Venue: Golden Tulip Hotel
Date: Friday, 13th November, 2020
Let me start by thanking NASSIT for initiating an annual press dinner, where it interacts with members of the media who report, monitor, and critique their operations and activities.
As President of SLAJ, I am very happy to be invited here to make a statement on behalf of the media in the country and to speak on the theme for this dinner- ‘the role of the media in the enhancement of the NASSIT Scheme’.
Indeed, I will speak directly to the theme; but I will also accord myself the liberty to briefly outline ‘the role NASSIT can equally play in the enhancement of the media in Sierra Leone’.
NASSIT is the second largest financial institution in Sierra Leone, the first being the Central Bank.
Established by an Act of Parliament in 2001, NASSIT is charged with the responsibility of administering Sierra Leone’s National Pension Scheme: “to provide retirement and other benefits to meet the contingency needs of workers and their dependents and to provide other related matters”.
So the Scheme includes payments for retirement, old age, invalidity and survivor’s benefits.
The scheme was adapted from Ghana, where it is making tremendous progress. Here in Sierra Leone, there were challenges initially but in the last decade or so there has been some progress, and lately there’s remarkable hope for incredible development.
SIERRA LEONE EXPERIENCE
Before now, many citizens are not aware of the benefits of NASSIT, but now that some people are graduating from the social security scheme and receiving handsome benefits they are beginning to realise what they have been missing.
Before now people who retire from employment only receive pensions which were ridiculously as low as Two Hundred and Fifty Thousand Leones. With current economic trends, even if you are the best manager in the world, you can barely survive on that amount in a day or two.
Now with NASSIT, some beneficiaries receive five to ten million Leones a month. This has positive implications on the socio-economic life of the State. For the most part, I personally believe that public servants steal from public funds to ensure their social security after retirement or in the case of any emergency. But if you are assured of monthly benefits of five to ten million Leones, your motivation to steal will reduce.
So the NASSIT scheme in a way discourages graft, because people have something to look forward to after retirement.
ROLE OF THE MEDIA
The primary role of the media is to make people understand the NASSIT scheme and its benefits.
Our traditional role as media is to inform, educate and entertain; but in this instance our role is to inform and educate. Inform the people about the scheme, educate them about the benefits and also educate them about how they can go about to ensure their basic rights are respected.
The media should also ensure their employers pay their NASSIT regularly.
Our role can also be to comply with the NASSIT Act. As media businesses we must ensure we register with NASSIT, and also regularly pay contributions for our staff. When we comply, we do not only protect our businesses but we also ensure the future livelihood of our reporters and other media workers.
Furthermore, it is the media’s role to monitor activities and operations of NASSIT to ensure that the Trust does not invest the people’s contributions poorly.
NASSIT collects contributions, but to be able to pay beneficiaries when they retire from employment, or when they become invalid or die, the Trust has to invest what they are collecting so that the money does not just lie idly there in their accounts.
NASSIT owns major amounts of stock in Sierra Leone’s principal companies, and is an important part of the country’s economy.
Now, with the repeal of the criminal and seditious libel law, the Sierra Leone media is now open for business and investment, and we kindly invite NASSIT to take a look.
For example, NASSIT can establish a partnership with SLAJ to invest in printing facilities. We have over 100 registered newspapers in the country, and that’s good for business. We can set up a printing facility and use the Lungi Airport model. NASSIT will invest and operate the business for a while to recover their money and then handover the facility to SLAJ to manage and operate.
We can go beyond the printing facility to invest in printing materials (news prints, films, plates, inks, etc.) All printing materials are imported into the country. NASSIT and SLAJ can start a joint venture company, with NASSIT providing the seed money. We import and sell to printing establishments including newspapers. And I will ensure that all newspapers buy from us, as we will make them own the project. After turnover, NASSIT will take back their seed money and handover the business to SLAJ. If they wish to continue, then fine; we will just have to share the profits.
These are models that we should explore so that NASSIT will help the media grow and save us from the hands of unscrupulous business people who increase prices astronomically at the slightest crisis to our disadvantage.
In closing, let me say that at SLAJ we believe in cooperation. We believe that no one institution or individual can do it all. The partnership between NASSIT and SLAJ will be stronger and sustainable if we support each other. We believe that if we join hands together we can make Sierra Leone the best place for all its citizens.
I thank you.