Nigerian businesses in focus at Sierra Leone’s presidential poll

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TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY ROD MAC JOHNSON AND JENNIFER O’MAHONY
(FILES) This file photo taken on January 28, 2008 shows Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma (L) and his wife Sia arriving for a meeting with Britain’s Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street in London.
As the president of Sierra Leone equivocates over signing a bill to extend abortion provision in a country with sky-high maternal mortality rates, its powerful religious authorities believe the battle against it is already lost. Sierra Leone’s parliament passed a law in December allowing abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and in cases of rape and incest beyond that, replacing legislation from the early 19th century enabling terminations only if the mother’s life is in danger.
/ AFP / SHAUN CURRY

As preparations for the Sierra Leone presidential election scheduled for March 7 heat up, Nigeria business interest has become a major focus of campaign between the ruling All Peoples Congress (APC) and the major opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) and its splinter faction, the National Grand Coalition (NGC).

While it is being perceived that Nigerian businesses are facing veiled threats from the two leading opposition parties in the country, which has persistently alleged that the ruling party has sold the country’s economy to business leaders from Lagos and Abuja, APC has promptly dismissed the allegation as baseless and untrue.

Although, Nigerian banks and trading firms are said to occupy prominent place in the economy of Sierra Leone, on two occasions in recent weeks, top opposition leaders were alleged to have threatened to clip the wings of foreign businesses in the nation’s economy, accusing Nigerian businessmen in particular of invading the country.

An NGC opposition leader was quoted accusing the Bai Koroma administration of having sold the economy to foreign business leaders.

During another campaign held in the north of the country last week, an SLPP leader was quoted to have raised the alarm against the domination of the country’s economy by Nigerian businesses, assuring that his party would introduce appropriate law to address the development.

While representatives of the opposition parties denied the reports, describing it as a cheap blackmail by the ruling party, clips from campaigns across the country however proved otherwise. A top Nigerian banker in the country, who did not want his name mentioned said the anti-Nigerian rhetoric among opposition, is widely reported in the country.

The APC candidate, Dr. Samura Kamara denied any Nigerian hijack of the Sierra Léone economy, saying, “If anything, Nigeria has been pivotal to the economic growth and recovery of the country.
Kamara, while applauding the involvement of foreign partners contributions to the development and growth of his country’s economy said, “It would be unfair to attack Nigerian businesses. Nigerian businesses are safe under an APC government and we pledge to do more in term of deepening the relationship between the two countries.”