By Amin Kef (Ranger)
The newly appointed Minister of the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development (MoPED), Kenyeh Barlay, joined by ECOWAS Resident Representative Ambassador Haroun Moussa, conducted an official visit to the ECOWAS Military Logistics Depot situated in Lungi on August 16, 2023.
The primary objective of the visit was to evaluate the advancement of the depot’s construction in light of the revised deadline of November 30th, 2023.
The Lungi Logistics Depot, one of two sanctioned ECOWAS Military installations, the other being in Mali, plays a pivotal role in bolstering regional security, peacekeeping, stability, and crisis response capabilities. These depots are designed to facilitate collaborative military operations, stockpile essential resources, and enable the rapid deployment of ECOWAS Standby Forces (ESF) in the event of regional emergencies or conflicts.
During the site visit, an extensive assessment of both designated areas was executed, led by the contracted firms SOGEFEL Construction and BANCA Consultant. This thorough evaluation, supported by Col. Dr. Bala Mohamed, the Resident Commandant, and his Deputy, Lieut. Col. Abu Bakar Konneh, aimed to gauge progress, identify challenges and determine the necessary measures to meet the imminent deadline.
Subsequent to the assessment, a comprehensive briefing was chaired by Col. Dr. Bala Mohamed. During this session, Minister Barlay was acknowledged for her new role and congratulated on the successful and peaceful elections in Sierra Leone. Minister Barlay reiterated the project’s significance in enhancing regional capabilities.
Col. Dr. Bala Mohamed acknowledged the successful progression of the project through phases 2 and 3, expressing gratitude for the continuous Governmental support. He also acknowledged the elevation of competence and capacity within MoPED following Minister Barlay’s appointment.
He commended the contractors and consulting firm for their exceptional dedication. Acknowledging the challenges and delay faced, particularly in relation to project completion, concerns were raised about the readiness of ESF members awaiting deployment at the depot.
Representatives from SOGEFEL and BANCA Consulting presented the current status of the project, indicating a commendable 93.71% completion despite encountered hurdles.
The Minister was assured that the project would meet the agreed-upon deadline. The outstanding tasks involve the finalization of drainage and roadway construction within the project areas, as well as addressing specific structural elements.
Sumanu O. Z. Alghali, Head of ECOWAS National Office, Sierra Leone, stressed the urgency of utilizing the facility and expressed disappointment over the delay. He urged for an escalated pace while commending the team’s commitment.
Peter N. Sam-Kpakra, Development Secretary at MoPED, praised the contractors while expressing reservations regarding meeting the deadline amidst the ongoing rainy season.
He also addressed the issue of additional land (site 2 seafront) to be handed over to the Commission, underlining the importance of properly resettling existing structures on that land before its full transfer.
He advised considering additional workforce to overcome weather-related challenges and expedite progress.
Ambassador Harouna Moussa, ECOWAS Resident Representative, extended congratulations to Minister Barlay and emphasized the need for weekly monitoring and follow-ups to mitigate delays.
He shared the ECOWAS Commission President’s anticipation of the depot’s completion by the next Heads of State session.
Minister Kenyeh Barlay, representing Sierra Leone’s President and its people, commended ECOWAS for entrusting the country with such a vital regional initiative.
She underscored the project’s alignment with the Government’s priority of the “Big Five Game Changers” and emphasized the incorporation of an agricultural component, akin to the Mali depot. She hailed the utilization of advanced technology, healthcare facilities, and local skilled labor.
She pledged her commitment to involve her fellow Ministers associated with the project, especially the Minister of Lands, to extend the necessary support. This particularly pertains to the Commission’s supplementary request for seafront land at site 2.
Minister Barlay urged the construction team to expedite their progress and assured full support from her office.