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PONDER MY THOUGHTS

DAMAGE TO NATIONAL INFRASTRUCTURE: WHO LET THE DOGS OUT?

February 26, 2021

BY Andrew Keili

The recent spate of theft and damage to national infrastructure has been mind boggling. The theft of transformer oil, removal of aggregate from roads and cutting of electric cables embellishes our credentials as a lawless society. With government spending a considerable amount of money on infrastructure development, some of our compatriots continue behaving like dogs-yes dogs!  Why does this happen? Is this phenomenon instigated by politics, ignorance, greed, stupidity or a combination of some of these? One may legitimately ask the question- who let the dogs out?

Let me digress a bit. Who let the dogs out? Well, I may be a bit unfair to dogs because at least they are easier to control. The Freetown City Council (FCC) has recently embarked upon this-the control of dogs, and has issued regulatory guidelines on this. This has however not gone down well with the dogs. According to the Legal Adviser for the Freetown Dog’s Union (FDU), Doggy Bastado, he laments the poor treatment meted out to his clients by the FCC in its guidelines which targets only dogs.

Bastado says his clients are particularly irked by some of these discriminatory provisions. He says humans behave badly but are let go, probably because they have two legs. He spoke to this writer on a few injustices to his clients by citing some provisions in the Press release.

Provision 1: All dogs shall be registered with the council.

Bastado: This is discriminatory! Are all humans registered with Council? How many of them have paid their council taxes? How long will the registration take considering that even the NCCR has been finding it difficult to register regular citizens over the past three years? Will my clients have biometric cards?

Provision 2: All dogs should be confined to a kennel or kept on a leash.

Bastado: No objection to this, but what about those humans who parade the streets with ulterior motives at night or those who break Nacoverc rules with reckless abandon? Can they also be put on a leash?

Provision 3: All dogs must be vaccinated against rabies

Bastado: No objection to this as long as my clients are given priority with COVID-19 vaccines when they finally get to Freetown-if they get there.

Provision 4: Council may impound any unregistered dog or other animal found in any public space within the city of Freetown.

Bastado: Again, no objection, but how do we know what a public space is? Do we in fact have public places? Can’t my clients go for a walk or have a nap in peace?

Provision 5: Council shall immediately make public of impounding of any unregistered dog or other animal at the council premises.

Bastado: What happens if the communication does not get to their owners and they have no ID?

Provision 6: Council may sell or humanly destroy an unregistered dog or other animal after 24 hours

Bastado: I guess by “destroy” they mean “kill” my clients. FCC needs to know that though the death penalty is on our books, it has rarely been used. Extermination is a gross violation of their Human rights (or correctly put, Dog rights). Over to you -Human Rights Commission!

Provision 7: The owner of an impounded dog or other animal shall pay a fine and custody fee to claim the dog or other animal.

Bastado: What happens to my clients who have no owners or others whose owners may have travelled to the provinces? Before “Jacko cut yai” my clients would have been dead according to Provision 6. Even rescue raids are not allowed because Provision 7 says- “No person shall free any impounded dog or other animal”.

According to Bastado, dogs have never had it so bad. Meanwhile, humans are allowed to break the law with abandon. One report says that in one instance people caught digging up the ball stones meant for road construction for sale became defiant; when SLRA and the Police confronted them, they threatened to burn down CSE vehicles and machines.

Examples galore exist of theft of national infrastructure components of services. Apart from stealing aggregate and electric cables, cutting of poles is commonplace. People steal oil from electricity transformers rendering them ineffective or even causing permanent damage thus depriving several people of electricity. Mobile phone companies with sites in remote environments experience the same problem with theft and vandalism and spend an inordinate amount of money on security and logistics to supply fuel and materials to their sites.

A considerable amount of the theft may be for the free use of infrastructure services like electricity and water. The cutting of water pipes is common. Usually the perpetrators may just want to abstract water at that point or they may want to route new pipes to their houses. Whatever the case it results in damage to valuable infrastructure and to wastages. No wonder Guma Valley Water Company loses as much as 40 percent of water pumped because of such practices. Electricity theft is quite another matter. Bypassing of electricity meters and the illegal abstraction of electricity can also take other forms like directly connecting from the pole to the perpetrators’ houses.

In all of these the repercussions are far reaching. The nation loses a considerable amount of money from physical damage and theft of services. Theft can also be dangerous and lead to accidents or even death. Electricity bypassing may be dangerous not only to the perpetrators but to the public. Depriving crucial emergency facilities of electricity or remote communities of mobile phone facilities could also be life threatening.

This syndrome is being successfully handled in other countries. In Kenya for example the Energy and Communications Law (Amendment) Act 2011 increased the penalties of those caught in unsavoury acts to a fine of $58,000 and a jail term of no less than 10 years. Previously offenders could walk away with a $1,164 fine or three years’ imprisonment. A cogent poser in Sierra Leone should therefore be whether or not state infrastructure should be classed as critical infrastructure or services classed as critical, whose illegal abstraction would be regarded as economic sabotage. The new Electricity Act has provision for penalties for electricity theft but this is neither well defined nor stiff and the law has not been made to bite. Time for a general law to cover all critical national infrastructure!

Thankfully, the allegation that the missing clock at the Kenema Clock Tower was as a result of theft has been swiftly debunked by the Mayor of Kenema. “The clock did not get stolen. It had been malfunctioning for some time and I made the decision to remove it and bring it back to the HQ of the donor, Africell. It will be brought back soon.”, he says. Meanwhile, Kenema residents are waiting with bated breath for the return of their beloved clock. Thankfully, the suggestion made by one caller over a radio programme for IG Sovula to set up a “Clock Protection Squad” in major “Clock Tower Cities”, including Moyamba, will no longer be necessary to implement. It will also not be necessary to install a “safety electrocution device” around the planned Koidu Clock Tower, as contemplated. The problem now seems to be making sure the clocks work-and are kept on the GMT schedule!

So many men (and dare I say women also) are behaving badly like dogs, destroying our national infrastructure. But we should still ask ourselves -Who let the dogs out?

Ponder my thoughts,

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