Residents of Koryadu Village in the Tankoro chiefdom, Kono District, where a gem stone diamond was discovered on the 16th March, 2017 by local artisanal miners working for one pastor Emmanuel Aiah Momoh have told this medium that they have been left out in the cold about all information relating to the proceeds received from the sales of the 709 carats Diamond and that the community has not benefited anything from the many promises that were made by the government in power then.
I visited Koryadu village where the famous 709 carats diamond was discovered by the five miners to look into the story behind the claims
I first spoke to one Mr. Sahr Lebbie, one of the miners who found the Diamond and who also doubles as the town chief and at the same time the uncle of the owner of the 709 carats diamond pastor Emmanuel Aiah Momoh.
Mr. Sahr Lebbie expressed his dissatisfaction with the past government, claiming that they were not treated fairly despite the amount of patriotism they displayed by handing over the Diamond to the state authorities after it was discovered.
“We received no benefit from the beneficiaries and no mercy from who we thought were the merciful. The fame and high expectations from the public is gone and our diamond is also gone” He angrily told me.
He said that they believe the diamond and all other minerals found in their community are supposed to be a blessing for them rather than a curse but that what has happened to them is worse than a curse.
Mr. Lebbie revealed to me that their diamond was bidden in Sierra Leone for seven million seven hundred thousand dollars ($ 7,700,000) which the former government denied and later sold it at six million five hundred thousand dollars ($ 6,500,000) in New York but since then have not handed over the one million two hundred thousand dollars ($ 1,200,000) that was supposed to be their percentage as the community where the stone was found.
When asked about how the proceeds from the diamond was shared, Mr. Lebbie confirmed that 40% out of the total sale was given to the owner of the Diamond, Pastor Momoh, 15% went to the District and government promised to spend 8% of that for the construction of a road leading to the village, build a school with teachers’ quarters, a hospital with a medics’ quarter, a tower with a diamond statue to be located in the center of the village, 3 bore holes, water taps and solar lights all over the village but when I asked how far government has gone with all the promises for the community, he made it crystal clear to me that they are yet to see any of those developments
“Absolutely nothing has commenced except for the foundation of the school which was stopped immediately after the last general election” said Mr Lebbie, with tears in his eyes
I also approached Mrs. Sia Lebbie the Aunt of the owner of the Diamond, Pastor Aiah Momoh, who expressed frustration over what her nephew did by presenting the diamond to the government like any good patriot, an action which she said is was seen by government as a crime and their village has now become a laughing stock for the neighboring communities.
Peter S. Gbamoi, a volunteer teacher and headmaster for the community primary school in Koryadu village, told me that the school does not have any good building apart from the locally erected structures, which were done with palm thatch, no trained and qualified staff, no furniture and learning materials, and above all, is yet to be approved or assisted by government despite meeting all the conditions.
Mr. Gbamoi pleaded to their member of parliament and the new government to think about their village and its contribution towards the nation’s economy, adding that the government of Sierra Leone needs to do something tangible which the people of Koryadu could point at as it will be used as a good precedent for other miners.
On encountering the owner himself, Pastor Aaih Momoh, he told me that he was out of the country for a short time and is just coming back and therefore is not fully abreast with what is happening in the village but that information he has gathered so far is that the Director General of National Minerals Agency Mr. Sahr Wunday went there to get first hand information about the construction of the promised school by government, and what he saw was an eyesore. According to Pasrot Momoh, Mr Sahr Wunday has ordered the immediate overhaul of the whole structure to match modern standards.
Mr. Momoh also reiterated that his biggest concern is why the past government did not involve him in the development plan for the community
“I think I should have been directly involved in the planning and implementation of whatever project in my community done from the proceeds of the diamond for transparency and fairness, because, my people trust me and they know that I want the best for us all” he emphasised.
He called on the MPs, Ministers and all other authorities in Kono and also the President H.E. Julius Maada Bio to make sure that the people of Kono and Koryadu village in particular get what they deserve from the proceeds of the said diamond as it is now two years since the discovery of the diamond and there is no tangible development they could point to.
“if only the government want people to emulate my good example it needs to do something for this very district and the village in particular” he concluded.