Excessive rumors filtering across Freetown about the planned sale of the King Georgeís Old Peopleís Home at Kissy Mess-Mess in eastern Freetown to a foreign business man by the Government has prompted elderly inmates of the home to ask several questions including; who wants to sell their home?
On Wednesday 9th June 2010, certain newspapers in Sierra Leone published about the planned selling of the home to a said Lebanese man in Freetown so on Wednesday 9th June 2010 this presshouse conducted an investigation on the topic in question
INMATES EXPRESS THEMSELVES
We first visited the Home itself where inmates did not hesitate to express themselves. Oldest and longest serving inmate, Mr. Abu Kamara (who entered the home in 1964) told Awareness Times that in September 2009, they heard "rumours" that some people are desirous of selling the compound housing their Home to a Lebanese man from the Jihad Lebanese family who wants to used the land and its structures for the processing and selling of commercial gas. This, he went on, they did not give much credence until sometime last month (May 2010) when the inmates saw this Mr. Jihad, some top members of those managing the affairs of the home and some surveyors taking sketch of the home and discussing about their bid to sell it.
"It was then that we realized that we were facing a something serious". Abu Kamara explained thus prompting an emergency meeting of the elderly inmates who all resolved to write a letter to the Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Childrenís Affairs and copy other Line Ministries in on the issue.
Mr. Kamara also cited that despite the Letter they sent, subsequently once again last month, the same Mr. Jihad came to their home and brusquely informed them that he is rounding up plans to purchase the building from the Government following which he will be transferring the inmates to a new location in a seaside village called Borbor, 19 miles off the city. They say Mr. Jihad insisted that he needed premises for some business transactions.
Upon hearing "the cheeky words", Mr. Kamara went on, himself and other inmates of the home were forced to chase Mr. Jihad right out of their compound.
PROBLEMS INMATES FACE
On his part, the youngest inmate in the home Mr. Salman Jalloh used this forum to plead on Government to allow the Ministries Social Welfare, Gender and Childrenís Affairs re-take the operations of the home from those presently running it.
Further allegations made by the inmates are that the present home operators are depriving them from adequate water supply, good food, medical, electricity, among others which has caused several inmates to abandon the home even though they suspected that the Government was including a huge amount of money in the budget for the operation of the Home.
"It used to be 150 inmates in this home but due to these insufficiencies, most of our colleagues have abandoned the home for better alternatives" said Mr. Jalloh, while stressing that they have vowed that only over their dead bodies that anyone would relocate them from where they are presently.
SENIOR WARD ATTENDANT DENIES
Awareness Times also spoke to the Senior Ward Attendant in the home Madam Kadie Kargbo who denied knowledge of the planned selling of the home and hastened to counter allegations that the inmates are deprived from several basic facilities.
PERMANENT SECRETARY CLARIFIES
Back within the city, we visited the Newenglandville offices of Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Childrenís Affairs where Permanent Secretary Mr. J.O. Wellington revealed that some months ago, the Minister called on him and informed him about a private company has expressed interest in purchasing the home for some personal use.
The P.S. said he frowned at the suggestion and respectfully advised his Boss that such matters are very critical and need Cabinet and National Asset Commissionís approval. He said he further advised that if such transactions are to be approved, there must be an alternative ultra modern home first constructed for the inmates before the deal is approved. Till then, the P.S. told Awareness Times, nothing of such topic has ever been discussed again.
However, Mr. Wellington used the opportunity of his chat with this medium to confirm that his ministry had not given any permission to anyone to survey the home, while calling on the inmates to chase the said Mr. Jihad if he ever returned to the premises again. The P.S. strongly denied ever knowing the Mr. Jihad in his entire lifetime.
Speaking on the expressed concerns of the welfare of the inmates, Mr. Wellington assured that the ministry will again retake its operations, adding that commencing this year, the ministry has plans to start paying subsidies to the inmates and also salaries to the staff running the home.
NOWHERE TO FIND MR. JIHAD
Awareness Times explored all avenues to reach the said Mr. Jihad but to no avail as none of the inmates knows where he resides or any trace of his whereabouts. Attempts to contact other members of the Jihad family to trace this mystery Jihad businessman involved in potential gas sales, proved futile as they declined to cooperate.
¬© Copyright by Awareness Times
Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.