By Samuel Glazer Thomas
Many people whom I have interacted with would often describe me as a pessimist or rather too controversial a figure. In truth, I am neither of the two characterizations. What is however true about me is the proclivity to see white and call it white.
Today, I am zeroing in on one of President Julius Maada Bio’s appointees…Umaru Napoleon Koroma as Deputy Minister of Mines and Mineral Resources. The extractive industry as many would call it is a ruthless terrain….one which can swallow you up if you are not made of sterner stuff with requisite credentials. These credentials don’t necessarily come with academic or professional qualifications. They come with a certain pedigree that would not only give you an edge over investors and other significant others in the industry, it will equally account for a larger proportion of the achievements you will make as a veritable servant of the state.
However, a quick scan of Umaru Napoleon Koroma’s credentials will give us a clearer perspective on why I believe he is the proverbial ‘missing puzzle’ in President Bio’s efforts to sanitize the minerals sector. From holding a post graduate degree in Dispute Resolution from the University of London, the unassuming former Deputy Minister of Justice speciliases in International Commercial and International Investment Law. His first two degrees in Political Sciences and Law respectively may have heralded and positioned him for greater things in life but his dedication to his legal practice sets him apart from others.
As a lawyer, Umaru Napoleon Koroma made outstanding representations in a number mining dispute and by the time he became Deputy Minister of Justice, he was well grounded to conveniently handle a mining dispute between the government of Sierra Leone and the Gerald Group after a mining lease agreement with SL mining was terminated by the government of Sierra Leone. While his short one year stint as Chairman for the National Commission for Privatization may have further exposed him to governance and investment as he oversaw the operations of more than 12 parastatals, Umaru Napoleon Koroma is a fierce negotiator with an uncompromising attitude towards individuals or organizations with the proclivity for byzantine shenanigans. He is unapologetically patriotic!!
If the mining sector is about regulation….in line with the Mines and Minerals Act; if Mining is about investment and negotiations; if all those highly commendable and people centered mining and lease agreements during President Bio’s first five year tenure were done with significant contributions from our new Deputy Minister of Mines; can we then conclude that the appointment of a firebrand lawyer in the person of Umaru Napoleon Koroma was a masterstroke by the President? Oh yes, it is!!
In Sierra Leone, several mining deals have not only gone bad in the past, but have led to dangerous stalemates between citizens, investors and governments. And this was due to the apparent lack of involvement of competent legal professionals in these deals. In Umaru Napoleon Koroma, the government and people of Sierra Leone are assured of excellent governance architecture in the mining sector and I say this with no hesitation. Indeed, the missing part of the puzzle is here. Congratulations Mr Deputy Minister!!