By Ragan M. Conteh
The Deputy Minister of Works and Infrastructure, Hon. Philip Tetema Tondoneh, Director General of Sierra Leone Roads Authority (SLRA), Ing. Amara Kanneh and staff Monday 11th May, 2020 expressed grave concern and disappointment over the seeming destruction of the newly constructed King Jimmy Bridge by contractors of the Freetown City Council (FCC).
According to SLRA Director General, Ing Amara Kanneh, the FCC is currently undertaking what he perceived as controlling or addressing the unhealthy flow of the sewage.
He said the FCC authorities, especially the Mayor, never informed SLRA formally about the excavating of the middle of the bridge that has the propensity to cause more harm if not properly addressed.
Ing. Amara Kanneh said the FCC contractors have already damaged the bridge without the consent of his institution responsible for the construction of roads nationwide.
The King Jimmy Market is traditionally known as one of Freetown’s trading centres enveloped by River Rokel estuary where traders from Kaffu Bullom Chiefdom, Bonthe District and other settlements on the seaside arrive in dugout canoes with their produce to sell in the capital Freetown.
King Jimmy as a rich historic monument is a vital part of the nation’s dark history and a tourist attraction. Its environment also houses thousands of residents and vandalizing the bridge again after its collapse during the Koroma administration, according to the SLRA boss, could be something that is counterproductive.
It could be recalled that on 9th August 2017, the ageing King Jimmy Bridge collapsed and killed over fifteen (15) people.
The King Jimmy Market is very notable for the sale of fresh food items at both retail and wholesale prices. It was at the King Jimmy Wharf where slaves were chained in dungeons and displayed at auction blocks ready to be shipped as cargo or cartel to the West in slavery.
According to Ing. Amara Kanneh, the FCC has given the contract to a local company which the Ministry of Works and SLRA considered as a way of damaging the bridge that could lead to another terrible disaster that would involve human lives.
Ing. Kanneh however averred that the FCC could pay damages should anything happen to the bridge, whilst he urged the council to dialogue with SLRA engineers to conduct a feasibility study in seeking solution to the problem already caused by the FCC.
The Deputy Minister of Works and Infrastructure, Hon. Philip Tetema Tondoneh re-echoed the stance of SLRA on the current state of the bridge that has interrupted the free flow of vehicular traffic.
He therefore urged the Mayor and team to meet with SLRA engineers and Gento Contractors that constructed the bridge for their swift intervention to immediately resolve the issue.
In her response, Mayor Yvonne Aki Sawyer said she only instructed the council engineers to clear the manhole in a bid to address the unhealthy flow of faeces on the street affecting facilities like the Connaught Teaching Hospital.
The Mayor stressed that it is not the intention of the council to damage the bridge but to address the flowing of sewage along the ITA Wallace Johnson Street that is affecting the public, especially residents of the King Jimmy community and its surroundings.
Whilst the Mayor denied any knowledge of excavating the bridge, she however called for collaboration for a solution to the problem. She therefore promised to hold talks with Gento Company to amend the flowing of sewage on the street.
Mayor Aki Sawyer lamented that the sewage problem was unbearable and that since the work on the bridge commenced, all she was aware of was the cleaning of the manhole which pictures were showed to her by the council engineers. She added that she had never visited the site since the work commenced.
She disclosed that prior to the commencement of work on the bridge, the council officially wrote to SLRA informing it about the state of the bridge and the flowing of faeces on the street, but said SLRA never responded to the letter. The Mayor furthered that the non-response of SLRA prompted them to award a contract to Donstance Wallace for the clearing and fixing up of the problem.
The Ministry of Works and SLRA however also denied receipt of any letter from the council with regards rectifying the problem on the bridge.
The FCC’s Chief Administration averred that they were not doing anything anathema to development and therefore called for collaboration with the appropriate institutions to address the problem instead of playing blame game.
Meanwhile, both parties are expected to have another dialogue at the King Jimmy Bridge on Tuesday 12th May, 2020 to have amicable solution to address the issue.
By Ragan M. Conteh