August 8, 2017 By Joseph S. Margai
Residents of Mabang and Makoi villages have expressed their disappointment over government’s ‘negligence’ to reconstruct Mabang Bridge which collapsed in 2013.
Mabang village is situated in Ribbi Chiefdom, Moyamba district, southern Sierra Leone, while Makoi is in Koya Chiefdom, Port Loko district. The Mabang Bridge serves as boundary between the two chiefdoms and districts.
The bridge collapsed on Friday, 22 February, 2013, after a truck loaded with local produce summersaulted and plunged into the river, which left dozens of passengers wounded.
According to local residents, the bridge is one of many colonial monuments that have been abandoned and in dire need of major maintenance since independence.
Meanwhile, Concord Times embarked on a fact-finding mission in order to get first-hand information about the plight of inhabitants of the two villages as well traders who frequently ply the route to conduct commerce.
Alhassan Sesay, a harbour master at Mabang village, said since the bridge collapsed five years ago government has not done much to salvage the situation for residents in that part of the country.
He said residents use locally made boats to travel via the sea, which cost one thousand Leones (Le1, 000).
“Life in this part of the country is very difficult. We are going through lots of constraints in order to get people and their goods across the river. We don’t have outboard machines boats. All we have here are rowing canoes, which are very risky but there is no alternative,” he said.
He explained that they were seriously constrained in doing farming and commerce, which as a result have slowed down as a result of the collapsed of the bridges, coupled with the bad road network.
Another aggrieved resident at Makoi village, Hassan A. Kargbo, who identified himself as a commercial motor bike rider, said they have not been making much money since the bridge collapsed because the road is no longer passable for motorbikes.
A woman who has been doing business along the Mabang-Waterloo route for the past 12 years, Sallay Kanu, expressed frustration that life without the bridge has been very tough for them, and that they have been struggling to convey their goods to Waterloo with a fivefold increase in transport fare since the bridge collapsed.
“Previously, we used to pay ten thousand Leones (Le10,000) from Mabang village to Waterloo but we now pay sixty thousand Leones (Le60,000) or more, depending on the goods we might want to transport,” she said and added that government has blatantly neglected to put premium on reconstructing the bridge.
Member of Parliament representing Constituency 57, Hon. Abu Bakarr Koroma, said that when the bridge collapsed some government officials visited the site following several meetings, adding that the European Union had funded the reconstruction of the bridge, but that the Portuguese contractors were not making any progress, hence their contract has been terminated.
Sorie Ibrahim Kanu, Public Relations Officer (PRO) of Sierra Leone Roads Authority (SLRA), admitted that the contract for the construction of the Mabang Bridge has been delayed, adding that the expectation of the people has not been met because the project has stalled.
“The contract, which was handed over to MSF, a Portuguese company, and officially commissioned by President Koroma in 2015, was funded by the European Union (EU). The project was expected to have ended by 2017 but since 2015 we did not see significant work done. The contractor was unable to live up to expectations of the donor, so SLRA, the National Authorizing Office (NAO), among others, on Friday, 4th August, 2017, terminated their contract,” he explained in his office on Monday.
He disclosed that SLRA has evicted MSF from the project site and all their equipment have been confiscated, adding that their equipment would remain in the possession of the government until they pay the stipulated charges.
The SLRA PRO said they have asked for bids of quantity from reliable contractors, and that the authority would award the contract by the end of the rains.