“The matter is on-going in the UK Arbitration Courts. The windows of settlement discussions have always been opened,” were words of Sierra Leone’s Chief Lawyer, Joseph Firtzgerald Kamara as he explains a US$150 million summons now in the UK courts against the Sierra Leone’s National Telecommunications Communication Commission (NATCOM).
The matter against NATCOM, and by extension Sierra Leone government, before the International Commercial Court of Arbitration in London was manifestly filed by Slone Telecommunication Limited on grounds depicting breach of trust, other ills believed to have been neglectfully violated by NATCOM following a contractual agreement between the two parties on the monitoring of international gateways in Sierra Leone, dated 12th August 2014, amended 21st August 2015 respectively.
By allusion, and of course words of the Sierra Leone Attorney General, it is obvious government, no doubt, is hurriedly pushing for an ‘out of court settlement’ with Slone (complainant), and on the contrary, if possible, trying to negotiate cost within range of the sued US$150 million.
But what seems not clear on the other hand, is recent revelation by a local tabloid (Global Times) which is seen as quoting Kamara as saying: “the government of Sierra Leone has spent about US$600,000 (4.5 Billion Leones correspondingly) on legal fees in London.”
This, to right thinking members of society, sounds sadly doubtful, giving the fact that Kamara’s earlier claim has been that his government (the government of Sierra Leone) “is pushing for an out of court settlement with Slone Limited,” yet now also claiming that the very government has spent US$600,000 on legal fees in the matter, not able to explain how the celebrated amount was, in reality, spent.
Kamara, unfortunately could as well not answer questions put to him by the New Age on the subject of merit of complaint, whether Slone did its part of the contract awarded them, whether indeed Slone has unreasonably asked for 10% of the US$150 million claim as out of court settlement package, whether copy of writ can be availed the media for public enlightenment and whether in-fact he (Kamara) has at any moment visited the UK with NATCOM officials for a meeting unexplained, etc.
It is true Slone Telecommunication Limited was contracted by NATCOM to monitor the Sierra Leone gateways on 12 August, 2014, amended on 21 August 2015.
In the contract, it was agreed that Slone should pay US$17M annually to government.
But NATCOM under the chairmanship of Momoh Konte, on 14 January 2015 cancelled contractual services for the monitoring of the said international gateways in Sierra Leone between NATCOM and Slone.
In paragraph three of the letter of cancellation, it is woefully stated that: “however, we are sorry to inform you that due to ‘unforeseen’ circumstances, the commission wishes to state that the agreement between the commission and Slone (SL) Limited above mentioned on the international gateway monitoring services is hereby cancelled.”
This, according to Slone, was the basis of their claim and for which they had legally compelled NATCOM and the Government of Sierra Leone pay US$150M as was calculated on the cancelled ten years contract, reportedly estimated at US$15M annually.
Disheartening, however, is that in the agreement between Slone and NATCOM, Sierra Leone may have been benefitting US$17M yearly, and may have also had the opportunity of using the very agreement to secure loans overseas, with payment including interest coming directly from Slone Limited.
That Suba, a Ghanaian Company, which sadly is the company that was eventually awarded the contract to monitor the Sierra Leone gateways barely commenced operations six months after it was given the contract, and as we speak, the company is said to be regrettably generating US$600,000 a month and paying a skimpy US$300 to NATCOM; which annually is totaling US$3.6M compared to Slone, which had opted paying US$17M annually.
Reference is further drawn to a situation in which one Dr. Marah, a Sierra Leonean living in South Africa, last year came with a conglomerate of South African companies, to, in effect, lure them spend over US$300M in the telecommunications industry of Sierra Leone but were discouraged following an alleged bribery scam.
It is reported also that an international company that recently vested interest on investing on roaming internet services in Sierra Leone, with an investment value of US$280M was likewise discouraged on a reason of 10% kickback of the total cost of investment.
Although the Attorney General deliberately has not responded to questions forwarded him by this press, many have asked that the US$600,000 reportedly expended by the Sierra Leone government on legal fees in the ongoing Slone Vs NATCOM trial in London be investigated by the Anti Corruption Commission.
Others say Kamara must be compelled to fully give account of how the US$600,000 correspondingly Le4.5 billion of Sierra Leone’s money was spent on legal fees.
The question as also asked by many is whether Sierra Leone no longer has state council lawyers to defend the country on issues of legalities in any court of law whatsoever.
The Director of Corporate Affairs NATCOM, Abdul Kuyateh refused to comment on the issue rather referred NEW AGE to the Legal Adviser of NATCOM, Mohamed Nuru Kamara who also refused to comment on the matter because in his words, “the matter is in court.”