Sierra Leone Telegraph: 25 June 2021:
The Sierra Leone Bar Association (SLBA) has held talks with the Minister of Lands and Country Planning on diverse issues, including the current non-signing of survey plans, the unacceptably long delays in inspection of lands by officials before issuing building permits, and the right of the Krios to purchase and own land in the provinces.
According to report by the SLBA, the Association’s engagement with the Minister is as a result of growing public outcry and investigations conducted by the Land Complaints Committee (LCC).
Speaking at the meeting held in the Youyi Building in Freetown, the President of the Sierra Leone Bar Association, Michaela Swallow questioned the delays in lifting the moratorium on the signing of survey plans and bottlenecks in submission of returns to the office of the Administrator and Registrar-General. She appealed to the minister to correct these anomalies.
The Minister of Lands and Country Planning, Turad Senesie said that there was a moratorium on the acquisition and disposition of land in the country but that it has been lifted, noting that the Ministry recommenced the signing of survey plans some four weeks ago.
The Minister further stated that his office has designed new criteria to get a survey plan signed. These criteria, he said, may be stringent but are appropriate to deal with the problems the ministry had faced. The newly designed Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), the minister stated, cannot be circumvented.
“The chain starts from the front desk and ends at the front desk”, he pointed out, adding that it’s now a policy that a “licensed surveyor who signs a survey plan takes full responsibility of any error and/or problem arising therefrom”.
According to Turad Senesie, documents are now signed within 14 days after submission, if they meet the criteria set out by the ministry. He went on to say that in an event a document is refused, the rejected document is boldly marked ‘rejected’ and is sent to the enquiry desk for further verification.
Turad Senesie assured that the Land Complaints Committee is now fully functional, and that the Committee is setup to look into land disputes.
“The Committee is at the verge of completing investigations into land disputes under my predecessor and the findings and recommendations will soon be submitted to cabinet for government’s position statement” he said.
The Minister acknowledged delays in the submission of returns to the Registry at Roxy Building and promised to act, noting that his office will shorten the turnaround time for the inspection of lands leading to the issuing of building permits.
“I am of the view that records that predate my assumption of office need to be cross-checked in order to avoid multiple signing and the reoccurrence of the problems being curbed right now,” the Minister said.
The Director of Surveys and Lands, he said, is mandated to verify such documents before the Returns are sent out.
Responding to the question of the rights of the Krios to buy and own land in the provinces, minister Turad Senesie told the SLBA that his ministry now has two legislations in process for enactment into law; the Land Commission Bill and the Land Right Bill currently being discussed.
The passing of those Bills into law will adequately resolve the age-old problem of the rights of the Krios to freehold in the provinces.