Lands Ministry Embarks on Reclamation of Encroached State Land

By Amin Kef (Ranger)

In a bid to combat the rampant issue of illegal land occupation by encroachers across the nation, the Ministry of Lands and Country Planning has recently stepped up its efforts to reclaim state-owned land unlawfully seized by trespassers.

This past Saturday, a contingent of professionals from the Ministry, accompanied by security personnel, journalists, and various stakeholders in the realm of land, embarked on a crucial mission. Their objective was to install Government signposts adorned with the clear message of reclaiming State lands, which have been surreptitiously occupied by individuals using fraudulent documents to lay unwarranted claims on properties belonging to the State.

The delegation’s first destination was the Government Wharf Ferry Terminal, a location that had fallen victim to numerous encroachments. More than twenty houses, makeshift structures, garages, and other unauthorized constructions had sprouted in violation of the law.

Investigations conducted during the visit revealed that all the structures had been erected without the requisite building permits, thus rendering them “illegal structures” in the eyes of the Ministry. It’s important to note that the land at the Government Wharf Ferry Terminal is Government-owned property.

Further scrutiny uncovered that individual had encroached upon State land without any legal documentation and had subsequently constructed dwellings without obtaining building permits from the Ministry. This worrisome trend of land grabbing has persisted, causing substantial losses to the Government.

It must be noted that despite the Government’s persistent efforts to address these land issues, land grabbers have continued to exploit the situation to their advantage, with State land remaining particularly vulnerable. This has prompted the Ministry to take decisive action and recover all State-owned lands, acting under the authority granted by Section 3, Cap 117 of the Sierra Leone Land Act.

After the inspection at Government Wharf, the team proceeded to Newton, located in the Western Rural area, to conduct a similar operation aimed at securing and protecting State-owned lands. For the bold step taken by the Lands Ministry, some community stakeholders lauded the Government for taking such a necessary step.  As a matter of fact in all the places visited clear evidences of encroachment on State lands were visible.

It is worth recalling that previous or successive Governments have undertaken similar exercises in the past, but land grabbers consistently managed to circumvent regulations, often resorting to illicit means. Areas like Grafton, Waterloo, Kent, and Bureh Beach have all witnessed successful efforts by the Government to reclaim State land over the years.

With the current proactive campaign to reclaim State-owned land within the Western urban and rural districts, it is evident that the Government is committed to rectifying this pressing issue.

Dr. Turad Senessie, the Minister of Lands, shared insights about the extent of the land-grabbing crisis, particularly affecting State-owned lands. “We now have a well-documented system in place, and we have opened up the space for Sierra Leoneans to acquire land at significantly reduced rates. However, we continue to face challenges from individuals who engage in land grabbing, resorting to document forgery, including my signature,” Minister Senessie emphasized.

He further explained that the Ministry will play a pivotal role in determining the types of structures that can be erected on state-owned land. “We dictate the nature of structures that land applicants should construct. Gone are the days when people could erect any type of structure without restriction,” he stated. Minister Senessie emphasized that land distribution is now governed by a rigorous application process, and successful applicants will receive official letters of offer from the Ministry. He also noted that the process has been expedited, reducing the time required to acquire state-owned land from up to five years to less than one year.

As the Ministry continues its crusade to reclaim State land, it aims to end the unlawful occupation of Government property and ensure that these valuable resources are used for the nation’s benefit.



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