January 30, 2015 By Mohamed Massaquoi reporting from Mamamah
A high-powered delegation headed by the Minister of Transport and Aviation and his deputy, including the Director of the Freetown International Airport at Mamamah and other state officials, yesterday visited the proposed resettlement sites for residents of the various towns and villages around the vicinity of the demarcated airport project construction site.
Minister Leonard Balogun Koroma, while addressing the Mamamah community leaders, said their visit to the new settlement for over 63 villages was to examine the graphic work by the engineers, especially on the relocation plan and how they should commence immediate operations to effectively and efficiently relocate the people.
“We are here because we want the project to start in earnest,” the minister noted. “President Koroma is serious about constructing this all important airport and that is why we have put all mechanisms in place to ensure that residents of communities where the airport is to be constructed and its immediate environs are adequately relocated. Also we want to provide basic amenities for them and to construct their houses to standard.”
Mr. Koroma said very soon when the project shall have commenced, he will relocate his office to Mamamah “so that collectively we can work together with other ministries, departments and agencies and the community people to implement the project”.
The bidding process, he said, had already been done for the construction of the houses and that apart from the houses, “we will also construct schools, water facilities, and community centers among other things”.
He said he was optimistic and extremely confident that the project, when completed, will open the doors for trade and direct foreign investment in Sierra Leone.
“This is the first time Sierra Leone will get an airport located on the mainland. This is absolutely commendable because we have enough space to construct restaurants, standard hotels, good roads, and quarters among others,” said Minister Koroma. “In fact we want to ensure that houses at the new settlement are of standard because the airport is a strong foundation for the president’s agenda of constructing a new city. The government of President Koroma will continue to provide the leadership role in improving the standard of living of Sierra Leoneans.”
He added that the contractors will immediately visit the communities to start the engineering work on the sites.
Director of the Mamamah Airport project, Morlai Buya-Kamara, said local authorities have been very instrumental in ensuring that the appropriate land was allocated for the relocation of the affected communities, noting that a lot of consideration was made before the decision to relocate the locals was reached.
He said the chiefs had not only provided the land for the resettlement process but have also assured them that they will amicably live together and share common interests more so when the project stands to benefit not only the country but their respective communities.
“Mr. Minister, I want to take this opportunity to thank our chiefs and other community leaders for their relentless efforts and commitment since the project started,” said Mr. Buya-Kamara. “We have come a long way to reach at where we are today. I am happy that the community people are strongly and collaboratively working with us. This is what is expected of our people and they are doing absolutely well. I hope and pray that the good relationship will continue.”
Mamamah project engineer, James Sawyer, said they have properly planned the site for the construction work to commence. He said for the southern section of the settlement, they will cater for nine villages to be resettled including Maboima, Matonte, Maybana, Mabol, and Masantigie among others, adding that they have identified areas for the construction of community centers, mosques and schools.
Mr. Sawyer informed the minister and his team that they have demarcated the entire acreages of land allocated for the resettlement of the affected communities.
“There will be access road both in and out of the communities for the smooth movement of people. All of these settlements are within a five miles radius from the airport. These areas were chosen because of the sources of water, the geography of the land among many other considerations,” he said.