Like Vice President Samuel Sam-Sumana, I was born in Kono district. Like him, I attended the Jaiama Secondary School. Like him, I am close to the Turays, the family he is married into. But unlike him, I am not a politician; hence not Vice President of Sierra Leone. I am not even qualified to so be in view of my age.
But if I were, unlike Sam-Sumana, I would not be doing business which in the remotest involves state resources. If I had been a businessman (especially involving diamond, gold and timber) before becoming the country’s second most senior citizen I would have absolutely nothing to do with it any more.
By some interesting coincidence, or may be not, no vice president has ever succeeded his boss as president in Sierra Leone. It is like that strange coincide that the country’s last three ministers of transport have left office under bizarre circumstances. Today it is Kemoh Sesay who is out of his office under equally serious circumstances.
Remember Dr Prince Harding who was suspended and arrested by the police on the orders of the Anti Corruption Commission on allegations of taking a bribe from the management of Paramount Airlines after one of whose fleet crashed killing over a dozen Togolese football fans? Or Momoh Pujeh over the alleged illegal mining of diamonds in a manner not befitting a government minister? He was arrested on the orders of the Ant Corruption Commission and tried, and the rest, as we say, is history.
Well it is that aspect of the allegations against Momoh Pujeh that I want to bring to the attention of Vice President Samuel Sam Sumana. During the last Tree Planting Day, illegal logging in Sierra Leone occupied centre stage. One of the biggest culprits environmentalists cited was one Taakor Tropical Hardwoods which I understand from reliable sources is registered and largely still being run by the vice president. The company is said to be casing serious deforestation in parts of Kono district. Even though the VP has denied involvement, several researches point to the contrary.
His name has also featured very prominently in mining activities or concessions in Kono. Rightly or wrongly, it is hard to see how smoke emanates without fire. Why are there not similar allegations against other people who hail from diamondiferous areas or forests? After all it did not take a court conviction for President Kabbah to replace Dr Joe Demby for alleged impropriety. We know the constitution provides stiff conditions for the removal of a vice president, the same for a president. Mud on a white shirt, either self-pasted or not, is hard to wash off on a desert. It took much longer time, at least over one year in office, for Dr Demby’s name to be associated with allegations of sleaze. And one could hardly notice any grimace on the faces of people when he was replaced, save for those who benefited from him, may be selfishly.
Dr Demby was far much stronger within the SLPP than Sam-Sumana is in the APC. Dr Demby had far larger following in his home district and added to Kabbah’s votes by far, than Sam-Sumana did to Ernest Bai Koroma’s votes during his bid. If anything, that praise belongs to Kumba Konomanyi. He was a political nonentity. If anything that should make him be more careful in his dealings and with some of those he deals with.
You might not have heard of this but on Wednesday this week, a light aircraft landed at the disused Yengema airfield; some five miles from Bumpeh, where I was born. Senior police officers told me that normally, they would be informed before any aircraft would land there both for the security of the state, but also for the safety of the aircraft and its passengers.
The aircraft, piloted by one James Scot, a British national, had as its passengers four people among them one Ramez Hassan, a Lebanese national I am informed. A vehicle with registration number VIP 001 came and took them away. My sources in Kono tell me that the only such car they know of belongs to Kassim Basma. I could not get Kassim despite several tries I made, to get his explanation.
Anyway, it turned out that some newly-posted Mines Monitoring Officers to the district got wind of the aircraft and arrived on the scene insisting that they should search it. Money allegedly changed hands, although my police sources say the MMOs said they were indeed given money but they returned it.
In any case, the aircraft could not be searched by the 6 or 7 MMOs because a police officer sent to the airfield by Kassim Basma, allegedly intervened. At the time all of this was happening, the police “big men” were at Simbakoro, some ten miles or so away, attending the commissioning of a multipurpose mess for the military. By the time they got wind of the landing of the aircraft, it had “hurriedly flown out of the airfield”.
My police sources told me that when they pressed on with their investigations, a call from the Vice President or his office, they sounded hesitant and extra-careful, said the VP was aware of the trip and that there was “nothing to worry about”. Because I care so much for my vice president, I wish to admonish him that associating himself with such suspicious things, if he did do it, can only irredeemably tarnish his image further.
As vice president, getting yourself involved in such, no matter the degree of involvement, can only lead to conflict of interests. If a minister, David Blunkett could be forced to resign over simply asking for the visa application file of his girlfriend’s nanny, how about one who asks for or even gives concessions to mining and other companies?
I keep repeating that I cannot ascertain the veracity of some of the rumours doing the rounds about my fellow old boy of JSS, but my knowledge of the way things happen in this country, in case he has been away too long to remember, is that once the rumours start being peddled, they will be bought because they are most times true.
Mr Sam-Sumana may argue that before becoming vice president he had several business holdings. The point is, he must have nothing to do in his official capacity to influence anything in favour of those business holdings. If he does that and that does not constitute corruption, I wonder what else does. Using one’s public office for influence which otherwise could not be gained is contrary to law. I hope you take this in good faith. By Umaru Fofana