Sierra Leone Telegraph: 02 March 2021:
Minister of Lands and Country Planning, Dr. Turad Senesie, said last Thursday that his first priority is to reform the ministry by creating separate Directorates – Lands, Housing, and Planning. He said he will digitalise their operations. He was speaking at the weekly government press briefing hosted by the Ministry of Information and Communications.
Dr. Senesie explained that successive governments have focused on land allocation, especially in the Western Area with little or no planning, and lack of focus on providing affordable housing for low- and middle-income households.
“I believe there has to be a change of approach in the discharge of our duties as a ministry,” he said, adding that government will now focus on country planning and affordable housing development as a priority, while land allocation will become a secondary issue.
“In order to meet the timely expectations of the public, I intend separating the Directorate of Housing and Country Planning into two separate directorates; Directorate of Country Planning and Directorate of Housing,” he announced.
The Lands Minister said that the Directorate of Country Planning will be charged with controlling and regulating urban planning, establishing an urban design unit, establish country planning and district planning committees, initiate a holistic development plan – including structure and local plans, and conduct research relating to town and urban planning.
The Directorate of Housing on the other hand, he said, will be working with partners to build affordable housing around the country for low- and middle-income earners so as to modernise towns and cities, replace derelict and shanty communities, encourage the setting up of home finance institutions, encourage largescale production of local building materials, and work with the Sierra Leone Housing Corporation to improve service delivery.
Dr. Senesie pointed out that in the Western Area, land accounts for about 17% of the total land available in the country, noting that because of the scarcity of land, expensive rent imposed by landlords and upsurge in urbanization, the rush for land has increased, thus inviting state and non-state actors into the sale of land to multiple buyers with multiple documentations. This state of affairs, according to the minister, has led to series of conflicts over land ownership in communities.
To prevent this and other related crimes associated with land allocation and ownership, Dr Senesie said his ministry is going to digitalise the entire system using robust and appropriate technology.
“It is my belief that Sierra Leoneans want to see their towns and cities competing with other towns and cities around the globe. We can do this if we are all ready to just do some amount of sacrifice and demonstrate some level of nationalism. This requires discipline, decency, and honesty – DDH. Let us all inculcate the habit of DDH and make our towns and cities the envy of Sub Saharan Africa,” he challenged citizens.