President Ernest Bai Koroma today launched, turned the sod, and handed over for construction an African-
Development-Bank (ADB)-sponsored 7.6 billion-leone site for the provision of fish-landing and ancillary facilities at the Kondo Water Wharf in Goderich, Freetown.
Speaking at the ceremony, the President thanked the people of Goderich for "a wonderful turn-out and great welcome. For me it is a home-coming," apparently making reference to the fact that he lived in the area before becoming, and for a greater part of his first year as, President.
The Head of State said his Government is focused on developing Sierra Leone and "I am happy to turn the sod for a project that will change the face of Goderich," promising to extend the programme to Tombo, Shenge and Bonthe. "Fishermen have waited for too long. It is now time to change their circumstances and their lives," stressing that it is time for the fishing sector to be well organized. He said fishermen have a historical importance, as they were the most trusted disciples of Jesus Christ.
The President sent a clear message to poachers, stating that in the next two to three months those who violate our territorial laws would face the full penalty of the law, even as government will reinforce maritime protection. "This is a serious government, and the days of free-for-all are over." He also had a message for those who had taken loans from the ADB and are unwilling to pay back, stating that the full force of the law would be invoked to recover those loans.
The Sierra Leonean Leader said everybody has a responsibility to ensure that the project succeeds and Sierra Leone moves forward. "For now, the time of politics is over. It is time for development." As a community project, the President said the community must be in charge, asking the oversight committee to be accountable to the people, and to report any fishy activities that could deter the speedy conclusion of the project. He thanked the land-owners for accepting to let-go of their property in the interest of the whole community, describing them as patriotic citizens, while appealing to the contractors to provide quality facilities that will reflect "value for money."
President Koroma also had a message for mischief-makers who are bent on derailing his vision to develop the country. "The days of talking to these people are over. We’ve spent one year talking to them. Now the police are under instruction to take the swiftest action on law-breakers." The President asked a series of direct questions as to whether the people wanted development, to each of which they answered with a resounding "Yes, Sir"; and then he asked them to all support this developmental project. The President also reinstated a commitment to soon complete the peninsular road. He concluded with, "God bless the project, God bless Goderich, God bless Sierra Leone."
The President then performed the ceremony of handing over the contract document to the contractors, NIMO Construction Company, before turning the sod.
The Chairperson of the occasion was the Acting Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Rosalind Oya Sankoh, who emphasised on the importance of the project for both Goderich and Sierra Leone, while thanking ADB for sponsoring it and asking fishermen to stop bad methods of fishing, like using explosives, so as to preserve fish for the next generations.
A representative of the consultant engineers and architects IDEAS Ltd., Mr. Freddie Johnson, gave a detailed outline of the project. He said they did research work in The Gambia and Guinea before doing some consultations with local fishermen and women to decide on what would be the best facilities for Sierra Leone. The facilities to be provided include, a jetty that will go as far as 35 meters into the sea; a fish-smoking hall; an ice-making plant; a 25 KVA standby generator; underground diesel and petrol tanks; modern toilets; a boat-repair workshop; a fish-processing and baggage hall; a first-aid area; office space for an administrator, store-keeper, manager, accountant, secretarial and other staff; a parking bay; portable fire-extinguishers; a pressure washer; an electrical fly-catcher; scales; and a 2.5 kilometer road that would join the facilities to the peninsular road.
In his remarks, the ADB Resident Representative, Ghanaian-born Dr. Samuel Ofori Onwona, recalled the strong ties between Sierra Leone and Ghana going beyond fishing to the time when many Ghanaians came to study at Fourah Bay College and the link with the railway. He was impressed with a cultural dance organized by Ghanaian fishermen based at Goderich, promising that by the time the project is completed within a year or two he would be able to address the people in the local lingua franca, Krio.
In his speech proper, Dr Onwona, on behalf of ADP President Donald Kaberuka, expressed gratitude to the people of Sierra Leone for the reception accorded him since he took over office. He said the construction of the fish-landing site "is an important step in our efforts to provide the kind of infrastructure that assist the Government of Sierra Leone in their efforts to reduce poverty and achieve the Millennium Development Goals…The lack of adequate and appropriate infrastructure has been identified as a binding constraint in the development of Africa’s fisheries, especially in the artisanal sub-sector. The development of the jetty facilities will, therefore, go a long way to stimulate growth in the fisheries sector… By promoting a culture of improved hygienic processing of fish products, this project is expected to enhance the quality of fish products and help eventually towards the lifting of the ban on Sierra Leone’s fish exports to EU member states. This, in turn, will no doubt improve export earnings from the fisheries sector." He also outlined the achievements of the project thus far, including the significant reduction of poaching and illegal fishing by the Maritime Wing of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Sierra Leone (RSLAF), training of fishing communities on the use of the facilities, workshops on HIV/AIDS, and laying a foundation on a culture of environmental conservation, protection and enhancement.
Other speakers included Deputy Minster of Finance Momodu Kargbo, the Member of Parliament of the area Hon. Dauda Dumbuya, Western Area Rural District Chairman Alhassan Cole, Director of Fisheries M.F. Sheriff, and Project Manager of the local Artisanal Fisheries Development Project (AFDEP) Alpha Sesay.