Sierra Leone Telegraph: 8 February 2021:
The newly appointed Minister of Lands and others approved by the Parliament of Sierra Leone last week, took their oath of office in the presence of President Dr Julius Maada Bio at State House today.
Dr Turad Senesie is now the new Minister of Lands and Housing, after Dr Sandy was sacked last month in a cabinet reshuffle.
Dr Jonathan Titus Williams has become the Deputy Minister of Planning and Economic Development, Dr Sao-Kpato Hannah Isata Max-Kyne is now Commissioner for the National Commission for Social Action (NaCSA), and Mr Jimmy Batilo Songa is her deputy.
Speaking on behalf of the new appointees – Dr Senessie (Photo above) described their appointments as landmark moments because they have been called upon to serve the people of Sierra Leone.
He assured President Bio that they will keep focused and take their responsibilities very seriously, adding: “We want to thank you, Your Excellency, for the trust you have bestowed on us among many others you could have chosen.”
President Bio congratulated his new staff and encouraged them to work assiduously because his government has promised the people and must deliver.
“We have to deliver. No excuses. We have to deliver, not only because we have promised but also because it is the only way to move this country forward,” he noted.
He also admonished them that the government’s vision and mission are quite clear and that he was certain they will play their part and bring development, even though they have a daunting task ahead.
Wasting no time in getting to work, the new minister of lands – Dr Senessie today declared a moratorium on the sale and leasing of public lands in the Western Area.
“The public is hereby informed that a moratorium has been placed on allocations / sale of all state lands for private use in the Western Area with immediate effect. During this period, the Government will only allocate State Land for investment purposes or to diplomatic missions.”
Well Mr. Kargbo for your contribution to this ongoing debate. You are spot on about people taking advantage of the lax ways our lands laws are excecuted and repackaged and sold to the highest bidder. But in the case of Freetown to foreigners that are only buying the land to make money out of a system that that have failed your fellow countrymen and women. But tbis land issue didn’t start with Bio. Its been there for a long time. More like the land issue is country wide. I will tell you that now because, some of these land issues are repeated all over the country.
The issue of Freetown, or any major city in the world, the land is classified as prime land. The Gold dust of our generation. That is why everyone is trying to get their hands on it. In some part of the provinces families pit against each other over inheritance or over-lapping ownership. And sometimes it is not clearly defined. That is why government needs to take a hard look at this issue and find ways to fix it. This is the next ticking time bomb.
Sorry Mr kargbo I didn’t answer the last part of your question. I stand to be corrected on this one. Here is what I think exercised communities, or individual private developers is when government ministers responsible for land, knowingly seize private lands, and give it to fellow government minister, Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, or a friend of a government ministers instead for the good of the community.
If the land was acquired illegally by a private citizen, then the government thinks that land was acquired illegally, but the present owner bought it in good faith or is led to believe he bought it in good faith, and has all the documentation to prove it, like conveyance or court documents for proof of purchase and title deeds, then if the government wants that land back for the good of the community, like the construction of a road or a school building, or health centre, then it is incumbent the government compensate that individual for their loss.
But in doing so the government is acquiring the land back with the knowledge its for the good and service of the whole community. Not going straight to the ownership of a government minister or relative of a government officials. If they do that, they are in breach of section 21 of our constitution for the right of private ownership. Laws are made, but they are not set in stone. There is always a loop hole. In the case of the land laws in Sierra leone, there are many of them.
The land issue in Sierra Leone is exacerbated by communal land ownership in the provinces.
Now, I am not saying that all the land in the provinces should be privatised, however, some land can be set aside, which will ease the pressure on Freetown.
This new appointment of Dr Senessie, as the new lands minister, and his moratorium declaration on lands in the western area is welcome.It was the right thing to do, until he figures out a different approach on the land issues in the western area. Its about time. Maybe a voice of reason has prevailed from the past mistakes of land grab policy that was in practice that brought so much misery to land oweners in the Freetown area. We will soon find out if this minister reads and understands our 1991 constitution on the right to ownership of property. I don’t think Bio and his sacked minister, can claim any understanding of our constitution. Because the previous occupant might have read it, but ignored the provisions in it.
According to the 1991 constitution, chapter I sub section 21 and paragraph one, protection from deprivation of property, it clearly states: No property of any discriptoin shall be compulsory taken possession of, and no interest in or right over property of any description shall be compulsory acquired, except where the following conditions are satisfied, that is to say – It went on to say it can only be made possible to take possession or acquisition in the interest of defence, public safty of the citizens of Sierra Leone and the necessary therefore is such as to afford reasonable justification for causing of any hardship that may result to any person having any interest in or right over the property, and the provision is made by law applicable to taking of possession or acquisition. And it all has to be made if it benefits the public good.
Iam not going to quote every thing, but to sum it up, it went on to says: the owners have to be fully compensated. And in the event of a dispute arising, that the owners are not happy with the compensation the courts should decide the possession of the property, interest or right and the amount of any compensation to which he is entitled and the purpose of obtaining prompt payment of the compensation. In a nutshell, nothing justify the actions of Dr Sandy in pushing a one man agenda to take possession of land poapa. All whats gone on in the past, you can make the case was a violation of the constitutional rights of those citizens that were in the receiving end from the previous lands minister Dr Sandy. If everyone including government ministers and citizens alike obey our constitution, and using it as the template for which our country is governed, I think there will be less drama, but more development in our country.
Abraham amadu Jalloh, please be informed that I am not attempting in any way your argument or opinion that you have stated above. What I want to know with regards the section of the constitution that you have quoted which emphatically speak about “ownership”. Even though the constitution is mute on what ownership implies, it goes without saying that it is about rightful or legal ownership of the property.
In the western area and sometimes also in the provinces, the issue about ownership is extremely flawed and it has been like this since the White men left. Successive law maker knows where the problem is but none is willing to have it fixed. Today land ownership in the western area has become a gold mine. How can you stop illegal land grabbing when all you have to do to get the land in the first place is to connive with some syndicate, grab as much acres as you can. All you do is to Claim that you have been developing the plot and pay fifty thousand Leones as official fees for lease. The following years the land is yours and you can sell it for as much as ten thousand dollars. That is a Mega lottery.
The Question, does the ministry in charge of land take back government or public land that was illegally acquired by a syndicate without falling foul of the 1991 constitution, chapter I sub section 21 and paragraph one, protection from deprivation of property that you have quoted above.