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What is really going on at SL Civil Aviation Authority?

January 16, 2015

A recent newspaper article presented the Sierra Leone Civil Aviation Authority chief as the guardian of our country’s interests and the Great Knight in the struggle against corruption. After an objective analysis, I have to conclude that rather than guarding Sierra Leone’s interests the chief of the SLCAA is clearly defending interests different than those of our country. The bare facts before us demand an immediate and profound investigation of this individual’s actions and behaviour because, rather than showing an ethical motivation, they suggest, at the very least, the existence of contradictions that any court of law would find difficult to understand.

First, we all know that airline security is nowadays an increasing source of concern, for the passengers themselves but also for the airlines and, in the end, for each and every serious country in the world. Therefore, the sovereign act of a nation to impose a security fee on airline tickets to finance high quality security standards should not be a matter of “no interest” to any individual private company, national or international. We now know that, for more than 3 years, the Chief of SLCAA has inexplicably opposed the Government’s explicit decision to impose a security fee on airline tickets (expressed in the signing of a contract calling for it) on the basis of fallacious arguments such as the airlines’ lack of interest and the supposed existence of international treaties forbidding such type of decision by sovereign states.

However, the damage caused to the vast majority of the people of Sierra Leone by this individual goes far beyond a suspicious negligent resistance: it has meant the single-handed (his hand) creation of a USD16 million plus burden on the finances of Sierra Leone, in particularly difficult times, that will be paid ultimately by the poorest members of our society that are now bound to receive less education and health services in that precise amount. Yes, Mr. Koroma, the Chief of SLCAA, has managed to transfer this amount which was agreed by the contracting parties to be paid just by the users of Lungi International Airport to each and every citizen of Sierra Leone. Is this behaviour guarding the best interest of Sierra Leone? Could it be the case that it is actually guarding the best interest, in a naive possible scenario, of the people working at the SLCAA or, in a less naive scenario, the interest of some other private individuals or companies?

We now also know that last December the Immigration Control System installed at Lungi Airport detected four passengers attempting to travel with stolen passports registered in Interpol’s watch list. Mr. Koroma’s actions reveal that he prefers to serve the supposed disinterest of some airlines rather than to avoid a tragedy such as that of the Malaysian Airlines where we know for a fact that two passengers boarded that flight with stolen passports.

But, is it true that airlines are not interested in stolen or forged passport detection? Of course not! The Director General of IATA, the global association that serves international airlines, has not only expressed his associates’ deepest concern for this growing problem but has demanded concrete actions from governments in this field.

Is it true that Sierra Leone has signed treaties that forbid us from imposing a security fee to airlines? Of course not! All ICAO and IATA agreements cannot (and could not) supersede a sovereign state’s decision. This is why all such agreements on the matter hereby discussed are non-binding (it could not be otherwise).

Why then is Mr. Koroma doing what he is doing? Why is he daring to go public with his ill-constructed “arguments” to resist the imposition of a security fee that most countries have already put in place? Why this desperate call for the attention of some kind of press? Could it be that in his attempt to play the poor little sheep, the wolf has inadvertently shown its tail? We must now seek the truth. We really must.

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