By Sorie Fofana…………………………..
In 2012, following heightened terrorist threats in the West African sub-region, the Sierra Leone Government hired an American based security firm, Securiport “to provide, install and maintain the most advanced immigration processing systems” at the Lungi International Airport. The contract price and the duration of the contract are still shrouded in total secrecy.
Recently, the Minister of Transport and Aviation, Leonard Balogun Koroma wrote a letter to several airlines and travel agents’ representatives informing them of a new Airport Security Tax payable by all passengers traveling in and out of Sierra Leone through the Lungi International Airport.
Airlines and travel agents are expected to charge an extra US$80 (Eighty US Dollars) for return tickets to Freetown, according to the Aviation Minister.
This new Airport Security Tax was imposed on travelers without any consultation with travelers, airline operators and even travel agents’ representatives in Sierra Leone. And it came into force on 1st April, 2017.
The company behind this new Airport Security Tax, Securiport is accused of using some senior ruling party officials in Sierra Leone to force through this killer tax in order for them to quickly recoup the money they have invested in the project.
Senior Securiport officials in Freetown have been accused of exaggerating the threat that the country faces in the hands of terrorists and/or Islamist fighters in the sub-region in order to threaten the government to pay for their services.
The questions many people are still asking are; how much has Securiport really invested in Sierra Leone? Why should the APC government connive with Securiport to impose such a killer tax on poor travelers?
Each passenger now leaving Freetown through the Lungi International Airport is expected to pay an extra US$80 as Airport Security Tax directly to Securiport. Who are the ruling party politicians that are directly benefiting from this new killer tax regime introduced by the APC led administration?
Why impose new Airport Security Tax on the poor people of Sierra Leone in the midst of high cost of living and spiraling inflation?
National security is the sole responsibility of any responsible government. Why should travelers have to pay for airport security?
Very soon, this government will be introducing the toll system on the main road leading into and out of the capital city. That is another burden that, the poor people of Sierra Leone would have to live with, in the next thirty five years.
We return to the questions: how much has Securiport really invested in Sierra \Leone on Airport security? For how long will Securiport continue to collect US$80 from each and every traveler passing through the Lungi International Airport?
Who are the APC Politicians that influenced the award of this multi-million dollar contract to Securiport? Who are really benefitting directly from this shadowy contract?
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has cautioned the Sierra Leone government against implementing the Airport Security Tax for fear that it might lead to higher fares which might force some international airlines to divert their routes from Sierra Leone.
We still emphasize that, this new Airport Security Tax is just an additional burden on the poor people of Sierra Leone and putting more money into the bottomless pockets of some criminal business people parading as APC Politicians.
We cannot allow Securiport to use fake terrorist threats against the country in order to make a convincing case for the implementation of this killer tax. No way!
We shall return to this subject tomorrow.