Bar Association Cautions Lands Minister

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The Sierra Leone Bar Association has in a letter warned the Minister of Lands, Dr. Dennis Sandy not to attempt to intimidate or frighten its members who are simply doing their job of defending the interest of their clients who have land issues to settle.
One renowned SLBA member, Lawyer, Pa Momoh Fofanah, has dismissed a statement by the Ministry of Lands accusing him of involvement in a plot against the Lands Minister, Dr. Denis Sandy, as “misleading”.
Recently, the Ministry released a statement alleging that the Minister was attacked by a group of youths in Masimbo Village, Regent. In the same statement, Lawyer Fofanah was singled out as interfering in land disputes that are believed to have provoked the attack on the Minister.
“The Ministry frowns upon the actions of Pa Momoh Fofanah regarding state land management in the Western Area and is warning him forthwith to desist from interfering into the mandate of the Ministry,” it stated.
Fofanah in a four-page letter addressed to the Ministry said not only that the allegation against him is misleading, but that it was also intended to intimidate and frighten him from defending his clients and defenceless Sierra Leoneans.
“The press release is borne out of malice and frivolous vexation in the view of the fact that, I have on a number of occasions – acting for myself and my clients, brought to your Minister and Ministry’s attention various conducts which I consider under our laws as sovereign democratic nation to be unlawful, violent, intimidating and out of tune with the decorum expected of the high office that the Lands Minister, Dr Dennis Sandy occupies,” he wrote.
Fofanah indicated that the Ministry’s release was also an illustration of a personal vendetta harboured by the Minister against him stemming several years ago when he defended a client against Sandy.
His statement comes barely 24 hours after the Ministry’s statement.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Lands, Dr Dennis Sandy has embarked on a bold campaign to reclaim Government lands across the country since he took office. But his approach has been described as controversial and unlawful in most affected communities.
In a similar but unconnected development, another press release issued by the Krio Community (KC) on Thursday 2nd May 2019 stated that the Krio Descendants Union, is urging the Minister of Lands, Housing and Environment to desist from the arbitrary and illegal seizure of lands he has embarked on.
The release added that such actions are contrary to the rule of law and that where there is any dispute, the due process must at all times be followed. “We therefore call upon His Excellency the President Brigadier (Rtd) Julius Maada Bio to look into the series of allegations against the Minister of Lands, Housing and Environment, whose actions have the tendency to marginalize the Krio People and other land owners in the Western Area. This does not bode well for social cohesion and peace which we all enjoy in this our land that we love,” it read.
To add to the complaint against the Lands Minister, Dr. Denis Sandy, a concerned constitutionalist, with regards the many complaints made against the Minister of Lands, Dr. Denis Sandy has stated that the fundamental role of any government is the protection and promotion of the rights and liberties of its citizens, foremost amongst these is the right to own property.
This and many other complaints have come from the Krios who dwell in the Western Area about Dr. Sandy setting aside ancient ownership rights with utter impunity.
The point being made is that His Excellency, President Bio, should be fully aware that the most prized possession that anybody can hand over to his or her children is land, especially one on which a house or houses stand.
If Dr. Sandy is, allegedly, without recourse to legality is going about dispossessing people of their lands, that is breeding ground for discontent against the President and his party by an influential section of the populace which could have political implications when it comes to elections.
As such, it is high time President Bio open his ears to the complaints from the Krios that Dr. Sandy is infringing on their rights to own inherited lands, considering that unlike the provincials, they are highly educated with amongst them intellectuals that are lawyers, etc.
Land ownership runs down the line from generation to generation, except abrogated through sale or legal forfeiture to the State for public use, etc.
For example, through inheritance, the Queen of England and her family are the largest landowners in the city of London inherited from their ancestors.
In this light, whilst nobody quarrels with Dr. Sandy over his right to protect and where evidence is available, retrieve State lands, at the same time people have ancient title deeds to lands in the Western Area that date to even as far back as the possession of Freetown as a Crown Colony in 1787 and the return of the captives from Nova Scotia, Jamaica and England after Lord Mansfield declared slavery illegal in British territories.
Both President Bio and Dr. Sandy as Lands Minister are thereby called upon to have a careful rethink about the issue of ownership of land in the Western Area.
To be very frank, many residents within the Western Rural Area have expressed utter indignation over the Minister of Lands, Dr. Julius Denis Sandy’s move to overzealously reclaim so-called State lands without the requisite court order and without recourse to legal ownership documents in the hands of people who actually own the said so-called State lands.
These people are claiming that the Lands Minister is violating the rule of law and acting out of the confines of his mandate thereby violating their fundamental human rights.
This latest accusation came in the wake of Dr. Sandy’s demolition of houses and taking over lands in areas which he continuously claims fall under the purview of State land doggedly maintaining that these lands must be forcefully reclaimed.
Though he had been faced with stiff resistance, however, being aided by military and police personnel in his operations he has been bulldozing his way through.
Some of the victims of the Minister’s action intimated this medium that: “Dr. Sandy is seriously undermining the reputation of the Government headed by President Julius Maada Bio because he is acting unprofessionally and undemocratically.”
They added that the Minister has been failing to properly and documentarily confirm whether they are the bona fide owners of the so-called reclaimed lands.
From a thorough investigation conducted by this Press it was confirmed that the Minister of Lands, Dr. Sandy, has been acting with zest but not following due process which conclusively is tantamount to violating the fundamental human rights of the victims, dispossessing them of their properties which they legally acquired or inherited.
“We will not relent in our call for justice because as real citizens of this country we are against trampling on our rights,” a 69 year old woman residing at Mongaba, in the outskirt of Freetown, said with determination.
Although residents of every tribe have been affected, the Creoles (Krios) are the worst victims as they are the largest inhabitants in Western Rural District dating back to historical times.
What is clear is that the Minister seems to have disregarded their legal rights of possession of land which predated the CONVEYANCE ACT OF 1881. -The period of almost a century after the 1790s and before the CONVEYANCE ACT of 1881, was marked by possessing title and devolution of land upon death as opposed to a rigid system of written conveyances. No doubt lawful landowners felt assured of their rights to land allotted at the time.

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