alpha Sesay have all been granted bail after having posted “reliable sureties”.
Last Sunday evening, civil society members in Makeni, including staff of the Health For All Coalition, seized a SALCOST Astra truck loaded with 69 50kg (110lb) bags of rice, and a WFP Land Cruiser Hilux loaded with 16 bags which had been transferred from the SALCOST truck along the Makeni Cemetery Road.
Upon interrogation at the Rogbaneh police station the two drivers, John Sesay of SALCOST and Edith Jeneba Kargbo of WFP, said the rice was meant to supply to residents of quarantined homes along the Cemetery Road. They claimed they were transferring the rice into the smaller WFP vehicle because the truck was too large to access the homes. They later named WFP Programme Assistant Momodu Kamara who, according to them, was their coordinator and in charge of all food distribution.
Kamara, interviewed by police immediately after his arrest, acknowledged that he was in charge of all WFP livelihood programmes, and said it had been agreed at the district EOC meeting that a standard kilogram of food should be supplied to quarantined homes to avoid wastage. He said all food had to be supplied under the supervision and monitoring of EOC members – a requirement which was clearly absent in this case, as noted by the police, the Anti-Corruption Commission, and the media.
Momodu Kamara went on to state that on Friday, 26th September he took 407 bags of rice from the Tonkolili WFP store which, he said, had been requested by district nutritionist Jeneba Kamara and approved by District Medical Officer Dr. Tom Sesay for onward supply to quarantined homes. He said 150 of those bags of rice had been collected and turned over to the nutritionist and her team. 34 of those bags were meant for the Kamakwie axis.
The WFP Programme Assistant said he had not been available for the Kamakwie distribution, pointing out that he was in Makeni assisting with the remaining rice distribution.
Investigation by the Awoko newspaper found that there was not a single quarantined home along the Cemetery Road as had been claimed by the two drivers and their supervisor. Police and the ACC Joint Investigation team have booked the nutritionist and two others in her department for further interrogation in regard to rice received and supplied. They may also crosscheck at some of the quarantined homes.
ASP Matthew M. Jabbie, the Crime Officer at the Rogbaneh Police Division, said the WFP Land Cruiser Hilux had been released to that the agency’s work to supply and transport food to quarantined homes would not be affected. Police would get it, he said, when the investigation was complete and ready to go to court. He said that three persons, including Edith Jeneba Kargbo and Momodu Kamara, had been granted bail as the investigation proceeds.
By Mohamed Kabba
Tuesday September 30, 2014