Traditional leaders highlighted burning issues among them the non-involvement of chiefs in Council’s development plan, collection of chiefdom revenue etc. The Kailahun District Council also picked up issues with Chiefs and accused them of not paying taxes to the institution. These allegations and counter allegations continued until the Inclusive District Peace and Development Committee members engaged the two parties and also resolved to bring them together in a one day forum.
On Wednesday, August 31,2016, a forum was organized at the Women’s Centre in Pendembu town to vent out grievances and find a way forward for both parties to work in the spirit of peace and development of the entire district.
Vice Chairman IDPDC, Madam Isata Ndolleh Kaikai, in her introductory statement said the rationale behind the forum was to bring together all Paramount chiefs, Councillors and the Administrative wing of Council to dialogue and chart a way forward for the development of communities. She said for the past years there was no cordial working relationship among local authorities and Council which had been one of the things that continued to undermine development.
Executive Director, Fambul Tok International, John Caulker underscored the role of the committee, adding that it was very important to bring peace, unity and development to broken communities. He highlighted a number of issues that have been resolved by IDPDC in Moyamba and Koinadugu districts, adding that the meeting in Pendembu was organized by the committee in collaboration with the District Office He stated that Fambul Tok’s role is to accompany people, working and walking side by side with them. He said that was one of the commitments of the organization and communities had taken the lead because they knew their problems and would proffer solutions to them.
The Fambul Tok boss explained that the organization had facilitated peace process and stated that the IDPDC was not owned by Fambul Tok but by the people to ensure that peace and development were realized in communities. During the dialogue forum, Paramount Chiefs and other representatives had the opportunity to highlight issues affecting them in the district.
PC Henry Hunkpoh Baion of Pejeh Bongre chiefdom alleged that chiefs had not been received their own percentage on taxes and revenue collected in their various chiefdoms. He stated that they were not even receiving evacuation fees for local goods moving out of their chiefdoms for the past years. Chief Baion told the gathering that they as traditional leaders were not against the tax or revenue collection drive in their communities but what they were annoyed about was the manner in which Council had treated them.
Another Paramount Chief of Penguia chiefdom, Sheku Gibila was bold enough to state that Council had not even shared development plans with local authorities. He said as authorities they should be fully involved in development activities at every stage. He said they did not even know the total revenue collected each year and what went out of the chiefdoms in terms of local produce. Chief Jibila mentioned capacity building of treasury clerk and other chiefdom administration workers, adding that recruitment of staff should be done jointly by Council and chiefs. He strongly advocated for the amendment of the 2004 local government Act.
Chief Festus Bob Gaima of Dea chiefdom mentioned the collection of taxes and licenses in his chiefdom without his notice. He accused Council of not getting his own share of the proceeds Paramount Chief Emmanuel Ganawa of Kissi Teng urged Council and stakeholders to be accountable to the people in the district. He revealed that for the past years revenue collected from Airtel for pole cites were not reported and accounted for. To show transparency, Chief Ganawa handed over a cheque to Council being proceeds from Airtel, which he claimed had not happened for the past five years.
Highlighting some of Council’s challenges, Evaluation Officer, Paul Ngobeh explained the difficulties the institution continued to undergo as people had refused to pay taxes be they property or local. He said since he took over office four years ago he had constraints as most chiefdoms did not pay their taxes. He said a lot of sensitization programmes had been held on radio and in communities but because of the poor working relationship between Council and Local authorities, they had not realized much.
Finance Officer of Council, Maada Boima, underscored the importance of paying taxes, adding that if people did not pay their taxes Council wouldn’t be able to bring development to their communities. He said there should be cordial relationship between Council and local authorities, adding that Council could not work effectively without the support of chiefs and community members. He urged all stakeholders to join hands together for the development of communities Deputy Chief Administrator, Kailahun District Council, Jaiah Gogra said even though there were challenges people should not shun Council. He revealed plans for the construction of five Public Health Centres and other five would be rehabilitated in various chiefdoms in the district.
Speaking on issues affecting youth in the district, District Youth chairman, Dauda Gbow spoke about political violence, non-involvement of young people in development programmes and the poor working relationships between youth and Youth Council. He urged stakeholders to involve youth in every aspect of development than using them as political tools. Councillors Jamie Kpange and Theresa Garber also played a vital role during the forum as they emphasized the need for Council to work closely with chiefs and community members
Chairman of IDPDC, Hon. Sahr Fatorma in his statement said the committee was an independent body charged with the responsibility to promote peace and development in the country. He stressed that it IS apolitical and all what it needed was to ensure that Kailahun was developed.
At the end of the dialogue session, local authorities and chiefs in their resolutions highlighted among others that: a) There should be joint collection of taxes/revenue by both Council and Local authorities b)The Council of Paramount Chiefs in Kailahun district, should extend invitation to Council in its next meeting to work on the details of tax/revenue collection in all the chiefdoms c) There should be regular meetings to communicate and coordinate programmes relating to development d)Youth structures at chiefdom level should be involved in development activities