On Reclaiming Bo Airstrip for Domestic Flight Operations… SLCAA, MTA & Lands Ministry Engage Stakeholders

7th August 2020

Provincial Secretary’s Office, Bo

Stakeholders from the Sierra Leone Civil Authority (SLCAA), the Ministry of Transport and Aviation (MTA), and the Ministry of Lands, Housing, and Country Planning (MLHCP) have engaged decision-makers in Bo City on the reclamation of the airstrip for the resumption of domestic flight operations.

The reactivation of domestic flight operations in Sierra Leone will contribute immensely to the development of the tourism industry.

Stating the purpose of the engagement, the Deputy Minister of Transport and Aviation, Sadiq Silla noted that the primary purpose of their visit was to engage community leaders and have a consensus on the way forward for the reclamation of the Bo airstrip for the reactivation of domestic air operations in Sierra Leone.

From the industry’s perspective, the Director-General of SLCAA, Moses Tiffa Baio informed stakeholders of the vision of His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio to build an economically viable civil aviation system that would be effective, efficient, competitive and sustainable. To achieve the needed result and make Sierra Leone an aviation hub in West Africa, he believed that there should be an increase in air connectivity, especially domestic flight operations, that would facilitate the movement of people, goods, and services within the country.

“Our airports, whether local or international, should be preserved as priceless national assets. Air transport operation brings development and steady growth in a country. Reviving these domestic airstrips will be a great gain not only for the government, especially in the area of boosting tourism, but also for the people of Sierra Leone, especially in providing alternative facilitation to road transportation,” the Director-General affirmed.

Addressing stakeholders on airstrip reclamation, the Minister of Lands, Housing and Country Planning, Dr. Dennis Sandy appreciated the joint consultative engagement to reclaim airstrips for the sole purpose of developing the air transport sector. “We have come a long way in restoring dignity in the land tenure arrangements of Sierra Leone. Since 2018, the Bo Airstrip and Reservation have become the property of the government and encroachers have been compensated. Sustainable development projects require a collaborative approach and that approach must be reflective of the nation’s interest,” he disclosed.

The Minister of Transport and Aviation, Hon. Kabineh Kallon, in his statement, observed that Sierra Leone was one of the few countries that were not conducting domestic flight operations. He revealed that his ministry had signed Memorandum of Understanding with some aviation companies who had expressed interest to revive domestic air operations in Sierra Leone. He noted, however, that the challenge was on reclaiming the respective airstrips from encroachers. He concluded by noting that relocation of airstrips would be great difficulty as many factors would be taken into consideration, especially in meeting the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s Standards and Recommended Practices.

Responding to the team, the Paramount Chief of Tikonko Chiefdom raised concern on the neglect of the airstrip over the past two decades and admitted that the Authorities responsible for protecting the airstrip had been weak in enforcing the law to prevent encroachers from embarking on massive construction. He further advised that those who had been compensated already should be re-engaged and the development of the airstrip should also be carried out without any further delay.

After the engagement, the team inspected the Bo Airfield at Torwama in the presence of the Paramount Chiefs of Tikonko and Kakua Chiefdom, the Resident Minister South, the Ministry of Local Governments and Rural Development and erected a security post to prevent further encroaching.