In parts one and two of the series of articles, lamenting the plight of Fourah Bay College (FBC), the University of Sierra Leone, published in 2015, I explained the difficulties that FBC is going through.
In particular, I discussed the reasons for such a sad state of affairs; the reaction that followed from the Project Implementation Unit of the government; and the ensuing questions regarding the commencement of implementation and completion of the redevelopment project that the PIU is yet to answer.
These series of articles have attracted a lot of attention – both in and out of the country. And I would suggest that those individuals and organisations that are willing to help out – like our Australian friends, should go ahead and do so.
In this the concluding edition – part three of ‘The Tears of FBC’, current events and the “behind the scenes” shenanigans are discussed.
Last week, the minister of finance and economic development – Dr. Kaifala Marah, explained to the public in his ministry’s conference hall that, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has finally loaned the Government of Sierra Leone US $12 Million for FBC’s rehabilitation, and that the loan agreement between the two countries has been signed.
Good news, regardless of how long it has taken for this to happen.
But remember however, that this is a loan and implies that it should be repaid over a reasonable period of time.
Note also that signing an agreement is one thing. The disbursement of money (funds) relating to that agreement is definitely another matter.
This is because all loans have conditions attached, even though the minister did not explain these conditionalities for the understanding of the public.
Let us also recall that the invitation for bids for this FBC redevelopment project is still ongoing and closes in March 2016. So when will the project visibly commence? Or simply put, when will the actual rehabilitation work start?
I still repeat that it’s a pity to sign a loan agreement for FBC’s rehabilitation, when the country had the resources to fully fund this project.
Consider this: Last year, Rokel Commercial Bank, in which the Government has a major stake or share, lost Le 90 Billion in the form of loans given to would-be-creditors, for which there was no repayment – simple DEFAULT situation.
Mr. Kebe Kouroma – the chairman of the bank, after explaining this setback in the bank’s annual meeting held last December, was still upbeat about the years ahead for the Bank. Very interesting optimism, but heads would have rolled by now had it been in other countries.
The calculations indicated that such a loss by the bank was equivalent to US $ 20 Million; which was really more than enough to have rehabilitated FBC.
So, why was that amount not invested in FBC (on education in the country), which could have yielded higher return.
Furthermore, the argument about Africa’s development has always centered on the need to provide “African solutions to African problems”.
Hence, we know the relevance of the African Development Bank (AfDB) to Sierra Leone. Last year, one of our brothers even vied for the presidency of that Institution. In view of this, I am convinced that AfDB would have come to our aid to rehabilitate FBC, if the government had approached the Bank.
If that had happened, FBC’s rehabilitation would have commenced long ago, because disbursements of funds from the AfDB is less complex and faster than most other development finance institutions.
Readers are further encouraged to note that this BADEA (Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa) project in the form of US $12 Million, does not cover the road rehabilitation and reconstruction project through FBC and on the campus.
This is solely the responsibility of the government, and “behind-the-scenes” meetings have taken place on this matter in the Office of the Vice President, with great interest from an elderly statesman from Germany.
My only hope is that the VP will in due time inform his Boss (HE, Dr Ernest B Koroma – The President) for approval to ensure that the FBC road construction commences immediately.
This brings me to something very IMPORTANT. President Koroma is the only and first alumnus from FBC in Sierra Leone to become President of the country. So, one should say that FBC is fortunate.
Nevertheless, FBC’s blessings will only be realized or made visible if such a rare opportunity is translated into action by President Koroma.
As explained in part one, President Koroma’s “faith of appreciation” of FBC should be NOW.
And he should not therefore wait any longer, regarding the rehabilitation of the FBC roads.
Furthermore, the Thompson/Dumbuya/Gbamaja Administration of FBC is doing its utmost as construction works are now on-going to expand the Amphitheatre (the normal venue for conferment of degrees).
Another structure is coming up by the side of Kennedy Building to provide additional lectures halls for the college.
In conclusion, there are signs that FBC’s rehabilitation will commence this year, no matter when precisely. The loan agreement with the Saudis has now been signed by the Minister.
The truth however, is that we have wasted and waited for five years for this to happen. And if Time Series Analysis (TSA) will continue to remain a very important tool of analysis in Economics and Statistics, then its going to be another 5 years for FBC’s rehabilitation to complete.
This could mean the project may be completed in 2021. By which time, many students would have passed through Fourah Bay “Schollege” – a combination of school and college, where the former refers to students coming for classes and then returning to their homes like in normal schools; while the latter refers to students expecting to be in hostel facilities which are currently lacking, but have faculties to attend lectures – if you get my drift.
The government now has the opportunity and responsibility to prove the TSA projection and sceptics wrong, by ensuring that FBC’s rehabilitation is completed by latest 2019.
So, readers, I can now rest my pen and focus on monitoring the envisaged progress in the rehabilitation of FBC in the months ahead.
Posterity will definitely judge all the different stakeholders involved in FBC’s rehabilitation in the not-too-distant future and may God Bless Us All.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Dr. Denis M Sandy is a lecturer at the department of economics and commerce, Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone.