On the pretext to pay compensation to illegal squatters…
By Fatmata Jengbe
It will be recalled that on the 30th September 2019 a Court Order of eviction was executed by military and police personnel at Bathurst, Soja Tong, in order to reclaim a piece of land belonging to Abdulai Bademba Barrie that was purportedly encroached upon by individuals who had no business to be there, including some military personnel.
The land in question, before Abdulai bought it, was a private property and not a State Land as some may want to imagine. Alleged illicit structures were bulldozed on the piece of land, leaving the so-called squatters out in the open.
The Minister of Lands, Dr. Dennis Sandy, on the 7th October 2019 personally ordered the arrest of a peaceful businessman by the name of Abdulai Bademba Barrie, for no clear or justifiable reason and later drove him in his official vehicle to the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) in Freetown where Abdulai was detained and was refused granting him bail. This was his first arrest and detention.
Speaking to the Head of Police Media, Superintendent Brima Kamara at the time of Abdulai’s arrest, he intimated that the Police were looking at three issues relating to the volatile matter saying first the Minister of Lands made a claim against the Abdulai Barrie, that there was malicious damage of structures on a piece of land and thirdly to authenticate the legality of the Court Order. He stressed that they were looking at those three issues and at the end of the day if Abdulai has a case to answer then the matter will be charged to court and if not it will be thrown out after keeping Abdulai he was released on bail. The matter was never charged to court.
While many were thinking that the matter has been laid to rest with legality prevailing over illegality; with the rightful owner Abdulai re-possessing his bona fide property, the Minister of Lands, Dr. Denis Sandy, has decided to let hell loose break with the avowed objective of making life unbearable for Abdulai Barrie.
This time round Dr. Dennis Sandy has, allegedly, ordered the re-arrest of Abdulai on the pretext that he should bear the financial burden of compensating the affected squatters who were legally evicted by both police and military personnel from the piece of land at Bathurst.
It must be borne in mind that because of stiff resistance to adhere to the Court Order the police and military personnel had no option at that time but to demolish the illegal structures that were built on the piece of land that do not belong to them.
As it was indicated during the first arrest of Abdulai the former failed to inform the Lands Ministry that they will be undertaking an execution of the Court Order. To this, a retired Civil Servant, who was a former employee of the Ministry of Lands stated: “The demolition was carried out by the Bailiff Office. What the Minister is doing presently is undermining the Judiciary. Thus, for the Lands Minister and officials of CID to act on the contrary by arresting the landowner constitutes a Travesty of Justice.
Incidentally, it also erodes the authority of the Inspector General of Police who approved for Police assistance as a backup in the event of any resistance put up by the squatters and trespassers.”
With this new development many whose views were captured by this medium expressed indignation over the Minister’s stance some averring that it appears as if he has a personal interest in the aforementioned piece of land. Besides, some have argued that he has clearly manifested that he is deliberately bent on financially extortion and wildly day-dreaming that Abdulai Barrie will bring him the money he is lusting for.
But the question that begs for an answer is this: Where in the world has a Court Order been executed for the eviction of squatters on a piece of land requiring the executor to compensate the illegal occupants? The Lands Minister must honestly answer this important question.
Many Sierra Leoneans keep wondering why with all the illegal ‘bulldozing’ and untoward behavior that have been exhibited by the Minister of Lands, all giving the Maada Bio SLPP-led administration a very bad name, the Government is still continues maintain him as Minister of Lands. It has been agreed that indeed there are certain lands belonging to the State that should be reclaimed but the haphazard manner in which the Ministry is going about it, with him always at the forefront perpetrating violence against hapless Sierra Leoneans has become very reprehensible to say the least.
A clear recent case in point is the one making the round on social media with regards to a piece of land at Levuma , within the Western Rural District, for which there is an ongoing negotiation between the community residents and the Ministry of Tourism to develop that area in order to transform it become a very attractive tourist site. As a matter of fact there is already in existence a signed Memorandum of Understanding between the community residents and the Ministry of Tourism on the understanding of a proposed transformation.
All of a sudden the Minister of Lands, Dennis Sandy, in the company of some rag-tag youth descended on the piece of land in a militant style leaving some people running helter-skelter looking for safety. As the alighted from vehicles they started molesting people. The Minister then ordered that a signpost bearing the insignia STATE LAND was erected on the piece of land. According to an eyewitness the Minister became so furious when people began asking questions and even had the effrontery to soundly slap a woman leaving her almost unconscious. “How are we treated as foreigners on our own land,” the affected occupants were bemoaning.
Well-meaning individuals who contacted this medium have called for President Bio to be very mindful of the pain and agony that the overzealous actions of the Minister of Lands is causing to innocent people and see how best he can intervene as the Father of the Nation to bring to a halt all the dastardly acts perpetrated by Minister Sandy and his henchmen.
“If the Minister is ignorant then let someone educate him that compensation cannot be paid to any squatter or illegal occupant for damages caused in the execution of a Court Order of Eviction,” a Social Commentator recommended adding that the Minister should just leave the peaceful Abdulai Barrie on an issue that has been legally proven straightforward instead of embarking on the incessant harassment of that peaceful and law abiding citizen who has the constitutional right to own a piece of land which should not bother anyone including an illegal squatter.