A member of the Sierra Leone legislature has stated that the Lands Ministry is one of the most troubled and problematic government ministries that is causing lots of headaches for the government and the people of the Sierra Leone.
This comment was made by a Honorable Member of Parliament and member of the Committee on Lands, Country Planning and the Environment. He further stated that the issues surrounding land acquisition are every now and then in focus and mostly resulting in conflict and clashes.
Government and private lands he said are no exception to land squabbles in the country with grabbing, encroachment and trespasses being common mechanics of the problem.
He added that a common accusation is that some lines-men and under-men who worked as agents of some directors in the Lands Ministry are busy producing documents such as conveyances and acceptance letters to more than one claimant of a piece of land.
Some members of the public have also accused officials in the Lands Ministry of frequent fraudulent conversion of state lands to private lands and the other way round and that this has been unabated despite the sacking and subsequent investigation of the former Lands Minister Musa Tarawally.
Hon. Pateh Bah Member of Parliament for Constituency 92 (APC) Mountain Rural District, who doubles as Deputy Chairman of the Lands Committee in Parliament said that it is their observation and estimation that: “the Ministry of Lands is one of the most troubled Ministries.”
He added: “Yes, there are lots of concerns regarding land acquisition matters in the country. It’s not a secret.”
The MP further explained that the legislature is looking out for best ways in reducing or eradicating if possible this problem at the Ministry of Lands all across the country and noted that they have had several consultations and oversight visits.
An official in the Lands Ministry who asked not to be named because of prevailing infighting for positions in the Ministry said that the Ministry is under capacitated (lack qualified staffs, tools and resources) and does not have the right working climate.
The source however agreed that there are rogue elements in and around the corridors of the Ministry who work in connivance with senior officials who some time append their signature on documents for disputed land all in the interest of getting money or piece of these lands for their personal aggrandizement.
“The advent of Geographic Information System (GIS) survey of land will now make it hard for more than one claimant to a single piece of land, because their will now be a biometric register of state and privately owned land,” the Lands Ministry official said.