By Alhaji Haruna Sani
The Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mohamed Lamin Tarawally, has made it clear to the public that the agreement signed between the Government of Sierra Leone and Kingho Rail and Port Company (KRP) is legal and justifiable.
While speaking on the legal framework of the agreement at the Radisson Blu Hotel on Friday, 27 October, the Minister of Justice said there was an agreement between the Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL) and Arise IIP in January of this year. He said Arise IIP fell short by failing to meet certain terms and conditions of the agreement.
“The satisfaction day of the terms and conditions was July 9th of July 2023, but up to this day there was no communications from Arise IIP to the Government of Sierra Leone, implying that they Arise IIP were not ready for business,” he said.
Further allaying the fears of Sierra Leoneans who are concerned about breach of contract – Government signing two agreements for the use of the same facility by two different companies, the Justice Minister said it was Arise IIP that failed to fulfil its own part of the agreement, “therefore there was no agreement, and the new agreement with Kingho is legitimate,” he said.
He said Government could not sit by and allow a vacuum in the operation of a revenue facility like the port and rail, to remain without operations.
In his remarks, Minister of Transport and Aviation, Fanday Turay said as a ministry, they were looking at the aspects of regulations and operations of the national asset (port and rail). He said there were over 42 individuals including key ministers that were present during the negotiation of the port and rail agreement.
He assured that the latest agreement with Kingho is one of the best since President Bio took the mantle of leadership in 2018. He said his ministry was charged with the responsibility of setting up a regulatory agency with the option of looking at the possibility of Government running it assets, but the ministry lacks the capacity to do so, therefore, they we setting up an agency which will do the regulatory aspect.
He said in addition to the agency, another specialised and semi-autonomous agency will also be set to be looking into rail and cable network in Freetown City, which will help create more jobs.
He said the government stands to benefit a lot from the new agreement through which KPR’s offers maximum benefit for the country and its citizens.
He averred that under the newly approved lease agreement, LRMG through its subsidiary KRP will pay an annual lease rent of $ 1,500,000 with a yearly 5% increment over the lease period.
Minister of Mines, Julius Mattai who doubles as an Engineer in Iron Ore gave a vivid background of the mining industry of the country. He refuteed claim that Arise IIP was going to use the facility to run transport, noting that the 192 kilometer rail track was purposely meant to transport Iron Ore.
He said Arise IIP is an entity that he has never seen run a toy train on a table regardless of them running a real transportation.
He said the cabinet negotiation with LRMG ensured that KRP would allocate a minimum of 10% of the existing capacity to third-party entities.
He said in contrast to past practices in granting tax and duty waivers, the government has agreed to a 25% income tax rate in accordance with Income Tax Act 2000 (as amended), a significant departure from Arise IIP’s initial proposal of 0% income tax for the first 15v years of their 25 years lease.