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Over sale of $6.5m peace diamond…

NMJD Demands Explanation!

December 6, 2017 By Joseph S. Margai

Executive Director of Network Movement for Justice and Development (NMJD), Abu Brima, has expressed his organisation’s disappointment over the auction sale of the 709-carat peace diamond in New York, United States, at US$6.5m, thus demanding an explanation from government.

The 709-carat diamond, which was dubbed “peace diamond”, was discovered in March 2017 by Pastor Emmanuel Momoh in Koryardu village, Kono district, Eastern Sierra Leone.

On 11th May, the diamond was displayed at the Bank of Sierra Leone Complex in Kingtom for sale through a competitive bidding process which attracted five companies, including Raydiam B.V.B.A, which offered to pay US$7,077,777 as the highest bidder. Also, H.M. Diamonds were willing to pay US$5,200,000, Staff Bico tendered US$5,136,360, Diamond Creations offered US$2,000,000, while OFEA Diamonds expressed willing to pay US$3,736,000.

During the bid opening ceremony at the Bank of Sierra Leone Complex, Director General of National Minerals Agency (NMA), Sahr Wonday, told newsmen that the bids submitted were below government’s reserve price, although he failed to state the said price.

“I regret to announce that none of these bids met government’s reserve price. Similar bidding exercise would be re-opened in due course and the public would be informed accordingly. We encourage all today’s bidders to review their bids and participate in the next round,” he said.

The diamond, rated as the fourteenth largest in history, was also taken to Belgium for sale before it was moved to New York, where it was finally auctioned for US$6, 536, 360, less than the previous price that was rejected by government.

In a telephone interview yesterday, NMJD’s Brima expressed that it was a total disappointment because the previous price in Freetown was higher than the one in New York.

“We don’t know what might have transpired. With all the time and resources spent, this amount was not something we were looking forward to. We were expecting something higher than the previous US$7.7 million. This is a let-down to us, especially the owner of the diamond. We demand an explanation from the government,” he said.

“Ministers, officials of the National Minerals Agency (NMA), among others, were travelling all over the place spending thousands of dollars on travelling allowances and other things. We really want to know what it takes to negotiate, package and market the peace diamond. They need to give us more information than what they have just given us now,” he further demanded.

While Deputy Minister of Mines and Mineral Resources, Abdul Ignosi Koroma had earlier stated that the bid opening ceremony at Bank Complex was a manifestation of government’s commitment to the principles of transparency and accountability in the management of the country’s mineral wealth, NMJD’s Abu Brima yesterday charged that they were extremely disappointed at the low level of transparency portrayed by the government in the sale of the diamond.

Founder of the said diamond, Pastor Momoh had expressed high hopes after the initial bid was rejected that: “We believe we would get what we want on the next competitive bidding process. I have confidence in the government. It has displayed the highest level of transparency in this process,” he said.

For Presidential Spokesperson, Abdulai Bayraytay, the issue of ‘blood diamond and diamond turn stone’ has been the mantra of many in the country, but noted that their regime was different.

“Our demonstration of transparency is very profound under the leadership of President Koroma and that whatever the government accrues from the proceeds of the diamond would be announced and later paid into the consolidated revenue fund,” he assured.

Meanwhile, Monday night’s sale in New York are left citizens asking why the ‘peace diamond’ was auctioned at a price lower than the one rejected by government during the first bid opening in Freetown. The government though is yet to answer that salient question.