Freetown Electricity Challenges: Corruption Hampering the process

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By Elkass Sannoh
The perennial electricity problem has continued to rock the country’s capital, Freetown and some major district headquarter towns for inept reasons.
THE CREDIBLE INSIDE SOURCE
“We are running at a huge deficit because of the huge money being expended to supply electricity in Freetown at all costs. We have no option no matter the risk. In fact one of our thermal plants-Nigatta-that supplies 4.5 megawatt at Kingtom is not working and Watsilla at Blackhall road station only supplies 7.5 megawatt,” said one of the EGTC Managers who prefers to be anonymous. He said the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) has inherited a “bogus electricity supply at the expense of state resources.”
He continued: “The truth is, when it is in good working condition Bumbuna hydroelectric project supplies 18 megawatts added to the one supplies by EDSA which amounts to almost 30 megawatts. Out of the two turbines at Bumbuna, only one was working and the only person to take responsibility is the Italian company-Salini. Stop the lies, Bumbuna is not in the hands of the Government of Sierra Leone and they are not supplying the projected megawatt but the appropriate person to answer is Ambassador Henry Macaulay-the former APC Minister of Energy. He will give reasons for the most expensive electricity supply with less output. He should also tell the public why the Italian company has not handed over the Bumbuna project to the Sierra Leone Government.”
He emphatically stated that the Bumbuna phase one project was projected to supply 50 megawatts whilst phase two at 400 megawatts but this, for unknown reason/s, has not been achieved with the phase one irrespective of billions of Leones doled out for sustainable electricity supply. With this appalling development, the current EDSA Management didn’t stop but went ahead to rent an office space at Kingtom for a whooping sum of one billion per annum. This was a complete waste of state resources but that was the way the APC Government operated with kickbacks.”
“Even before President Ernest Bai Koroma left office there was epileptic electricity supply,” Ing. Abibatu Kargbo. “Before the commencement of the political campaigns we were not getting constant electricity in places such as Calaba Town, Savage Square, parts of Lumley, the entire Dwazark community, Kamayama and Regent among others.
FAKE 50 MEGAWATTS
According to Dr. Abdul Rahim Jalloh who was explaining the successes, challenges and projections of the Bumbuna project, “the Bumbuna hydroelectric project was commissioned by President Ernest Bai Koroma on 6th November, 2009 with a full reservoir and plant capable of generating 50 megawatt of electricity. The Bumbuna dam has not been able to supply all the power generated from its plant to a good part of the country.”
He said what is now needed for Freetown to get electricity 24 hours a day is about 100 megawatts, adding that with Bumbuna phase II, the output will increase by 350 megawatts thereby addressing the acute problem of electricity supply in the country.
Undoubtedly, when the Bumbuna hydroelectric switch was turned on, there was wide jubilation from State House to every corner of Freetown and its environs to tell us that President Koroma’s promise has been fulfilled. Like the road construction, all the Ministers then had nothing meaningful to tell journalists apart from “we have constructed roads and provided electricity supply.”
The authoritative questions are: at what expense? With such a huge chunk of money, why the Italian Ship to provide electricity? After a year of full swing, parts of Freetown went into blackout. Sadly though, Bumbuna township which is the host community only got power supply four years later when Makeni started enjoying the facility. The former Minister of Energy was mainly bent on giving empty promises instead of providing the leadership necessary to overcome the growing shortcomings.
BUMBUNA TRUE FACE
In providing a brief background to the most misconstrued Bumbuna hydroelectric project, let it be known that this dam was identified in 1971 during the tenure of President Siaka Stevens and construction began in 1975. Work was halted in May 1997, about 85% completed, due to the Sierra Leone civil war, and did not resume until 2005. The dam’s US$327 million cost was provided by the African Development Bank.
Since President Koroma’s ascendancy to power-2007 to date, millions of United States Dollars have been spent by the World Bank for the sustainability of the Bumbuna phase one project. Also, as recent as December this year, Sierra Leone stands to benefit funding support from the World Bank -59.57 Million United States Dollars-to increase electricity supply and the extension of the Bumbuna hydroelectric project. With all these donor support, what is the status of electricity supply in Sierra Leone?
In May 2011, the former APC government signed an agreement with US-based Joule Africa to undertake the plant’s second phase development. The project requires an investment of $750m. Ironically, it was expected to be completed by 2017 and since 2011, we only read of the launch of its partnership with Endeavor Energy (December 2017), a privately held international independent power project company focused on developing and investing in power generation facilities in Africa.
Why the delay since 2011? Information gathered reveal that 75% of the second phase of the plant will be financed by debt and the rest by equity. This will be likened to the 27 years toll road agreement between APC and the Chinese. No wonder we continue to wallow in debts even though President Koroma inherited a debt free Sierra Leone.
In the 21st century citizens should not beg for electricity as it is the responsibility of any elected Government to provide those basic social services. It is out of insanity that a father brags for providing daily meals for his children and expects the children to make a hell out of the father’s responsibility. What a shame!
President Koroma promised electricity at the expense of the country’s fragile economy and we are being hard hit by this unwise decision. You don’t force development without putting in place the necessary structures.
APC SPOKESPERSON
In a telephone interview with the former Deputy Government Spokesman-Cornelius Deveaux, he queried in a very impolite tone: “Who said that there was a public outcry for rampant blackout during our tenure?” He went further to decry those who grumbled of not having electricity and called their complaints as lies. Cornelius who doubles as the National Publicity Secretary for the main opposition APC Party said he wants to see one person who will say he/she was not enjoying the constant electricity flow. As he continues to pose a very harsh defense, he cut off the telephone interview in order to dodge the question.
There is no doubt that erratic electricity supply has even affected development and expansion of our job market. Instead of the former APC Government accepts those challenges, some stooges and political sycophants are now saying that “we were misusing the constant electricity flow and SLPP is known for rampant blackout.” This is the highest level of unpatriotism and a betrayal to those who voted in the APC Party. No matter how it could be fancifully interpreted but a deficient power infrastructure dampens economic growth. But the APC was bent on providing electricity by destroying the economy.
GHANA AKOMSOMBO AND SUNBIRD ENERGY
Ghana which is far more advanced with better electricity infrastructure recently overhauls the entire electricity project after the “Dumsor Dumsor national strike.”
The Akosombo Dam, also known as the Volta Dam, is a hydroelectric dam on the Volta River in southeastern Ghana. The Akosombo Dam was called « the largest single investment in the economic development plans of Ghana. » Its original electrical output was 912 megawatts which was upgraded to 1,020 megawatts.
In Sierra Leone the Sunbird Bio-energy ethanol plant produces 14 MW of power. Currently, they are selling 11.5 MW of their power to the national power grid. Sunbird started providing power to the national power grid system on Thursday 11 January 2018. The ethanol factory is a source we can use as another solution for the epileptic power supply.
LASTING SOLUTION
Let me recommend that the SLPP Government, through its experts, should conduct detailed feasibility studies to avoid the problems plaguing the first phase of the power plant. The second phase is expected to provide year-round supply of power to the region and also attract commercial and industrial investments. If this is done, the reported poor management that bedeviled the success of the phase one would not be rolled over to phase two. Let the general will takes primacy over the selfish will.
This is The Pen Of The Voiceless Sierra Leoneans.
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Abu Bakarr Tarawally is a Journalist based in Freetown. He works for the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation as a radio producer. He has once served as Editor for a few newspapers in Freetown, including Sierra Express Media, The Exclusive Newspaper and his own newspaper, the Daily Express Publications. He is a teacher trainer, and loves writing and reading a lot. Email: abstarawally@gmail.com. Call +232 88601277 or +2327661303.

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