Grafton Village, in the outskirts of Freetown, has become a battle field over the ownership of 152 acres of state land. Residents in the village were shocked over the weekend when an unknown assailant set a blaze a make shift structure (pan body), which resulted in a serious confrontation leaving eight (8) people arrested by the Police.
The land in dispute was reportedly allotted to residents of Grafton in 2002. These residents had applied to the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Country Planning for the use of the land; however some were later given land permit to occupy the land.
Santigie Bangura who resides at Malamah in the West End of Freetown has allegedly claimed the 152 acres of land on the orders of the High Court, which mandated him to evict other residents who had occupied the land and built structures.
Occupants of the said land were recently asked by Santigie Bangura to strike a compromise and work with him as the rightful owner; and those who failed to comply would be severely dealt with by officers of the Sierra Leone Police.
Panic, fear and confusion gripped residents of Grafton on the 11th October 2008 when angry youths went on the rampage, demolition houses and carting away with goods. Police officers from Jui and Kissy went to the scene to restore calm.
Alusine Sesay, who sustained injuries on top of his left eye during a scuffle with one of the youths, alleged that the ringleader Lansana had instructed a youth to use a knife to stab him on his back.
Mohamed Sankoh, who owns one of the burnt makeshift structures, told this press that he was shocked, frustrated and disappointed over the actions of the aggrieved youths who had completely damaged his abode and destroyed his building materials, adding that he had obtained his portion legally from Pa Santigie Bangura.
Saidu Kamara, who reportedly own a parcel of land was manhandled and mercilessly beaten until he collapsed in the hands of the youths on the orders of Santigie Bangura, an act which was done in the presence of Reporters and Police Officers.
A cross section of youths in the company of Police Officers were also seen moving house to house to identify those allegedly involved in violating the orders of Pa Santigie Bangura; some were molested, beaten, handcuffed and paraded on the streets of Grafton before being whisked into a police vehicle with registration number SLP 193.
Inspector Abdulai Kargbo who was interviewed by this Press at the scene, said that they were informed about a riot and burning down of houses at Grafton on Saturday, which prompted the Police to intervene to calm down the situation, confirming that some arrests have been made.
Residents of Grafton Village have been contending with series of land crisis for a very long time; with the disputed land underdeveloped, and only dotted with makeshift structures and back yard gardening with no line of demarcation.
In another development the Minister of Lands, Benjamin Davis has signed a document with the Executive Officer of the Investment Climate for Africa (ICF), Omar Issa for the development and administration of the land tenure system in the Western Area and other parts of the country for a period of five years.
The ICF is designed to catalyze change and deliver long lasting improvements to the business climate and increase investment in the property sector with the view to create conducive environment for business to thrive.
The Minister of Trade and Industry Alimamy Koroma and a host of Government officials were present to witness the signing ceremony at the Youyi Building in Freetown. By Saidu Bah