Abdulai Mansaray: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 21 December 2020:
The issue of “land grab” is not a new phenomenon to many Sierra Leoneans, especially to those with first-hand experience as victims in this dark art. This is predominantly so in the urban areas.
In fact, land grabbing has been around since King Nemgbana (Naimbana) of Koya chiefdom signed the treaty in 1788. This paved the way for the establishment of the British colony on the Sierra Leone peninsular. The peninsular has since been a fertile ground (pardon the pun) for this growing land grabbing breed.
Successive governments have failed to tackle this menace and It would be preposterous to even insinuate that this practice is a novelty under Bio’s regime. But it will be equally irresponsible if we fail to highlight the high level of occurrence that seems to take a modus operandi flavour. What makes the current trend more nauseating is the brazen and calculated manner of the practice. “Pastor” Chambers and one Mohamed Amara (alias “Engineer”) have been rumoured as kingpins, who threaten their victims that they have the blessings of the ruling SLPP party.
It has been reported that they even claim to be on first name terms with Bio and the top echelons of the government. Unfortunately, the Minister of Lands Mr Sandi, has not been getting favourable posts in relation to land issues on social media. Several social media photos unfortunately seem to give some credence to what we know could be false. We know that every political party has its army of hangers on, but stories from victims at the hands of these two, among others are becoming all too familiar. This is especially so, from Sierra Leoneans in the diaspora.
So how do they do it?
According to information, some of these land grabbers maintain their own personal army of thugs and muscle men. They go around to locate unfinished or undeveloped plots of land that are usually occupied by “care takers” in tin shacks (pan body). The located land becomes a prime target, especially if they learn that the owner is living abroad. Victims have recounted stories about how their caretakers have been threatened, attacked and in some cases illegally removed from their plots. Some have even mentioned the use of law enforcement officers being involved, and in most cases with no proof of injunctions or court orders.
The spate of this practice has become so widespread these days, that it is seemingly becoming an unwritten, widely acknowledged, and accepted fact that land always end up belonging to the most violent. This should not be the case.
But why are diasporans the main targets for these people?
For starters, most are abroad when they start their operations. How many diasporans would drop everything and return urgently to fight such cases, when the life span of a land case in the courts is between 5-10 years on average? For example, a story has been doing the rounds on social media, between Mohamed Amara (Engineer) in Freetown and Mr and Mrs Abubakarr Bah living in the UK. According to reports, the couple had acquired their land legally with every document required in their procession.
They had reportedly started developing their land when Mohamed Amara engineered (pardon the pun) brought it to an abrupt halt, thanks to his professed “CONTACTS IN HIGH PLACES”. According to reports, law enforcement officers were also involved to do the heavy lifting. The matter is now in the hands of the courts, but reports indicate that Mr “engineer” is still yet to present proof of his ownership at the time of writing. Is that being engineered too?
With the government reportedly digitizing all land ownership, you would expect that land grabbing will soon be a thing of the past. Well, that’s the idea, at least. But it seems like while President Bio has been turning the sod for projects like hospitals and the Lungi Airport expansion among others, these people have reportedly been turning sods of a different nature – thanks to their dubiously professed contacts in high places.
They have been busy bedwetting President Bio’s political landscape. Should Maada allow his name to be bastardised by these people?
There are lots of similar stories about Pastor Chambers as well. If the stories from victims are anything to go by, you would be forgiven to think that he is the modern-day King Naimbana of the western area. This is just one example, and I am sure that there is an endless queue of victims at the hands of people like Mohamed and “pastor” chambers.
It is common knowledge that most people in the diaspora aspire to have a dwelling of their own back home, as one of the limited accomplishments from their sojourn abroad. Many believe that the best investment on earth is earth.
But why should they be the target of these grabbers? Why should diasporans feel like “foreign citizens” in their own back yard?
Notwithstanding the major contributions they make to the Sierra Leone economy by way of remittances, investments, and foreign exchange earnings, it looks like their relevance is only acknowledged every 5 years when they are expected to contribute to their respective political parties during the end of each political cycle.
Even the exchange rate of the dollar has gone down now, thanks to the influx of the JCs at this time of the year. Some diasporans contribute funds but are they allowed to run for political office – thanks to the “two-sim “syndrome? They cannot even vote while living abroad, unlike other countries. Sounds like they want your money but not your voice. Now they want your land too.
Are diasporans getting a raw deal or have they become the designated cash cows of the country?
Diasporans from Sierra Leone must pay twice in order to spend holidays back home – thanks to COVID testing. In neighbouring Guinea, you don’t pay on arrival, if you have proof of negative COVID result in the last 72 hours from the departing country. You only pay for a test when you depart the country. In Sierra Leone, there is even a “premium” range for COVID test; whatever that means.
In the past, diasporans with well-meaning business ideas have reportedly been duped of their cash. No one is saying or suggesting that such stories only started under the Bio led government. The difference this time, is that the culprits have become so emboldened that they do not hesitate to shout out their affiliations and connections to the party or the President.
For all we know, these could be political lackeys who don’t even know how to spell President Bio’s surname. We know that when lackeys come to hell’s door, the devils lock the gates.
Lest I forget, congratulations to the President for the recent MCC award which is reportedly in the tune of $400 Million. We are aware of reported shoots of progress on the Lungi Bridge and the airport expansion projects. Reports of upward movements in the agricultural, fishing and other sectors seem to grab social media circles. Kudos. But with man’s innate fondness for power, we also know that it is naturally open to abuse when acquired.
So, if the behaviour of the Mohamed Amaras and “pastor” Chambers of this world is not an abuse of power, do they have the power to abuse?
Let us remember that When people use power to get to the lower dimensions or get ahead without regards for the welfare of others, unhappiness ensues. Sometimes, the public demonstrate that at the ballot box.
Are the results of the recent elections in Karene and Constituency 110 gentle reminders or a demonstration of the above?
This article may not give a conclusive representation of the views of all diasporans. However, there is a significant percentage that feels powerless, hopeless and unprotected against this level of lawlessness that is being perfected into art form these days.
If diasporans are expected to come back home and contribute to the development of the country, the government must ensure that they get a fair deal. I am not suggesting that diasporans are an endangered species, but “PLENTY WAN GO HOME”.
Over to you Ngor Bio. Your name is being peddled to the lowest bidder.
Don’t forget to turn the lights off when you leave the room.