By Sorie Fofana ..
Let me address the issue of Toll Charges before I handle the issue of Airport Security Tax, which has become the most topical issue in the country today. Sometime last week, a junior official in the Ministry of Youth Affairs (whose identity remains obscure) emerged from the blue, claiming that, he was the Director of Programme Management at the said Ministry. He claimed at a training session that the first phase of the toll road being built by a Chinese construction company called China Railway Seventh Group (CRSG) has almost been completed. It covers a stretch of road between Wellington and Yams Farm.
The Chinese company would begin to implement the toll road charges in July this year. The duration of the toll road contract is twenty five years and it will cost US$165m. The Chinese company claimed that, by the time they finish constructing and widening the Wellington/Masiaka highway, they would have invested a total of US$165m (One hundred and sixty five million dollars) on the pre-financed project. It has to be pointed out that, there is no alternative vehicular route between Wellington and Masiaka. That is the only route vehicles use to enter and leave the capital city from the Provinces.
All over the world, there are alternative routes to toll roads. Toll roads are always used by people who can afford to use them. There are alternative routes for those who can hardly afford to pay the toll charges on toll roads. The introduction of toll charges has led to pandemonium in several Asian and Asian Pacific countries. The implementation of toll charges has led to change of governments or has made several governments become unpopular and even unelectable. The question many people are asking is: why introduce new killer taxes and charges in an election year? Only the uncaring APC government can answer that question! Certainly, the Airport Security Tax and the Toll Road Charges will be major issues in the March 2018 elections. These charges will make the APC party more and more unpopular, because, they affect the livelihood of the ordinary people in our country.
The government should have engaged the people affected by these toll charges long before now. It is only last week that, the government, through the Ministry of Youth Affairs, embarked on sensitizing the people about the introduction of a toll charge in this country. How pathetic! How can the government be so callous and insensitive to the sufferings of the ordinary Sierra Leoneans? Why can t the government defer the implementation of the toll charges until the entire stretch of road has been completed? So far, only 10% of the road has been completed or almost about to be completed. So, why implement the charges? This is no brainer!
Those APC Politicians that stand to benefit from this senseless contract should be bold enough to tell their friends at the China Railway Seventh Group that, the implementation of the charges can wait until the entire stretch of road has been fixed. It is only an uncaring government that can add more financial burden on its people in the midst of such hard and difficult time in the country.
Now, the Ministry of Youth Affairs says that they have hired sixty young people (what a ridiculous figure) to embark on a door-to-door sensitization about the benefits of the toll road system. This is bunkum! What do poor people really expect to benefit from a toll system? If anything, it just improverishes them further. The APC party claims to be a party for ordinary people. And it is this same party that continues to introduce all sorts of killer charges and taxes that affect the ordinary people they claim to be fighting for. What an irony!
Airport Security Tax
The new Airport Security Tax of US$80 (Eighty United States dollars) for every passenger passing through the Lungi International Airport came into force on 1st April, 2017. Nobody knows why air travelers have to pay US$80 for coming into and leaving the Lungi International Airport. Is this same form of taxation being implemented in other ECOWAS member States? Is this in line with the ECOWAS Harmonization Policy? Or is Sierra Leone the only country in the ECOWAS sub-region that has implemented this killer tax? How would other ECOWAS member States retaliate when their citizens complain that, they have been forced by the Sierra Leone government to pay for airport security at the Lungi International Airport?
How many tourists will come to Sierra Leone when they learn that, on top of the expensive airfare to Sierra Leone, they have to pay an additional US$80 for airport security? Some of these policies are not well-thought out by the government. No government worth its salt would implement such killer taxes and charges in the middle of an election year. It is no secret that the government is really finding it difficult to even pay workers salaries on time.
It is also no secret that, the government is finding it difficult to pay contractors and suppliers because of lack of money. This lack of money to pay contractors is even affecting indigenous companies like Gento Group. Now, some workers at the company are complaining that, they have still not received their salaries and wages for the month of April. Even though Gento Group s bank loans at GTB are guaranteed by the government (I don t know whether or not it is a sovereign guarantee), the company is in a serious financial difficulty.
Gento Group will soon face Parliament over disagreements with NRA in tax payments. On the issue of the introduction of toll charges in July, the government should prevail on the Chinese company to defer it to at least 2020 or, at the very least, 2019. That will help poor rural commuters along the Wellington/Masiaka highway. On the issue of Airport Security Tax, the government should scrap it altogether because it is not in the interest of the country.
The APC party supporters behind Securiport (the American company that is behind this killer Airport Security Tax) should tell the company to be very transparent in their dealings. Nobody knows how much the company has invested on the project and for how long will the poor Sierra Leonean travelers will continue to pay US$80 for just coming in or leaving their country. The government should be bold enough to scrap the Airport Security Tax or at the very least reduce it to at least US$10 (Ten US dollars).
Securiport should come clean on how much they have collected or how much they expect to collect every month from Airport Security Tax at the Lungi International Airport.
The APC claims to be a party for the ordinary people. But not anymore!
Tim Linafelt | May 05, 2017
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. Nearly four years after he first carved out a special place for himself on the Florida State football team, Payton Poulin is still inspiring the Seminoles. Poulin, the FSU student who, despite living with the neurological disorder schizencephaly, became a fixture on the Seminoles’ sidelines in 2013 and 2014, will graduate on Saturday. He will participate in commencement ceremonies and, as he did before the 2015 Rose Bowl, he intends to stand up from his motorized wheelchair and walk across the stage to receive his bachelor’s degree from the FSU College of Business.
The last four years I’ve been able to live out my dream, Poulin said. It’s been incredible to be a part of, not only the team but the family. I’m just grateful to be a part of it.
The feeling is mutual among Florida State’s players and coaches.
(Payton) just makes you appreciate the real things in life, FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. A native of St. Cloud, Fla., Poulin has loved all things football and Florida State for as long as he can remember. And when he spotted FSU receiver Kenny Shaw in one of his classes in the fall of 2013, Poulin knew he had to introduce himself.
Poulin, though, didn’t just want a picture or an autograph. He wanted to make an impact on the team.
I saw a kid who wanted to be a part of something, said Shaw, now with the Ottawa Redblacks of the Canadian Football League. I reached out to the coaches and said, Hey, I’ve got a guest coming, a classmate, and he wants to be a part of the team. And Payton showed up on time. I gave him a time and he was there.
The security guard almost turned him around, and I was like, He’s good.’ And he just rolled in with me. Ever since then, it’s been such a bond. From there, Poulin was a regular on the Florida State practice fields, where he made himself at home by encouraging players after a tough day or joking with them when they needed a little levity. After a while, Poulin even got comfortable enough to show off the football strategy chops he’d been honing since childhood.
He was making the calls and stuff, Shaw said. I thought he was going to be a coach after a while.
The next few years were loaded with memories that Poulin says will last a lifetime. Asked for a favorite, Poulin laughed and said, Oh man, I have to think about that. There are plenty from which to choose.
When the Seminoles rallied to beat Auburn in the 2014 BCS National Championship Game, Poulin was there in Pasadena, Calif., along with his father, Patrick.
It was the happiest moment of our lives, Patrick Poulin said. And Poulin became a national sensation a year later, when he surprised the Seminoles by standing up from his wheelchair and, with the help of Jameis Winston and DeMarcus Walker, walking several yards after a practice before the Rose Bowl. Video of the scene went viral on social media and aired on ESPN’s SportsCenter that night.
It was truly tremendous, Patrick Poulin said. And I hope that same feeling that I had that day, I have on Saturday.
Poulin’s time as an FSU student may be over, but he still has goals to work toward. With his degree in hand, Poulin intends to enter the professional world and start his own business. More practically, he and his family are working to raise money for a stand-up wheelchair, as well as funds for stem-cell therapy and a van retrofitted with modifications that would allow Poulin to drive.
Fans and friends wishing to support that cause can donate to Poulin’s GoFundMe page. Finally, Poulin hasn’t lost sight of his biggest goal: to one day walk on his own. He’s not there yet. But when he walks across the stage Saturday with the aid of his father and a family friend, Poulin will once again show the Florida State community the resolve and dedication that so endeared him to the Seminoles’ football team.
I’m very proud of him, Shaw said. Graduating and walking across that stage is not something a lot of people can say they did. To see Payton push through all his adversity and get that degree, it’s special.
(CN) A Cleveland security guard claims in court that the city has refused to return his guns that were used as evidence after he shot and killed a home invader, even though the case against the intruder s accomplice is over.
Brian Bridges sued the City of Cleveland, Mayor Frank Jackson and Police Chief Calvin Williams on Thursday in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, alleging violations of his Second and Fourth Amendment rights. In March 2015, Bridges came home to find two men robbing his house. During the ensuing confrontation, Bridges fatally shot one of the invaders, Joseph Eason.
The shooting was in self defense and was justifiable, Bridges lawsuit states. The other suspect, Anthony Akins-Daniels, escaped, but he was eventually found and arrested. He pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter for causing the death of his best friend, Eason.
Bridges claims Cleveland police unlawfully seized his property, including a Glock 21 semiautomatic handgun, ammunition, holsters and a redcherry piccolo, to be used as evidence in Akins-Daniels case. Despite the fact that the criminal proceedings against Akins-Daniels are over, police have not returned Bridges guns, he says. Bridges noted in his complaint that he is a professional security guard and has a license to carry a concealed handgun.
He sued for replevin and violation of the Second and Fourth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Bridges seeks $20,000 in compensatory damages and $50,000 in punitive damages. He also wants an injunction to stop the city from enforcing any policy and/or actions that infringe upon a lawful gun owner s right to keep and bear arms. Attorney Michael J. Connick of Beachwood, Ohio, is representing Bridges.
Cleveland did not immediately respond Friday to an email request for comment.