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Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Testing the Waters for the Needful Lungi Bridge

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What a lovely day to you all! Since the pronouncement for the construction of the most needed Lungi Bridge by President Dr. Julius Maada Bio, TRACE Joenal has been moving to get the impact of such a pronouncement from the people of Sierra Leone.

There have been mixed reaction in and out of Freetown few optimistic and a very many very pessimistic about the possibility of the bridge at this time after several pronouncements by past governments.

TRACE Joenal alongside other prominent journalists took a journey from Lungi to Freetown via speed boat to test the waters of the needed bridge. The use of the speed boat was due to the lack of adequate ferries in the country. TRACE Joenal learnt that only two ferries were running and they run after every 3 hours.

The fear of the water during the journey intimidated some journalists onboard the speed boat. Some described it as one between life and death which was a show of evidence that the bridge is very much needed.

Below was the first publication of TRACE Joenal relating to the needed Lungi Bridge.

It was on the Wednesday last week President Dr. Julius Maada Bio disclosed the beginning of the tender process for the construction of the 2.1 Billion United States Dollars Bridge. The bridge which will pass through the Targrin River will connect Freetown to the North West of Sierra Leone. This announcement came as a surprise to many, more so those that over decades have been hearing about the construction of the Lungi Bridge are now left in shock considering the progress the process is making. Since that heated debate took place over social media. Critics have been pondering over the amount of money that was going to be used while others have focused on the economic gains. TRACE Joenal, closely looked at the two side of the argument, the one on the cost has been made clear by President Bio when he told the investors conference at the tender process for the proposed Lungi Bridge that infrastructural investments should not burden the country with huge debt. “We believe infrastructural investment should be financed in a way that the public and future generations are not liable for that debt. So we are not going to build a bridge or an airport for which the people of Sierra Leone are going to pay back a high-interest loan for 10, 20, or 30 years. That simply does not make economic sense”, he said. The President emphasised that each infrastructural investment must be able to pay for itself in 10 to 20 years depending on the financing model that was used, adding that each project must also worth the cost of constructing and maintaining it over its lifespan. Therefore, he noted that such investments should be affordable and must be funded without recourse to publicly guaranteed debts. Chairman of Presidential Infrastructure Initiatives, Engineer Dr. John Edward Tambi, pointed out that for 58 years Sierra Leoneans had endured the challenges of crossing over to Lungi from Freetown through which lives had been lost, businesses destroyed and economic activities stunted. He said during these years, governments had come and gone with promises to construct a bridge crossing to Lungi but nothing happened. The proposed Lungi Bridge will start from the Government Wharf, in the Central Business District of Freetown to Madina Town in Lungi Kafu Bullom Chiefdom, a small coastal town in Port Loko District in the Northwest Province of the country that is separated from the Capital, Freetown by a sea of about 10 nautical miles. TRACE Joenal over the weekend visited different places including Madina Town in Lungi to get the views of people about the proposed Lungi Bridge. TRACE Joenal got his first encounter at the Ferry Terminal on Saturday. The ferries were not in operation due to lack of proper maintenance. TRACE Joenal saw hundreds of people struggling to make their way into the local boat “Pampa” for Le 5,000 while those that can afford waited for the Le 15,000 speed boat. TRACE Joenal took long for hours for the speed boat. While TRACE Joenal was waiting, the view about the Proposed Lungi Bridge was the top of discussion. 85% of those the passengers were in support of the construction of the bridge. TRACE Joenal continued his journey to Madina Town few miles from the Targrin Terminal. TRACE Joenal was welcomed by different community people. Madina Town is a quiet town overlooking Freetown. Soribah Kamara is the son of the Town Chief, Pa Komrabai Kamara, he took me around the town and explained about the town and what they are doing. When I asked him about the bridge to Soribah, he said they aware of it because they saw the engineers when they were doing their feasibility studies.

But at first he said it was just like any other project only when the announcement was made by President Bio they realised that it a reality. Madina Town Chief, Pa Komrabai Kamara, the Town Headman Pa Gbassay Kamara, the Second Headman Pa Sorie Nancy Kamara, the Former Regent Pa Musa Kanu, Santigie DC Chairman for SLPP Madina Community, Assistance Town Headman Abdul Abass Kamara, Youth Leader and Assistance Momoh Bangura, Chernor Kanu and Sembu Kamara among others, have held a meeting on how they will give their support to the government for the actualization of the Lungi Bridge. The described the proposed Lungi Bridge as a great development not only for Lungi but for the country as a whole. Madian Town is also waiting to engage with the government for them to get a clear directive for further discussion on what they should do.

Lungi is the home of Sierra Leone’s only international airport. Santigie DC said they as a community are ready to work with the government because they are happy about such news as that will bring development. At present he said there is no work for the youths in that community some of them he added engaged in armed robbery which he said is not good for the community but if the bridge pass through their community the road which they have been struggled to constructed but unable will be constructed and job will be provided for them. He described Madina Town as the shortest route to the Queen Elizabeth 11 Port. The determination of Madina Town residents to embrace such development can be seen on their faces. More on this later as TRACE Joenal continues the speed boat ride.

TRACEJoenal is a regular column brought to you by Ibrahim Joenal Sesay, Senior Staff Writer of SALONE TIMES NEWSPAPER, Best Human Right Reporting award winner and Advocate for Change in Sierra Leone. You can follow him on www.232news.com, Twitter&Facebook @tracejoenal or E-mail: salonesij@gmail.com

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