Julius Maada Bio at the State Opening of Parliament
By Mohamed Amara Gando
President Julius Maada Bio has provided updates on the construction of Lungi Bridge, which is expected to ease transportation between Freetown and Lungi. Speaking on Tuesday, 18 May during the State Opening of the Fourth Session of the Fifth Parliament of Sierra Leone at Tower Hill, he revealed that his Government has completed the pre-feasibility study of the Lungi Bridge. According to the President, the construction will start in the shortest possible time but did not say when.
He said the pre-feasibility study was to ascertain the real cost of the construction of the bridge. He stated that the cable-stayed design concept have been reviewed to reduce the total cost from US$ 2.5 Billion to US$1.2 Billion. He said a developer to finance the bridge construction has also been identified and once ratified by Parliament, work will commence.
Speaking on the gains made so far on human capital development, President Bio said without inclusive and sustainable development, there can be no sustainable future for Sierra Leone. “We cannot forever be blinded by cosmetic and short-term infrastructural and other tokens. We must create a society where every child is nurtured, nourished, protected, and equipped with the knowledge and skills required to realize his or her full potential. That is beyond ethnicity,” he said.
Commenting on the progress made in agriculture and food security, Bio said consistent with the National Agricultural Transformation Programme, his Government remains committed to implementing programmes and activities to boost rice self-sufficiency, crop diversification, livestock development, and sustainable forest and biodiversity management.
On education, he said more than at any time in the nation’s history, more children, including girls and other excluded child populations, are now in school at no expense to their parents and guardians. He emphasized that they are provided with free learning materials, more school facilities and infrastructure, school-feeding facilities, and school buses.
“We have affirmed the right to education with our policy of radical
Inclusion that has irreversibly overturned the ban on pregnant girls, championed menstruation health, campaigned nationwide against early child marriage, and provided more support for students with disabilities,” he affirmed.
He further stated that when he instituted the first ever Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation (DSTI) in the Office of the President, he recognized the immense value of science and technology to help solve some of the nation’s challenges, support governance, drive development with innovation, and support the shaping of the future of this nation.
President Bio also added that his Government has repealed the obnoxious, 55-year-old criminal libel law. He pointed out that no journalist is in prison for the practice of journalism.