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As timber factory owners threaten to close down operations…

Over 5000 Sierra Leonean youth to lose job

October 27, 2020

President of the Union of Timber Factory Owners,Nimer A.Dayekh,who also doubles as the Managing Director of  Nazadco Trading Company (SL) Limited, has called on President Bio to have a rethink about his decision to appoint a single agent in charge of exporting timber out of the country, stating that they would have no option but to close down operations and establish their business elsewhere should the government refuses to remove some the bottlenecks around the trade.

In 2018, President Julius Bio appointed Babadi Kamara of Leadway Trading Company as the sole government agent in charge of exporting timber out of the country, a move that has been deemed not favourable for other players in the timber sector, especially factory owners who add value to the product, and as well create jobs for thousands of youth across the country.

The association, which comprises fifteen members, are in the business of adding value to timber so as to meet international standards. All combined, the association has a workforce of over five thousand Sierra Leonean youth, who are at the risk of losing their jobs should the government fails to award export license to the factories.

In August 12th, 2020, the Ministry of Trade, through its Chief Director, awarded a export permits  to Nazadco Trading Company (SL) Limited and other timber processing factories to export processed timber residue products.

The said letter reads thus: “I am under instruction to acknowledge receipt of your letter of 6th August, 2020 on the above subject and convey approval for your company to export 50x20fts containers of processed timber residue products of clean six (6) faces.”

The approval from the Ministry of Trade was revoked by the Office of the Chief Minister after Babadi Kamara of Leadway wrote a protest letter to the General Manager of the Freetown Terminal, asking that the management should not honour the approval from the trade ministry.

“This is very much frustrating for us as investors. We are doing all to empower the youth as we hire expatriates to transfer technology to our employees. We have invested millions of United States Dollars to establish this business, but our efforts are being frustrated,” cried Nimer A.Dayekh,Managing Director of Nazadco Trading Company Limited.

He said while the official government price to export a 20ft container is two thousand eight hundred United States Dollars, the sole government agent is asking them to pay seven thousand Dollars to export a 20ft container of processed timber.

“How can a single agency be charging us exorbitantly to export our product, when we are contributing a lot to the country’s economy. Nobody should take away our profit because he is an agent of the government,” he said,but Badadi Kamara challenged that they produce document to ascertain the said claim.

Nazadco operates in Bombali District along the Magburaka highway where it has established three timber processing plants with a workforce of over four hundred Sierra Leoneans, plus a few Chinese expatriates.

According to Dayekh, before they established the factory, they approached the government and that they were given permission to go ahead with their operations, with a promise to award them export license.

“We were even promised export license, but it later turned out to be a disappointment to us .We used to have over 400 workers here who are hundred percent Sierra Leoneans, but we have decided to downsize because we are not seeing any progress that the government would grant us license. We would have no option but to close down operations,” he said.  

He expressed his determination to be producing quality furniture for office and private use if only he is allowed to operate within a favourable environment.

“Why do we need to always be consumers when we have the row material here? We have the capacity to produce all sort of quality furniture and avoid exporting them. That would add more value to the country and ensure maximum revenue for the government. Let us work together and create jobs for the youth of Sierra Leone,” he appealed.

Aside from the employment opportunity the company is providing for youth across the country, he said women are also benefiting from the wood waste which they use to produce charcoal for the market.

One of the beneficiary women,Haja Koroma, called on the government to award license to the company so that they would continue to benefit.

“Before now, things were difficult for us because we had no source of income. But since this company came here, things have been better off for us as we are given the wood free of charge which we use to produce charcoal for sale. We are pleading that government grants them license to operate,” she said.

Also, Bahsco Holding Sawmill, a timber processing factoring which had over three hundred workforce, has already close down operations as a result of what the management referred to as the monopoly surrounding the trade which has stifled their business to the extent of going into liquidation.

Managing Director of the company, Mohamed Sahid Bah said situation became worst for them since 2018 when government decided to institute a single agent in charge of exporting timber.

He said the frustrating aspect of it all is that his company is manufacturing finished products including wooden doors, tiles, among others, which they used to export to Europe and Asia, but have been prevented to progress further due to the exorbitant cost of exporting the products.

Banico Holding is another factory which has already gone into liquidation.