Sunday, October 07, 2007

Freetown Mayor Presents Local Government Master Plan - Part 2


Unless and until modern market facilities with adequate storage spaces and social amenities such as toilets and nurseries are provided, there can be no success recorded at driving traders off the streets. Multi-Storyed Markets MUST be constructed at Sewa Grounds and King Jimmy, whilst Kissy Road and Kroo Town markets should be immediately be rehabilitated and extended backwards, inwards and sideways possibly with compulsory acquisition of some adjacent properties.

Management of the markets at Ferry Junction and Aberdeen Road have been too politicized and are either poorly partitioned and or managed and not even under City Council control. There is room for urgent upgrading and improvement of these facilities which if properly re-constructed, can also help reduce traders’ influx, eliminate “gbaffas” and illegal kiosks erections along foot-paths. But unless markets are constructed and expanded, street trading and all other vices associated with it will continue to be a menace.

No location, with sustained street trading and the proliferation of illegal structures, slums, ghettos and “potes”, coupled with stray pigs and dogs roaming the central business district - all of which vices persistently contribute to a lowering of our national social standards and global ranking - can or should be aptly described as a Capital City.

As traders and demented vagrants compete for prominence in the Law Courts and State House environs, our entire national Cathedral/Wallace-Johnson Street axis - eye marked for development by Council as a “Heritage Promenade” - to name just another location - has also been transformed into garbage dumpsite and market centre for vagrants.

Illegal structures have also sprung up right in the middle of prominent side streets - such as the Siaka Stevens Street/Upper West Brook Street intersection - which are yearning for development as feeder roads to ease traffic congestion. Such structures constitute an eyesore, and have continued to deprive law abiding and rates paying residents access to emergency services such as the fire force and ambulances and must be demolished.


Within to context of the Local Government Act, Council was to have since 2004 assumed full responsibility for management of all educational institutions from Nursery to JSS3. Between then to date, though Council has been compelled to annually reflect Government expenditure for Education in our budgets, (Le3.5bn in 2005, Le3.8bn in 2006, Le4.2bn in 2007 to the proposed Le5.4bn for 2008) not a cent has passed through our control or account.

As schools premises continue to be extensively and illegally encroached upon with impunity (sometimes by liquor bars, brothels and cinema halls proprietors), the general infrastructure reflect dilapidation and in dire straits (inadequate desks, chairs and teaching and learning materials). Security over schools assets is generally lax; classrooms are over crowded, Teacher/Pupil ratio low and learning hours far shorter. Some schools are even improvising “tin shacks” as classrooms, which leak profusely during the rains or become unbearably hot in the dry season.

There is an urgent need to construct new classroom blocks (the Mandella Field in the East offers ample space and opportunity), rehabilitate and expand existing structures to meet growing influx of students entering the primary and Junior Secondary streams.


Even before termination of the Freetown Infrastructure Rehabilitation Project (FIRP), periodic roads maintenance within the municipality as a core SLRA activity was non-existent. Road Taxes levied (and collected in advance) from fuel pump sales are not applied towards its intended purposes or properly accounted for.

Feeder roads in the East - particularly within the Fourah Bay community - are the most deplorable as they have not received Council attention since the exit of Alderman A.F. Rahman as Mayor of Freetown in 1961.

There is an urgent need to ensure the proper and accountable disbursement of Road Tax so that local councils can begin to undertake regular feeder roads construction and rehabilitation, in fulfillment of their obligations. This should not be a difficult undertaking for the Freetown City Council as our Engineers had already received adequate training and experience on feeder roads construction and maintenance whilst on secondment to the SLRA during the entire 10-year span of the FIRP (1993 -2003).


Also requiring priority attention is construction of a ten-acre “Transit Vehicle Park” between Waterloo and Freetown. The existing Dan-Street, Kissy Shell and Clay Factory Lorry Parks are unable to cope with traffic volumes and or vehicle sizes. A ban should be placed on commercial vehicles of over 7-ton capacity plying the main city streets, and a new and much bigger Lorry Park constructed outside the city to serve as a transit point, thus (a) reducing traffic congestion in our major streets and (b) extending the longevity of our roads infrastructure.

Parts of this same “Transit Vehicle Park” can also be used as (a) Towing Bay - where all illegally parked and confiscated vehicles from street garages can be stowed/garaged until retrieval by the owner against fixed daily charges (as is successfully happening in all civilized environments) and (b) a Scrap Yard - for final demolition of derelict vehicles abandoned along roads and streets in the city.

Effectively implemented and managed, the “Transit Vehicle Park” contemplated will in addition to all above benefits become both a source of employment and also serve as a skills training centre.


Arrangement is far in hand for financial support from Kingston-upon-Hull City Council to augment government annual development grant of Le1.3bn plus own funds exceeding Le6bn towards the actualization of this proposed Le20bn project, which on completion will show-piece

· Two underground basement parking floors with a capacity for a total 200 vehicles of approximately 27,280 Sq. Ft per floor

· A sub-basement maintenance department of approximately 14,782 Sq. Ft

· A ground floor of approximately 28,715 Sq. Ft.

· Three upper floors of approximately 86,148 Sq. Ft

· A pent house /roof area of approximately 28,715 Sq. Ft

In addition to housing the entire Council administrative offices, there is also provision for two amphitheatres and two banquets halls for befitting state and civic occasions.


It is expected that this function will soon be reverted to Council and with much greater speed than it was unilaterally withdrawn. Once that is achieved, due cognizance should be given to the need to sustain government support at the present regular monthly Le300 million threshold - instead of reverting to the previous paltry monthly Le35 million.

Suffice it to say however that against a backdrop of limited resources, relocating and capacitating alternative landfill sites is not an emergency. The present King George Brooke (Kissy) and King Tom sites properly managed - with squatters and gardeners forcefully evicted to facilitate optimum use - can serve our needs for another 10 years.

Meantime and for the records, UNDP implementation of a DFID US$250k grant to Council in 2006, specifically to (a) de-sludge and fence-off the overflowing and only Sewerage Pond in Freetown, and (b) construct an all-weather track access road within the King Tom land fill site will soon commence.


Due primarily to lawlessness, encroachment upon the limited social landmarks such as Parks, Civic and Recreational facilities have to a great extent adversely impacted on core family values. Parks either just do not exist or have become too risky for children and families to visit. There are only three Parks serving the entire municipality - The Victoria, Taylor Cummings and Constance Cummings-John Gardens. None is pristine enough to justify their nomenclature, as depending on the time of the year they are put to various ulterior uses (including male urinals) by pedestrians, traders and encroachers.

There is an urgent need to rehabilitate and preserve what is left to complement civic authority.


All over the world it is part of Council’s responsibility to safeguard the lives of its citizens. In Freetown in particular, the high volume of vehicular traffic at some intersections pose significant risks to pedestrians - particularly those with proximity to schools, markets, hospitals and playing fields - such as at the Brookfields Bus Station, and at the Ferry Junction and Kissy Shell along the Bai-Bureh Road. Hence the need for overhead foot bridges for pedestrian crossings at these points. Speed bumps will suffice for other congested locations.


Our cemeteries too have been extensively encroached upon with illegal structures springing up everywhere, and are now grossly inadequate to service population growth. Evidence of fresh corpses being accidentally dug out in frantic searches for new grave sites abound. A gloomier picture cannot be painted and the health hazards posed to residents with proximity to cemeteries, workers and the environment are enormous.

Though several families continue to claim title to numerous graves spaces, the paucity of Council’s once-in-a-lifetime fees levied, when compared to present day funeral expenses, cannot and do not in anyway compensate for such perpetual claims over grave spaces.

Also with steady municipal population explosion, the horizontal pattern of burial is to a large extent counter-productive to prudent cemeteries management and with tacit government support, this will have to be replaced by the vertical approach. (Much easier for our “dear departed” in case they wish for a stroll).

The provision of an alternative cemetery site at Yams Farm should be vigorously pursued in tandem with the above proposals.


To show that the Freetown City Council is neither dormant nor bereft of innovative ideas. None of the above proposals, which is complimentary to the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) within the context of Government Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) is new. All have been articulated in correspondence with the relevant ministers in the previous government, but it was certainly not in their interest to facilitate this Council in achieving any. With President Bai Koroma’s “zero-tolerance” on corruption, coupled with his governments resolve not to accept failure as an option, implementation of all above proposals will reflect a level of improvement in social order within the municipality.


Through a direct, overt and evident central government support. Government has to be seen to be supporting Local Councils. In addition to huge arrears exceeding Le1.5 billion already outstanding over government and private properties, only 17.5% of the estimated Le12.5 billion potential annual “own” revenue due from 131,000 properties Rates - in addition to Market Dues, Local Taxes and Fees and Licenses within Freetown - is collected. Tacit central government support to Freetown City Council in the enforcement of penalties on defaulters who deliberately refuse to meet their civic obligations will greatly assist us mobilize own revenues.

Finally, Sec.65 of the Local Government Act of 2004 allows all Local Councils to borrow by raising loans or overdrafts “.............for purposes and under such conditions as the Minister (of Local Government which should be scrapped anyway), after consulting the Minister of Finance may approve.........”.

This to my trained mind does not exclude access to venture capital through Discount Houses or issuance of Municipal Bonds to support actualization of revenue generating and evidently self-repaying projects requiring medium to long term repayment plans such as (a) The William Wilberforce Memorial Hall project (b) The Sewa Grounds and King Jimmy Storeyed-Markets complex (and other markets expansion/rehabilitation projects) and (c) The Transit Vehicle Park - for a start.

Freetown Mayor Presents Local Government Master Plan