Sierra Leone: Kenema women launch governance network

By Ahmed Sahid Nasralla (De Monk)

Women unite: “Let us not relent and let no man intimidate us and tell us that we are not educated”

Women in Kenema have organised themselves into the Kenema Women in Governance Network seeking to empower themselves socially, economically, educationally and, most importantly, politically.

Drawing from the experiences and successes of their sisters in the Kailahun Women in Governance Network, the women said the time is now for them to take the podium in leadership and decision making in Sierra Leone.

“I believe this is the turning point wherein we have decided to confront the challenges preventing us from sitting side by side with the men in matters of politics and governance,” said Mary Wuyata Karimu, who chaired the launching program at Hotel Albertson, Kenema Town, last week.

Mary is the Chairperson of the Right to Access Information Commission (RAIC) Eastern Region.

“This is the time that the women of Sierra Leone should take the podium in leadership and decision making. Let us not relent and let no man intimidate us and tell us that we are not educated,” she added.

By the launching, Kenema Women in Governance Network is now an affiliate to Kailahun Women In Governance Network, which was formed in 2009. The formation of both women networks was supported by SEND Sierra Leone through funding from Irish Aid under the Women Participation in Governance Project. The Kenema project is specifically called Kenema Women Participation in Governance.

The network draws its membership from all 16 chiefdoms in Kenema District, with the district divided into four zones. Each zone has its executive which reports to the District Executive comprising of seven members. The district executive are elected from the four zones.

“Let me first and foremost, on behalf of our membership, commend the donors and SEND Sierra Leone for the trainings and support throughout the stages of the formation of this network. Our goal is to ensure more women take up political offices; come 2023, we want the numbers to increase remarkably. We know it will not be easy, but we are giving it a good fight,” said Fatmata Dassama, President of the Kenema women network; adding that they have started identifying women for key positions for the next national elections.

The women noted some of the key challenges holding them back, such as reprehensible culture and traditions and what they called pulling-down-syndrome. They also noted that the men in the Eastern region have not been treating women fairly in terms of political empowerment.   

To get the men onboard, Dassama revealed that the network has trained about 80 males in the district to help them convince more men to support the political course of women.

“If we want to quickly achieve our goal we need the support of the men; so let’s do all we can to convince them to get onboard. Let us start with our husbands or partners. Let us stay united and let’s talk positive things about our colleague women and rally behind those we have identified to be leaders in order to build Sierra Leone,” appealed Dassama.

Women constitute more than 51% of the population of Sierra Leone, and the Country Director of SEND Sierra Leone, Joseph Ayamga, said this statistics alone should be a source of strength for all women to pursue their dreams.

“If we are all here to talk about the business of women, it means that they are very much important. Women are the only people that add value to life. We are not launching the network to throw a challenge against the men. Rather, we are encouraging men and women to work together. We should give women their rights and remind them about their responsibilities as well.  All of us have our rights and responsibilities. Women have different skills same as men and that’s why we should work together,” said Ayamga.

He said any community or home where men and women are working together is better than where they are not and that is what they are trying to promote.

“The progress of women should not diminish the progress of men. We have women that are qualified to be chiefs, heads of political parties and councilors but why are we segregating them because of culture and tradition? We are trying to let you know that any society where women are lagging behind, it will never grow,” said Ayamga, adding that the essence of the women network is to fight for their colleagues to prosper in life by advocating for better social services and protection.  

The Resident Minster East, Andrew Fatorma, who also attended the ceremony, said in as much as women want leadership and improvement, they have to change their attitude.

“If you are advocating for men to work closely with you, you also have to support your colleagues when they seek leadership positions. Women in positions now should encourage those that don’t have the opportunity so you will be able to work as a team,” said the Resident Minister.

He continued: “You (women) have to work hard; it is not about coming together but you have to translate this into practical things. You have an assignment to do. It is not about promoting your interest alone. You have to think about helping and assisting those coming after you. I am happy because I have seen faces here that really want to promote the cause of women. We are ready to embrace you but it is your responsibility to push for it to happen.”

Meanwhile, giving the keynote address and formally lauching the network, the Deputy Director of the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, Eastern Region, Jeneba Koroma,said every society is made up of weak and strong people and it’s very important for women to be part of governance.

“For governance to be very effective, men and women should always sit at the same table to take decisions because only then, the needs of everyone, including women, will be best met,” she said, adding that when women are in governance they cater for the family, community and the nation at large.

Following the formation of the women governance network in Kailahun, the district elected 12 women as councilors in the 2012 national elections, the highest in the entire country.

Credit: Development and Economic Journalists Association-Sierra Leone (DEJA-SL).


Sierra Leone: Resident Minister Threatens Lazy Cocoa Farmers With God’s Sledge Hammer!

By Ahmed Sahid Nasralla (De Monk)

Res Min. East, Andrew Fatorma

Sierra Leone’s Resident Minister East, Andrew Fatorma, has urged local cocoa farmers to put more effort and employ best practice in growing better cocoa so they would earn more money and bring about desired change in their lives, communities and the nation in general; or risk facing divine wrath.

Speaking at the closing ceremony of a 21-days Training of Trainers workshop for Community Facilitators on Cocoa Integrated Crop and Pest Management (ICPM) and Farmers Field Schools (FFS) under the Cocoa Rehabilitation and Intensification Programme (CoRIP) organised by Solidaridad West Africa at Hotel Albertson, Kenema Town, on 29th March, 2019, the Resident Minister warned the participants to go back to their communities and put into effective practice what they have learnt or risk the wrath of God’s sledge hammer.

“You should remember that nobody forced you to come and participate in this training, you opted to be part of it. After people have taken time to groom you up to ensure that you transform your lives and this country and after here you go back and sit in your communities and forget about everything, God will use His sledge hammer on you,” swore the Resident minister.

He added: “You have gone through 21 days of quality training and to stay in Kenema from different locations in the country, that requires huge amount of money. They accommodated you, provided food for you and got an international consultant to train you, that is too much. The only way you can pay back is to put the knowledge and skills you have gained from this training into practical use to change the story of the cocoa industry and bring about the change that matters in your lives, your families, your communities and the country at large.”

The Resident Minister said his presence at the ceremony is to emphasise the premium His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio puts on agriculture as the engine for socio-economic growth in the country. In the past, he recalled, Sierra Leone had agriculturists who graduated with first and second degrees and even doctorates “but we have not got an agriculturist in this country practicing agriculture. We want to change that narrative”.

He encouraged the participants to go back and serve as ambassadors of the new cocoa industry in their communities.

“We are beginning to swear people who take up responsibility but fail to discharge such responsibility effectively and blame government when things don’t go right. When you talk about government it is not about the President alone, or his Cabinet; you are also in your small corner charged with the responsibility to transform your country but when you fail in that duty, you don’t condemn yourself but other people,” vowed the Resident Minister, adding that more often than not people ask for help but have never showed what they have done for their country in taking advantage of opportunities like this.

Expressing affection for the slogan: ‘better cocoa, more money’, chanted by the participants throughout the ceremony, the Resident Minister said if the country fails to produce better cocoa going forward, nobody should blame the Ministry of Agriculture or the Government.

“We will now not blame the ministers, but all of you because you have been trained to produce better cocoa. They have trained you and we are now looking and expecting you to deliver,” he challenged the participants.

The Resident Minister urged Solidaridad and its partners to effectively follow-up and monitor the outcomes.

“What has been happening in this country is that sometimes they trained people and because there is no follow-up or proper monitoring, it dies down like that. May be in due course, we’ll begin to even ask people to sit exam for the degrees they claim to have, so that after every five years you come to defend your degree. That is what is happening in other countries so that you don’t sleep on you oars,” he said.

A total of 102 participants took part in the training: 61 farmers selected by partners, 10 Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) extension staffs, 20 Field Officers of partners and 11 National Youth service personnel.

The training covered all the protocols from cocoa agronomy, pest management, disease management, rehabilitation, how to set up FFS and other programs that will enable farmers to grow sustainable cocoa.

According to the Consultant trainer, Sylvanus Agordorku, the farmers are expected to go to their communities to establish FFS in conjunction with their partners who they are working with. At these schools they are supposed to train cocoa farmers in planting, replanting and diversification and also for rehabilitation because the current program is meant for rehabilitation and new planting in the cocoa farms. Eventually, the old plantations will be taken care of during the course of the FFS training.

Furthermore, Sylvanus said the farmers are expected to plant food crops as rainy season crops in the cocoa farms that will be established so that they will have food security, food availability and food accessibility and thereby by help to reduce hunger.

“The old practice where farmers go to the food banks to borrow will be minimized or eradicated entirely during the course of the program ahead of us,” noted Sylvanus.

In Sierra Leone the CoRIP project, which is funded by the Dutch Government, is implemented in three (3) districts; namely Kenema, Kailahun and Kono- all in the Eastern region, where the land is fertile for cocoa farming. It seeks to support cocoa intensification and production improvements by facilitating improved farmers access to inputs and extension services and test and validate economically viable and operationally feasible service delivery models for production support services through the creation of Farmer Support Centers (FSCs).

As part of Solidaridad West Africa’s sustainability strategy, they work through local partners: F.T. Saad, Sierra Leone Produce Marketing Company, Randlyn Holdings and Trading Organic-SL Ltd. To date, a total of 765,920 improved cocoa varieties have been nursed by partners through Solidaridad’s support across the three (3) operational districts. These seedlings are expected to be distributed and planted by 27,500 smallholders’ cocoa farmers in the three districts. The 21 days training is part of Solidaridad’s efforts to ensure that these seedlings when distributed to farmers are maintained using Good Agricultural Practices (GAP).

“In due course, we expect the trainees to adopt the knowledge acquired in their farms, train other farmers (ToT) and demonstrate commitment to attend future trainings,” said John Maada Paul Sinah, Solidaridad Programme Manager for oil palm in Sierra Leone. “We will be conducting follow-up visits to all trainees and farms to verify whether the knowledge gained over these three weeks are reflected on the farmers and farms.”

Meanwhile, one of the participants, Ade Momoh, described the training as very timely and an eye-opener.

“All what I was doing before was actually following what I learnt from my parents who were also cocoa farmers. It has been very beneficial to me but I was never exposed to new methods to improve on my cocoa farming business, as I was just using the old method I inherited from my father. Now I am happy to learn about new methods I need to apply in the field that will change the life style of my cocoa production for better,” said the 44-year-old famer from Kailahun District, who claims to have been a cocoa farmer since 2004.

He said he will return to his community full of new ideas and confidence, and will apply them in his cocoa farm.

Credit: Development and Economic Journalists Association-Sierra Leone (DEJA-SL).

No community, country or region should be made to feel too small – says Ernest Bai Koroma

Sierra Leone’s former President, Ernest Bai Koroma, informed stakeholders that to consolidate peace requires opening the political space by encouraging genuine inclusiveness in governance.

“No community, country or region should be made to feel too small or inadequate to be accorded its rightful place in development,” he said.

Sharing his experience at the Horasis Global Meeting in Caiscais, Portugal, the former president said “As soon as we came into government, our first major action was to reform the anti-corruption legislation, giving more autonomy to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC)”

“It now has the power not only to investigate but to prosecute as well: we have created an institution to fight corruption and strengthen transparency.”

The event usually gathers business leaders, heads of governments, key cabinet ministers, and eminent thought leaders to advance solutions to the most critical challenges facing the world. During this year’s four – day global conference, participants are expected to share their insights in view of the current ‘fragile and fractious’ state of our world.

Recognised as a champion of peace in Africa, Sierra Leone’s former President was invited to deliver a special message on how the world could work together to attain sustainable peace. President Ernest Bai Koroma succeeded in consolidating peace in a country which had suffered one of the world’s most brutal and destructive armed conflicts in recent memory.

At a joint press conference in Freetown on 5 March 2014, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: “Sierra Leone represents one of the world’s most successful cases of post-conflict recovery, peacekeeping and peacebuilding.”

By the time President Koroma left office in 2018, the International Peace Index ranked Sierra Leone as the most peaceful country in West Africa and one of the most peaceful in Africa.

During the administration’s time of economic growth and change, the country was devastated by the Ebola epidemic in West Africa in early 2014. Sierra Leone was the hardest hit country but overcame the deadly disease through President Koroma’s steady leadership and by cooperation with neighboring nations and international aid organizations to fight the disease. The World Health Organization declared Sierra Leone was Ebola-free in March 2016.
Koroma states, “We had a projected growth of 13.2 percent before the epidemic broke out, and we were considered one of the most transformed countries in terms of governance. We have conducted free and fair elections, we have strengthened our institutions, we are fighting against corruption, we are a religiously-tolerant country, and we have been reported to be the most peaceful country in West Africa.”

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW PART 3: “The Demolition Machine is only for illegal ‘pan-body’ structures”- Dr. Denis Sandy

By Ahmed Sahid Nasralla (De Monk)

In Part 3 of our exclusive interview with the Minister of Lands, Housing and the Environment, Dr. Denis Sandy, he talks about land grabbing, the land dispute between the Hastings community and the Military, regularization of State lands, land policy, revenue generation and the Demolition Machine donated by a Sierra Leonean living abroad.

Land grabbing

According to Dr. Sandy, the demolition machine, which was donated by a Sierra Leonean living abroad, is for ‘pan-body’ structures illegally built on State lands

It is not easy with regards land administration in this country. Over the past decades, this is an industry that will all know is very lucrative. If you sell a piece of land for $10,000 it simply means that it is a motivational factor to continue selling other lands. The incentive is there and that is the push factor we are working to put under control. Land grabbing will reduce now because we told people that we are not going to play ball with you. I have been in the office and people have called me, saying Doc I have this 10 acres of land, you take two or three please help us. How many men and women will have the guts to resist such temptations but when you put your country first, you will be able to do your job.

The land grabbing scheme in this country is very interesting and wicked. You know how people are grabbing land now, they go in there knowing fully well they don’t have the official documents. They never had official government documents but they rely on their own documents that we deal with most often than not and 99.9% of them are all fake.

Because you don’t have the necessary skills and anybody goes with a conveyance to you and think because they signed it, it is authentic. It is not and we have series of conveyances here stamped and signed but they were never registered. We have received letters from our brothers and sisters abroad complaining that they have these documents and wanted to know whether they are authentic, we told them they are not.

Hastings Community and the Military

This land business is not a child’s play, only God knows what we are going through in this ministry in our attempts to straighten things up for the good of all Sierra Leoneans. Look at the problem between the Hastings community and the military. People entered into the firing zone where the military is training and said this is our land- you either shoot us or you are not going to take our land. We went there again and held a big meeting and thank God for now we have been able to settle it.

We are going there again to request the military to construct a very strong fence and all those private individuals after confirmation that yes they own these private lands there and they are authentic, the government will now compensate them.

There is nowhere in the world where the military is cohabiting with civilians. We can’t sit here and allow people grab lands just like that. Sometimes we have to be so reactionary otherwise we won’t have positive results.

Demolition machine

For the very first time, we have got a state-of-the-art machine for our own operation and that has enhanced our work. We have been using the machine to bring down ‘pan-body’ structures. The logistics required to enhance our work for that machine is not easy. Provision for security is also not easy. The machine was donated to us by a Sierra Leonean living abroad who admires the work we are doing; it was never bought by this government. And please know that we have never demolished anybody’s house. We know what we are doing and we want this cleaning-up project to succeed for the good of this country. 

Regularization of State lands

For people who have constructed on State lands, we have done what we called regularization. Most people with State lands have been regularized after looking at their documents. Nobody is demolishing anybody’s land. We would rather regularize your documents than demolish your house. But we won’t allow you if you have a ‘pan-body’ in your land; we will break it down as there is a process of reapplying.

Land Policy

The land policy issue is in top gear and we are collaborating with other MDAs, including the Ministry of Agriculture, Environment Protection Agency and NPAA to build up and manage the environment effectively. We are enforcing development control. This is the only country where people are not coming for building permit but when you go there and seize their tools, they see you as a bad person.

The Freetown Environment Act says that nobody should commenced any construction without a building permit. We take too much laxity because of our laws and that should not be allowed to continue.

Also, we have offices now in the regions; we have in Bo, Kenema, Kailahun, Port Loko, Kono, Pujehun and so we are trying. We have paid people in the Mortomeh area and I was in charge of that process, almost Le8 billion. We are so adamant in terms of environmental management. Why can’t we work together to protect our environment rather than wait for disaster to happen? We give people notification; two weeks’ notice to quit before we go on demolition of ‘pan-body’ structure. Now we are developing the concept for the establishment of a land and environmental court.

Revenue generation

We are not only flexing our muscles in terms of stopping and reclaiming State lands, but through lease payments, we have been able to collect Le2.9 billion.  

Credit: Development and Economic Journalists Association- Sierra Leone (DEJA-SL).

The Western chimpanzee is Critically Endangered

“The subspecies of chimpanzee that calls Sierra Leone home is the Western chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes verus), which, to our great sorrow, is Critically Endangered. The next step from here is Extinct in the Wild, and we simply cannot let that happen,” according to the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary movement.
The movement says that creating a brighter future for Sierra Leone’s chimpanzee population is about more than just protecting the chimps themselves, adding “we cooperate with communities across the country to educate, provide access to sustainable livelihoods, and conserve important areas of forest habitat”

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) says chimpanzees have already disappeared from 4 African countries, and are nearing extinction in many others. Deforestation and commercial hunting for bushmeat are taking a terrible toll on most populations.

Chimpanzees are highly social animals. Their communities consist of loose and flexible groups of males and females (fusion-fission societies) within a fixed home range, led by a dominant male. Members join and leave these communities freely, depending among other on their reproductive status and the availability of resources.

Apart from the dominant leader, there are also groups of individuals with some level of authority. Communities of about 50 individuals each have been reported in forest, woodland and savanna habitat, but overall size range is around 15-80.

Subgroups may include solitary individuals or diverse groups of both sexes and all ages. These aggregations are temporary and constantly change in composition, regardless of gender and age. 

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW PART 2: Lands Minister Employs ‘Positive Aggression’ in matters of land

By Ahmed Sahid Nasralla (De Monk)

In this Part 2 of my exclusive interview with the Minister of Lands, Housing and Environment, Dr. Denis Sandy, he talks about employing what he calls ‘positive aggression’ in addressing controversial land issues, especially in reclaiming State lands; securing a site plan for Fourah Bay College’s 464 acres of land’ settling land dispute between Njala University and land owning families in Mokonday, IPAM and Bureh Town and securing 100 acres of land in Moyamba District for the possible relocation of Sierra Leone’s Correctional Center from its current inappropriate facility at Pademba Road.

Reclaiming State lands

The principal responsibility of this ministry is to protect, preserve, maintain and distribute effectively state lands in the country. But first is to put under control what you think you should have. We are pleased to say that we have made remarkable progress in terms of reclaiming State lands in the Western area regions (urban and rural).

Dr. Denis Sandy: ‘Sometimes you have to act like an eagle to address land matters, otherwise it will be too late’

The volume of applications for State land is on the increase in these two regions. Had it not been for the decision we took to suspend applications, it would have been overwhelming. Applications for State lands have closed for now. We are almost inundated with applications. We have to put a stop at some point in time.

We have successfully reclaimed State lands at Gloucester, Sussex, No. 2 River, Grafton, Patwama, Kossoh Town, Orugu, Tokeh and others. We are reclaiming State lands not for us working in this ministry but for Sierra Leoneans in dire need. Dr. Owizz Koroma, the only Pathologist we have in this country, has never had a State land with all the years he has worked. It is only when we came in that we have given him one.

We have employed a strategy called ‘positive aggression’, which means that as long as we are convinced that this land belongs to the State, we go in and reclaim it. When we go out there in the field, we have all the documentation and conveyances as evidence. We have not entered into anybody’s land when it is not a State land. If we did, probably we went there to know whether you have a building and environmental control to build.

Through this strategy we are proud to announce that we have been able to reclaim about 4,800 acres of State lands in the Western regions. For Gloucester, we have reclaimed 2,800 acres.

Not just Western areas

Again, you know the operation of this ministry is not only limited to the Western areas- urban and rural. This is the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Environment for the whole country. You should now understand why we are having so much pressure and people calling us all over this country on land matters. We have been to Bo, Kenema, Makeni and Magburaka on land matters to discuss with land owning families on how we can reclaim and retrieve back government lands and properties.

The reasons they have advanced overtime is that successive governments have failed to pay their lease rent that accumulated to arrears and so that was why they were selling these government lands to private individuals. So we told them two wrongs will never make a right; yes, government wasn’t paying you but that was not really the justification for you to sell or lease government lands.

We held discussions with them and we are pleased to say that as at to date we have paid Le1.5billion to land owning families in Bo and Kenema. Now the reservation lands and airfield lands are now purely government properties. This has never happened in the history of this country. Now we have the State Lands Management Committee and they are responsible for the eventual decision as to who is in fact supposed to have a State land or otherwise and of course we have all our records straight.

Fourah Bay College and Njala University

We have two important tertiary institutions in this country- Fourah Bay College (FBC) and Njala University (NU). FBC has never had a site plan for the land at Mount Aureol on which it sits. Under this administration, we have been able to produce for the attention of FBC their site plan for 464 acres of land and we handed it over last year to the college administration.

For Njala University at Mokonday, last year they were issued a notice to quit by the owners of the land. We went there early February this year to quell and put the situation under control. We engaged with the college authorities and land owning families and the people testified that it was the first time they have actually met in a single open space with the college authorities to discuss the way forward regarding the said land.

IPAM and Bureh Town

There has always been a fracas between the Bureh Town community and the Institute if Public Administration and Management (IPAM). IPAM is relocating to that area and the place is a touristic attraction. We went there and the people complained that the land for IPAM is too vast, and cited the fact that it’s a touristic prime area. The matter is still under consideration but had we not been there on time, the situation would have been totally different because the people were ready to resist them at any time they went there to do construction.

School at Rokel

Similarly, a school has been vandalized at Rokel which borders on land and we have to go there again. People are now encroaching on educational lands and we will not allow that to continue. We understand that processes and procedures should be followed in carrying out our work but not at all times. Sometimes you have to act like an eagle otherwise by the time you are there, it will be so problematic that you will not be able to handle it, and lives would have been lost and all that.

City of Kono

We all know that Kono is on the verge of becoming one of the good cities in terms of education with the establishment of a technology university. We went there again, surveyed 406 acres of land giving for that purpose. We have to talk, convince and even beg the Paramount chiefs to show some amount of consideration to have that land.

Sierra Leone Correctional Service

We have also resurveyed for the possible relocation for the first time the Sierra Leone Correctional Service. We have got almost 100 acres land for them at Songo area, Moyamba district.

Credit: Development and Economic Journalists Association- Sierra Leone (DEJA-SL).

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: ‘New Direction, New Lands Ministry’- Part 1

By Ahmed Sahid Nasralla (De Monk)

For the past decades Sierra Leone has had more than enough trouble and deadly disputes emanating from the issue of land acquisition, ownership and grabbing. The courts are awashed with land cases, people have been duped, and others brutally killed over land issues. At the heart of all of these is the Ministry of Lands (for short) which has the principal responsibility to protect, preserve, maintain and effectively distribute state lands in the country in a free and fair manner.

Dr. Denis Sandy explains refined processes and procedures in acquiring State and private lands in the country to journalists at a recent press conference

People have accused the Ministry of being one of the most corrupt government institutions and the root cause of most of the troubles relating to land issues in the country. Under the New Direction Government of the Sierra Leone People’s Party led by President Julius Maada Bio things seem to be changing for the better, although the Minister of Lands, Dr. Denis Sandy, who is having his second stint at the embattled ministry (the first being under the All People’s Congress government in 2009-2010) has recently come under attack from sections of the media for alleged corruption and unlawful demolition of people’s houses and for which the Anti-Corruption Commission reportedly paid him a visit.

In this first part of an exclusive interview, Dr. Sandy explains the new processes and procedures his ministry has put in place to acquire land.

Refined Processes and procedures

The first thing we did when we entered this ministry in May of 2018 is to refine the processes and procedures in the management and acquisition of both state and private lands in the country and to meet the demands of the 21st century.

So now what you need to know to acquire state land has been extremely simplified. All you need to do is to send in your letter of application, and most people have done that. As long as you are above 18 years of age and you are a Sierra Leonean, send in your letter of application to the ministry, saying you are a Sierra Leonean of more than 18 and you want to construct your house or probably a business entity; attached two passport size photos with the photocopy of the first page of your passport or any other means of identification.

Through this process we have to date received about 1,000 applications which are now being processed. For the very first time in the history of this ministry, we have established a Verification and Complaints Unit where members of the public can make report regarding land matters.

Letter of Offer

People who have been fortunate to get State lands overtime, receive what we call a Letter of Offer on conditions that first, for three or seven years as the case maybe, you are not supposed to cut down any tress and if you have not developed the land for up to three years, automatically you have lost that particular plot of land. 

Of course, if you come here with your letter of offer, first we verify it to see whether you are still in line with the conditions that were indicated in that letter.If we are okay with it, then we will give you a slip and then you go and make your payment directly to the bank. I am pleased to say that since we introduced this particular method, complaints regarding duplication- two or three people fighting for land- under the New Direction administration is yet to my knowledge. I can’t say it has stopped but, believe me, I’m yet to have a single account of two or three people fighting for a piece of land.

What has happened overtime, from 1996 to 2000, is that people received these letters of offer and they did not do any kind of development on those grounds or lands and we have made series of press releases that if you don’t develop your land over a three-year period, automatically you will lose that land. Yet people were attempting to go and make payment to the banks and at that time, the procedures were not clear. So now you come in here and when we notice that yes you have gone against that particular condition, automatically that land no longer belongs to you. But if you are still interested, now you can now reapply and we will go through the process to determine that particular land. 

Freehold Committee

After the application process, I am pleased again to announce that for the very first time we have established a Freehold Committee and we have given freehold for now to about 60 to 70 people and the records are here. Some people are yet to come to collect their freehold.

Remember that it was very difficult for people to receive their freehold documents from this ministry. This was a ministry that was so secretive that you hardly knew what was going on here. But now, every Wednesday people have been queuing here, we’ve interviewed them and of course if you have met the criteria regarding the freehold application, automatically we would just approve it. That means that yes you are up to date in terms of your lease payment, you have your building permit and you have done some degree of development (60%) on the said land- either you have completed the construction of the said house or you have roofed the house; and not somebody who have just started the construction but shouting that you want freehold.

Moreover, some people sell these lands for $70,000 or $80,000 at the disadvantage of government. Don’t forget that most often you hardly pay anything during your application for State lands.

So what we have done is we have taken care of the entire process of registering land for people. When you come here and succeed for your freehold interview and pay the amount of money to the ministry and at the end of the day we can call you to come and collect your conveyance. We register it through the Law Officers Department and the Office of the Administrator General. Once you have passed that stage, be rest assured you will have your conveyance.

Credit: Development and Economic Journalists Association- Sierra Leone (DEJA-SL).