- Laments Mayor Sandi
April 25, 2016 By Joseph S. Margai
Once the centre of political, educational and social activities, and melting pot of economic boom and birth place of siblings of the colonial masters and great men and women of today, Bonthe Sherbro Island is gradually losing its historical value if nothing is done by the government.
The historic island is situated in the southern region of Sierra Leone and it is 32 miles long and 15 miles wide, covering an average area of approximately 230 square miles, with its western extremity been Cape Ann.
Bonthe Sherbro Island is the site of early 19th century British post against the slave trade, which was acquired from the Sherbro people by the Freetown Colony in 1861. The Island was strategic in developing the colonial economy of Sierra Leone. It was Sierra Leone’s first administrative capital and municipality, and one of two crown colonies (the other being Freetown) of the British colonial masters.
In a recent visit to the island by Vice President Victor Bockarie Foh, Mayor of Bonthe Municipal Council, Layemin Joe Sandi, lamented that almost all important government offices have relocated to the mainland Mattru in the Jong Chiefdom.
He added that the offices that have abandoned the island include the District Medical Officer (DMO), District Census Officer (DCO), District Deputy Director of Education, Deputy Director of Agriculture, the main office of the National Elections Office (NEC), Office of the Assistant District Officer and Local Unit Commander of the Bonthe District Police.
“The unconstitutional relocation of these important officials of government and their offices to Mattru Jong Chiefdom has not only grossly undermined effective and efficient service delivery to our people in the municipality of Bonthe and other chiefdoms in the riverine areas of the district, but has also contributed to the under performance of the council. This remains unacceptable, as I urgently and most humbly call on His Excellency the President through the Office of the Vice President and Honourable Ministers of Government, to take a cabinet decision on the status and development of Bonthe in achieving the Agenda for Prosperity,” he said.
“Now Honorable Vice President, it is with a burning heart that I can say to you, Bonthe is now a very pale shadow of those decades and is no more economically viable with living and working conditions getting extremely hard for us,” he lamented.
He said with melancholy that the town now stands as an impressive relic, and a clear shadow of its former self, with everybody, from youth to women and old people, getting frustrated with the way and manner the town is losing its significance.
“There is virtually no significant economic activity in the town, and the people are poor. The main occupation of its more than 10, 000 inhabitants (last Census count), is fishing, but the Ebola scourge in the country brought that thriving economic activity to a halt as all trade fares in the district were banned to avoid large gathering of people, thus impacting negatively on our own source revenue mobilisation drive,” Mayor Sandi said in tears.
Among the other challenges that the island is grappling with, Mayor Sandi said, isthe absence of a banking institution in Bonthe, adding that such undermines the current government policy on education, which demands that all teachers must open a bank account for payment of salaries.
“Quite apart from teachers and other government functionaries who shall be banking with the bank in Bonthe, it is also expected that the full operation of the Bonthe Fisheries Project will add value to the running of that bank,” he noted.