“Local workers don’t even know the name of the company” Residents.
By-Richmond B Tholley in Makeni.
Angry residents of Makambo village outside Makeni have expressed dissatisfaction over the illegal cutting of timber in their community. The residents are also accusing the company allegedly owned by a politician in Benin of gross human rights violations in their locality.
According to the residents who does not wants to be named, a year ago, they learnt about the said company (with no name) through one Sheikh Mustapha Jalloh, a community leader, who told them the company is owned by a Beninese politician Ahmed Tijani. They said they were informed the company would engaged in the processing and exportating of timber.
They said, they were also told that the company will pay huge sums of money and create jobs for the community people, especially youths. But Sheik Jalloh never told them the name of the company. He only said it’s from Benin.
“The company promised to employ indigenes and residents, construct roads and help in the development of the community, as part of their cooperate social responsibility, but never fulfilled those promises”, the said. The residents said they are made to work for the rest of the day without protective gears and most of them are paid below the country’s minimum wage of Le 500,000.
Some workers told Mountain Waves they were injured while on duty and they were left to cure themselves. Investigations have also revealed the company is currently causing air pollution in the vicinity, by releasing smoke through their indiscriminately burning of charcoal which residents said is affecting them.
During the investigations, this medium engaged with two Sierra Leoneans, Ibrahim Kargbo, a lawyer and Dr John Kargo, an official of the company. They named a Beninese (Benin national) Isaac A. Ogoundele, as the company’s managing director in Sierra Leone, but never showed the company’s name. They however said the company is registered with the Bombali District Council and denied any ongoing operations at the nameless company’s site currently in Makambo.
Councilor Samuel V. Conteh of ward 110 Bombali district council, denied claims that the company has registered with the district council. He said what they got was an MOU. He said they were told the company will be doing business in timber exports, but has never registered officially. He denied having knowledge of any allegations of human rights violations, since no one has reached him with such complaints.
Makambo village lies 35 kilometers off the City of Makeni. It is one of the deprived communities in Bombali District, with the majority of the residents being illiterates. The question on the minds of many now is how come a foreign company is doing business in Bombali district without going through a formal registration?