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By Sylvanus Fornah Koroma Jr (What A Man!)

It is a fact, and it is also obviously obvious that the mid-term unprecedented electronic census is highly controversial, and has been challenged right from its inception in 2020 to date. It would be foolhardy not to know that the Bio-SLPP led Government’s insistence on conducting a forceful census would affect Sierra Leone’s fragile economy. The World Bank’s latest position on the conduct of the ill-prepared midterm unprecedented electronic census is a serious indictment of the deceptive Statistician General and even the ineffective and inept Minister of Development and Economic Planning, as well as the chairman of the board of Statistics Council Sierra Leone, in misleading the nation into a huge wastage of our meagre resources for what would never be acceptable as a national policy or decision. The World Bank, in their wisdom, has taken a close look at the so-called midterm Census and has hearkened to the wise call of meaningful Sierra Leoneans who helped in exposing the grand scheme of the Bio-led Government’s plan to use the census primarily for gerrymandered purposes.

Sierra Leone does not need to continue to be in a limelight for the wrong reasons. The European Union report continues to haunt the economy, and the saga of the Auditor General’s report, as well as the indefinite suspension of the Auditor General and one of her deputies, raises many concerns! Sierra Leone is certainly at a political crossroads that requires steady headedness, to navigate through it peacefully and endeavor to maintain stability as much as it is possible. Sierra Leone needs calm and should avoid anything that would provoke unnecessary tension, especially amongst its citizens. Already, it is a known fact that the judiciary, one of the organs of government, which should have played its role in diffusing tensions in the country, has a dented image, and people have a negative perception of its ability to fairly dispense justice. This is the principal reason why the All People’s Congress (APC) Party and the Consortium of Progressive Political Parties (COPPP) have decided on a political action to stop the conduct of the said census instead of relying on legal action. Legal action would have been a primary option for the political parties to have taken to address the issue of the census, more so that there are a lot of legalities surrounding it. But the indictment of our judiciary by the European Union report, is not only damaging to the reputation of the governance structure, it would also affect the smooth running of the affairs of the state whereby people would resort to fending for themselves rather than relying on perceived failed structures. This is an anomaly!

The sudden premium the Bio-led Government has given to the conduct of the midterm electronic census is enough to make the lame and most politically naïve person to conclude that the real agenda for the conduct of the said census is for gerrymandering- This is now a known fact to the World Bank. To buttress this point, it is again obviously obvious and certainly certain that nothing was stated about any form of census in the main policy documents of the Bio-led SLPP Government. Both the 2018 SLPP Manifesto and the Government’s National Development Plan 2018-2023 did not mention any conduct of Census. As a matter of fact, the confusing, controversial, and misplaced idea of having a full-blown census has been claimed by the Statistician General-SL. The Statistician General claimed that it has been the initiative of Statistics-SL and they recommended to Government to conduct a full-blown census, and he said that he initiated the idea since 2018 when he took over as Statistician General. It is a fact that the bragging Professor was not working for Statistics-SL in 2015 when Sierra Leone conducted a clean bill of health and a successful as well as an accepted census. With a critical lens, it is easy to deduce that the braggart has suggested to Government to conduct a full-blown census to enrich his purse and his curriculum vitae (CV) to showcase that he conducted the first 100% digital (electronic) census in the whole of Africa! In another perspective, the boastful Professor is cognizant of his age and knows that he would have retired by 2025, the normal timing for the census. The Professor chose to champion the lobbying for a census in order to enrich his purse and CV, and he twinned it with the government’s lofty ambition to have a comparative advantage over its political opponents. This is how selfish and reckless a boastful Professor can be!

The rest of this article is about exposing the mean and greediness of a boastful, selfish, reckless, ineffective, and deceitful Professor. His desire to make a name for himself, regardless of the outcome, is extremely risky. The mean Professor does not care about Sierra Leone but only for himself; even when he knows that there is a potential for uproar that might resort to a crisis like it happened in the sister nation of Nigeria over a conflict that had to do with the census, Professor Mallam O Sankoh cares less. Sierra Leoneans must be mindful that the tension that has built around this census must be treated with care and patience to avoid unnecessary tension amidst other serious underlining concerns like the call for an ethnic audit! The census issue has a tendency to not only turn this country into a crisis, but if not handled properly, there is a possibility of having an international law suit that would be taken against some of the country’s international partners for aiding and abetting unconstitutionality in the country! For sure, there’s a school of thought that is keenly weighing the different opinions of taking international action against the aiders and abettors of the census unconstitutionality, but let us shelf it for now and address the local concerns.

Many Sierra Leoneans now associate the name Professor Mallam O Sankoh with the rebel leader, Foday Sankoh, of the country’s eleven-year civil war. Professor Mallam O Sankoh is also linked with the notorieties of selfishness, boastfulness, deceitfulness, ineffectiveness, ineptness and recklessness. He has twice wasted the country’s meagre resources by aborting his very deceptive confidence in his preparedness for a never to occur census. Definitely, this is going to be the third time he is faking his preparedness to conduct a census, but the World Bank has now exposed him. How could this man boast about himself without showcasing results? When did they post the so-called pilot census results on their website, as well as the cartographic mapping? Would the Government want to continue to conduct a census that would not be accepted and has been challenged by many more people, as well as risk its relationship with the World Bank? The European Union’s damning report on the current governance structure, whereby the judiciary, the police, among others, are already in a bad spotlight, and a sober government should treat this as an existential threat and therefore would not afford to discard the World Bank’s position. This Professor must be investigated.

If Mallam O Sankoh, the notorious Professor was in any way honest, he should have clearly explained how much of a percentage the Type 3 EAs really constitute of the entire census! Instead of telling the exact story, the Professor misled the gullible audience to think that the entire census results have structural errors, of which 60% are inaccessible. This was never the case. The fact is that the said error only affected about 3% of the entire census data for 2015. In other words, 60% of the structural errors were in the Type 3 ‘Enumeration Areas’ (EA), which constitute about only 5% of the entire census. The subsequent paragraphs are designed for the elucidation and further understanding of the issues surrounding the unnecessary full-blown census as propagated by the notorious Professor. The 3% error could have been easily addressed by matching up the mismatched data of the Type 3 EAs. Sierra Leone is divided into counting sites, or localities, for census purposes. These sites or localities for the purposes of the census in Sierra Leone are called Enumeration Areas (EA). In other words, EA are the areas assigned to the ‘enumerators’, i.e., the census staff/employees that go to the households to count people. Each enumerator is expected to cover a threshold of 80 to 120 households.

An Enumeration Area (EA) is 80 to 120 households, and EA is classified into 3 types.  These are the Type 1 EA, Type 2 EA and Type 3 EA.

Type 1 Enumeration Areas (or Type 1 EAs) are localities in the provinces or rural areas. The provinces are divided into districts; and the districts are also divided into chiefdoms; and the chiefdoms are further divided into sections. Each section is then divided into a counting unit that is called “Enumeration Areas,” which are designed to cater to 80 to 120 households. Those areas in a section that do not meet the threshold of 80 households are treated separately in another counting scheme that we would discuss later on as a Type 3 EA. In other words, those areas in some sections that have a few households, like 5 or 10 or 28, etc., are set aside to be treated in the Type 3 EAs.

 Type 2 EAs are those Enumeration Areas in bigger localities, towns, and cities in urban areas, including provincial towns (Lunsar, Mambolo, Segbwema, Daru, Makeni, Bo, Koindu, Foredugu, etc.) and the capital city, Freetown, and its environs. These areas have a larger and more concentrated span of households. The Type 2EAs like in the rural areas, cover sites or localities but not sections. For instance, Tengbeh Town may have many EAs, and some EAs in Tengbeh Town that do not get as many as 80 households may be joined to other localities that they are close to. To elaborate or illustrate this, for example, households in Tengbeh Town are counted within the set thresholds, and those that are close to Brookfields, which do not meet the set threshold, would be fused together with households in other nearby communities/localities (Brookfields or Red Pump) to meet the threshold of 80 to 120. Those households in Tengbeh Town, which are closer to Wilberforce, would be fused with households in Wilberforce to meet the threshold of 80 or a thereabout to make an EA.

 The Type 3 EAs are the smallest group of counted households, which constitute less than 5% of the entire population. They are generally from rural areas and do not meet the threshold of 80 households or thereabouts. So, they are clustered together with other households of either the same section or other sections within the same chiefdoms. The challenge here is this: some of these localities have the same names within the same section, and some are joined with other localities in different sections within the same chiefdom. These are the challenged households that are difficult to determine their exact population in terms of their sections, but they are counted and their population is determined at least under their respective chiefdoms.

It would interest people to know that the information is based on the gender of the counted people and their exact section. It is WORTHY to know that all persons are counted in all the types of EAs totaling the population of Seven million and ninety-two thousand, one hundred and thirteen (7,092,113) people counted in the country. Before 2015, Statistics-SL was only able to give the breakdown of the population at chiefdom level in the rural areas. But in 2015, it was further broken down into most sections, with the exception of a few sections that have the Type 3 EAs. However, the population of each province is known, the population of each district is known, the population of each chiefdom is known and the population of most of the sections is known with just a few unknown. The challenge is a matter of mismatch, and this is compounded with the similarities of names. However, it could have been easily sorted by matching up the captured data, and it really doesn’t warrant another full-blown census. In fact, the figure of the mismatched data of the said 60% of the Type 3 EAs only constitutes about 3% of the entire population. The fact of the matter is that everyone was counted and it is just an issue of knowing the exact sections of 3% of the entire population. This is a problem that should have been addressed under the heading of LESSONS LEARNED in preparation for the next census in 2025. A full-blown census is another waste of resources.

In summary, Professor Mallam O Sankoh was economical with the facts he presented on radio 98.1 on Tuesday December 7, 2021. He was, in fact, deliberate in misleading his audience by not specifically attributing his said 60% error or mismatch to the Type 3 EAs. He again deliberately misled his audience in failing to show the per centum that constituted the Type 3 EAs in the census. Furthermore, Professor Mallam O Sankoh misled his audience on Tuesday, December 7, 2021, on Radio 98.1 by claiming that Statistics-SL had completed the pilot census. On Monday, December 6, 2021, Statistics-SL staff was in the Goderich environs doing some training on census counting exercise. By international standards, both the cartographic mapping and the pilot census should be published before the main census activity is done. At least a 3-month interval should be given between the pilot census results and the main census activity. This is so because the lessons learned from the pilot census have to be addressed before the census itself. Failing to recognize such an interval and also failing to publish the surveys (cartographic mapping and pilot census results) are themselves anomalies, thus compounding the anomalies to multiply anomalies, the midterm census is now dubbed THE ANOMALIES OF THE MIDTERM ELECTRONIC CENSUS!!!

In conclusion, it would be necessary to look into the meaning of one of the statutes pertaining census and which is the Statistics Act 2002, No. 13. In Section 10 subsection (2) paragraph (a) of the same (i.e., Section 10(2)(a)) reads: “Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1), it shall be the responsibility of Statistics Sierra Leone to —

(a) supervise and manage a national population census to be conducted every ten years or at such shorter interval as may be determined by the President;”.

The drafters of this statute or law were very specific in the first limb whereby they mentioned a specific time of ten years for the conduct of census. In this case it becomes clear to assume that the drafters were relying on the principle of ‘ceteris paribus’ i.e. other conditions being the same, and where there is no serious situation or condition warranting serious number of unaccountable loss of lives; no serious situation that has led to a huge movement of unaccountable people in and out of the country; or where there is no evidence of an astronomical growth rate in terms of housing and property development; then, it is expected that censuses are held every ten years. However, the second limb of the aforementioned section states ‘or at such shorter interval as may be determined by the President.’ This limb caters for abnormal situations or conditions whereby a serious situation occurs in the country that has a tendency to alter the overall population growth figures. Situation such as a pandemic wherein many lives lost cannot be accounted for; or deadly outbreak of wars that significantly resulted to an untold loss of lives and properties; or disasters such as earthquakes or tsunamis with major magnitude leading to a massive unaccountable loss of lives and properties. For these kinds of situations, it is justifiable to call for census before the ten years specified time. In Sierra Leone even though there is a Covid-19 pandemic, but we know how many people have died. Therefore, knowing what the law says, it becomes really difficult to fathom why a very small error in terms of the number of the entire population should warrant a full-blown census for a struggling economy! Moreover, with the reckless behaviour in which management of our meagre resources are handled are a cause for concern. The country’s central Bank Governor deceived the citizens with his reckless statements such as ‘wasting $ 68 million to bribe people for a failed policy!’ This recklessness has to be stopped and challenged! The senselessness of the anomalies is now beginning to show a pattern. On a recent radio program on Radio 98.1 on Thursday December 9, 2021, the Director of Communication of Statistics-SL made a startling revelation when he was commenting on the World Bank’s withdrawal from the census process. The said Director Samuel Sumana revealed that they (Statistics-SL) had a pre-knowledge that the World Bank would withdraw. To a critical mind, one would then be able to draw the nexus between the Bank Governor’s reckless statement and the potential financial gap needed by Statistics-SL to complete the conduct of the census whenever the World Bank pulls out. No wonder the Bank Governor was never publicly reprimanded by the ACC neither the president for his reckless statement and possible theft of the Country’s meagre resources. I am inclined to believe that the said money was not wasted in bribery, but it was a calculated ploy designed to avoid accountability in the Auditor General’s report! Such monies would then be used on issues anticipated as exposed by the Director of Communication of Statistics-SL. Salone wahala boku fos!!!

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