Sierra Leone Telegraph: 16 August 2020:
Sierra Leone’s most controversial minister of lands – Dr Denis Sandy, is in the news once again after he was seen in a video last month talking about voodoo men trying to cast a spell on his ability to perform his job. The video which went viral on social media is said to have caused president Bio much embarrassment to the international community.
But worse was to come, when the minister was last week accused of abusing his office after he was seen at the High Court in Freetown giving moral support to a private defendant in a land dispute against his colleague – the Director of Public Prosecutions and the State.
Many Sierra Leoneans are now accusing Sandy of committing mutiny against his own government, and calling on the president to sack him.
His critics say that the purpose of his appearance in court as an observer was to intimidate the Judge by his presence.
Writing to the Sierra Leone Telegraph, this is what local journalist and commentator – Theophilus Sahr Gbenda said:
Dr. Dennis Sandy, the Minister of Lands, Country Planning and the Environment, has come out short in a High Court matter between the Inspector General of the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) versus three persons charged with offenses relating to malicious damage and larceny.
Presided over by Honourable Justice A. S. Allieu J. of Court No. 5 & 6, the matter stemmed from the action by Dr. Dennis Sandy to forcefully take over a privately owned property and piece of land at Mongegba in the Regent – Grafton axis, granted a few years ago to Miss Elizabeth Squire for the construction of an ultra-modern nursery, primary and secondary school complex in that community.
It is reported that during the course of action, a makeshift ‘pan-bodi’ structure on site alongside a concrete wall fence were completely vandalized and properties worth millions of Leones carted away. The items alleged to have been unlawfully carted away include trips of sand, bags of cement, concrete blocks, three tonnes of iron rod, trips of granite stones, milla tanks and barrel containers.
It is alleged that the suspects in court were the architects of the above criminal act, for which they now face prosecution by State Counsel Yusuf Isaac Sesay, representing the Inspector General of Police, Ambrose Michael Sovula. If found guilty, the suspects, Abu Sesay popularly known as Benjamin (former headman of Mongegba), Abass Denkeh and Musa Sesay, could face up to two years in jail for the malicious damage charge, and five years for the larceny charge, consecutively.
In a clear show of support for the accused persons, Dr. Dennis Sandy together with top officials of the Ministry of Lands including Deputy Minister Rex Bonapha and an armed Operational Support Division (OSD) bodyguard accompanied Defence Lawyer Jessie Jengo into the courtroom, in what came out as a big surprise to many.
Accordingly, Minister Sandy is throwing his weight behind the accused persons because courtesy of unconfirmed sources, they (accused persons) acted under his (minister) instruction. Unconfirmed reports also indicate that it is Dr. Sandy who is paying the legal fees for the defence of the accused persons.
“What shocked me most was seeing the minister leaving his busy schedule just to show solidarity to persons facing criminal charges in a matter involving the state”, said an onlooker who prefers anonymity. The unfolding drama took a different twist when the presiding judge, feeling somehow disturbed by the presence of an armed bodyguard, ordered him out of his court without delay.
This was where Dr. Sandy stood up to say “My Lord, he’s my bodyguard”. The seeming no nonsense judge however stood his ground, thus making the minister looked pretty funny in the eyes of onlookers and his much obliged entourage.
The minister could not help but matched out of the court when right in his presence, the judge ruled in favour of the prosecution in a motion that had to do with the reinstatement of three vital charges which were said to have been surreptitiously dropped at the Magistrate Court level in a bid to lighten the case against the defendants. Asked about his impression seeing a whole minister in outright solidarity with the accused persons, State Counsel Yusuf Isaac Sesay said, “Sorry Bro, I can’t comment on that. I am focusing on the case”.
For her part, Miss Elizabeth Squire who is currently held up in the United States of America courtesy of the Coronavirus pandemic outbreak, expressed dismay that the minister is showing so much interest in the matter, adding that, “What bothers me most is the fact that my school project would have been completed by now had the minister not interrupted the construction work that was rapidly progressing at the material time”.
She went on to state that Mongegba is a badly deprived community with absolutely no school, and that children there have to cover at least two kilometres on foot daily to access education in the nearby communities of Charlotte, Regent and Grafton; often times encountering fatal road accidents. According to her, this was what motivated her to opt for the school project, using her own personal funds as a pay back to the community where she herself resides.
“I feel bullied in this matter by the minister”, said Miss Elizabeth Squire, adding that “I know he is acting out of undue hatred for me”. She furthered that, “I am calling on His Excellency the President and Madam First Lady to intervene by telling Dr. Dennis Sandy minister to hands off the matter and let justice take its course”.
Meanwhile, the matter stands adjourned to Monday 17th August, when seven witnesses listed on the prosecution side, will start making their testimonies. The Honourable Justice A. S. Allieu J. has warned against any lackadaisical approach towards the matter by both sides, saying “I want to deliver ruling on this matter by the end of the month latest”.
Immediately following the publication of the above story, the ministry of lands published this rebuttal accusing his colleague – the government’s director of public prosecutions – Easmon Ngakui, of siding with the defendant in a matter involving the Inspector General of Police (IGP):
It has come to the attention of the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Country Planning that one Mr. Theophilus Sahr Gbenda is accusing the Ministry and the Minister in particular of backing defendants in a private matter involving land issues involving the State. We would like the public to know that there is a case in Court N# 5 and 6 between the headman of mongegba and one Elizabeth Square.
In his article, Theophilus Sahr Gbenda is accusing Dr. Denis Sandy to have attended a session in a High Court matter between the Inspector General of Police (SLP) V Three Persons charged with offenses relating to malicious damage and larceny on government land. Without going into any details here it should suffice to make clear the fact that the Ministry is aware of a case at the High Court of which a certain Miss Elizabeth Square wanted to convert State Land into Private Land using fake documents.
It should be noted that Miss Elizabeth Squire is using High Profile Authorities especially the Director of public prosecutions Mr Easmon Ngakui and Journalist Theophilus Sahr Gbenda to support her in this matter even though she has no legal claim to that piece of land.. Her documents are not only fake but trying to deceive the courts into believing that she had her building materials destroyed at the site which is not hers.
The public should be informed that the Ministry is working with Communities especially the Headmen and women to help protect State Lands across the country and in the case of Mongegba, Abu Sesay and others were brought to Court by Elizabeth Square after demolishing her make shift structure called ‘Pan-bodi’ on the said Land which belongs to the state.
Although the said Elizabeth Square continues to flash fake documents in the faces of those supporting her actions, yet it is the responsibility of the ministry of Lands to ensure that things are done right and the ministry will not sit by and allow fraudulent behaviour to succeed.
Knowing fully well that the Land in question is not a private property but a state one, she has already sold a portion of it to someone staying overseas who is now on her throat to refund his money as the guy has now realized that the Land is State property.
Last week, the Minister, Dr. Denis Sandy, his Deputy Rex Bhonapha, the Director of Survey and Lands Mr. Tamba Dauda, Permanent Secretary Mr. Israel Jigba and Staff of the Ministry were in Court to witness proceedings and to show support to the headman of the said matter at the High Court presided over by Justice AS Allieu. This act of the ministry is to give confidence to headmen and women that the ministry will always stand by them to do the right thing by protecting govt lands in the best interest of the country.
This is not the first time Journalist Theophilus Sahr Gbenda is accusing the Minister and his Ministry falsely; he did a similar thing when the Ministry provided a piece of Land to GICOPRESS at Lumley Beach for the construction of a First Class Hotel; then the said Jounalist claimed that the Land belongs to his girl friend Amie Mezzo who till date cannot produce a single document to ascertain such ownership. So Mr. Gbenda has gone on a personal “free talk” vendetta believing that his way must prevail.
The Ministry has absolute trust in our Judiciary especially the Honorable Justice A. S. Allieu, who is presiding over the matter and we know he will do the right thing for the good of the country- nobody should be encouraged to squat or grab government land or private land for that matter. The ministry will always demand legal documents to establish entitlement.
We as Ministry don’t want to be charged with contempt of Court or else we’ll have produced the fake documents Miss Elizabeth Square has been parading with for the said Land. This is the same Theophilus Gbenda that was driven out of Culture Radio for always bringing journalism to shreds by falsely accusing state officials who are only doing their rightful job.
The ministry of lands and the minister in particular Dr Denis Sandy will always stand by and with community people at anytime and anywhere so long they continue helping the ministry to protect and preserve state lands around Freetown. So the days of Elizabeth Square and Co grabbing state lands and using fake land documents are well and truly over. (END OF MINISTRY OF LANDS’ REBUTTAL).
And as the war of words continue and in response to the rebuttal by the ministry of lands, journalist Theophilus Sahr Gbenda, has made more revelations, This is what he said, further tarnishing the image and credibility of the minister of Lands Sandy:
In what came out clearly as an amateur write-up authored by a faceless individual attached at the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Country Planning, an attempt was made to misinform the public on a matter currently on trial at the High Court of Sierra Leone.
In the said write – up, the Ministry of Lands rather foolishly accused the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Easmon Ngakui, of siding with Miss Elizabeth Squire in a matter between the Inspector General of Police (IGP) versus three persons accused of very serious offences relating to malicious damage and larceny.
The immaturity of the author who might as well be the Minister of Lands Dr. Dennis Sandy himself, was exposed when rather unknowingly or deliberately, committed a contempt of court by raising issues that have nothing to do with the ongoing matter, and which by extention have the tendency of influencing the matter negatively.
As far as we know, the land at Mongegba in question is not in dispute. The rightful owner remains Miss Elizabeth Squire. What is before the court is that three persons stand accused of committing acts relating to malicious damage and larceny, for which they could be sentenced to seven years imprisonment or less, if found guilty on both counts.
We all know that when Dr. Sandy became Minister of Lands, he unlawfully cancelled all land documents duly granted to Sierra Leonean citizens by the past administration. It is therefore not surprising that the ministry is referring to the authentic documents Miss Squire has regarding the legitimate ownership of the said private land as fake. Miss Squire has all legal documents to the effect, and they can be made public anytime as may be deemed prudent.
In the amature write – up under review, the author stated that “Last week, the Minister, Dr. Dennis Sandy, his Deputy Rex Bhonapha, the Director of Survey and Lands Mr. Tamba Dauda, Permanent Secretary Mr. Israel Jigba and staff of the Ministry were in Court to witness proceedings and to show support to the headman of the said matter at the High Court presided over by Justice A.S. Allieu. This act of the Ministry is to give confidence to headmen and women that the Ministry will always stand by them to do the right thing by protecting government lands in the best interest of the country”, thus lending credence to the centerpiece of my carefully written report which assertively states that the minister’s action amounts to backing defendants facing criminal prosecution in a matter involving the State.
Can you imagine the minister halting all official duties at his ministry just to show solidarity to defendants in a matter the ministry is not in any way a party to?
As if that is not enough, the ministry, in their write – up earlier referenced, accused the DPP who is merely doing his job as dictated by the Constitution of the land, of siding with one side in the matter. This obviously calls for a reaction by the DPP, if only to save his name and make foolish the fictitious and malicious claim against him.
It has to be made very clear that the second paragraph in the write – up at stake is totally misleading. The matter in court is not between the headman of Mongegba and Miss Elizabeth Squire. It is a matter between the IGP and three ordinary residents of Mongegba. No headman is involved. The records are there to show.
In the write – up at stake, reference is made to Gicopress and a beach land owned by Miss Anni Metzger, popularly known as Annie Mezo. It states, “The Ministry provided a piece of land to Gicopress at Lumley Beach for the construction of a first class hotel……”.
This is ridiculous. How can a sane man provide a disputed piece of land to a third party when the matter is at the Appeals Court awaiting judgement. It takes nothing but a madman to openly disrespect the due process of the law. Because I stood my ground on behalf of Annie Mezo, the Ministry now claims rather vaguely that she’s my girlfriend. They could as well say that Elizabeth Squire is also my girlfriend because I’m associating with her in this matter as a human right defender.
In the second to last paragraph of the said write – up, it is claimed that “This is the same Theophilus Gbenda that was driven out of Culture Radio for always bringing journalism to shreds by falsely accusing state officials who are doing their rightful job”. This is arrant nonsense. Show me the evidence. If anything, it is the Ministry that is falsely accusing the DPP for doing his rightful job.
The fact is that I duly resigned from Culture Radio as Project Coordinator to take over from Dr. David Tam-Baryoh as General Manager of Eagle Radio. Doesn’t this shows toughness? The Management of Culture Radio could be contacted to set the record straight. I must add that after subsequently resigning from Eagle Radio due to personal reasons, I went back to Culture Radio to take up a new job in a project currently being implemented.
Let me close by stating very categorically that I stand very firmly by my piece, and hereby dismiss as complete rubbish the entire content of the unprovoked write – up emanating from the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Country Planning.