It was disturbing and unbelievable when during the early hours of Tuesday, some Freetown City Council Metropolitan police officers and the Sierra Leone Police went on a demolition spree at Wellington street and Percival street. The event took place at around 2.am, when most people are supposed to be having their rest. This has left people baffled as to whether these were constitutional officers performing their official duties or mere thieves.
Imagine the anguish, at the loss of property and wailing from the people when they saw their structures demolished and their goods carted away or may I say confiscated?. The structures destroyed were used as business centers and the owners normally leave their goods in their shops after business. Some had photocopiers, play stations and other electronic games, telecenters and used clothing shops among others. Those who usually pass the night in these structures were awaken rudely by this fierce attack by marauders, as they witness their structures being destroyed and their goods carted away. What would you expect from the police nowadays on such assignments?
Many questions are now been put forward as to the legality of such operation as the owners are claiming that they went through proper registration with the Freetown City Council. If this is the case, why did the council register and give them licenses if the structures were erected illegally? Moreover, why was this operation carried out at that hour of the night when people are asleep?
The owners also claimed that they were not at all warned or asked to relocate. One family had to scamper around for shelter as some of their properties were seen carted away. If that is the case and if their claims are justifiable, then the City Council together with the Police should be brought to book.
The drive by the City Council in collecting taxes has been over turned by some people clandestinely for their selfish desire. They have made it a trade and are even harassing people with impunity. What makes it more complex is the blend with the police who will, with the slightest opportunity try to abuse it. The police now see this new form of taxation as a new charge on people, slowly disregarding their usual arrest for loitering in place of tax receipt. When you are stopped at night by the police, the first question they will ask you is about your tax receipt and when they are conducting their search, you are bound to loose something. This has been the new trade for the police, as they behave as thieves in a different fashion at night. Like the police, the metro police are also behaving the same way to loot, rob and confiscate forcefully.
Paying taxes is an obligation and should be followed by the realization of basic amenities like markets, public toilets, parks, recreational centers and other values which the taxpayer should be proud of. The City Council should not be seen contravening the principles of taxation for something else.
The history of demolition is fresh in our minds. Most people would recall the violent death of a senior official at the Ministry of Lands- Ken Moore. We also witnessed how during the rains, Fourah Bay College authorized the demolition of properties erected on their land. It was pitiful as children cried and parents watched their houses being brought down by the police.
The City Council officials should be mindful of the fact that people have suffered a lot and that times are hard. They should rather embark on a nationwide sensitization so that people would see reason to vacate the side walk.
By Ishmael Bayoh