Residents and Traders selling on makeshift structures on the sidewalks at the Central part of Freetown were yesterday shocked, disappointed and hopeless as they witnessed the demolition of their stores, shops and warehouses and their goods confiscated at midnight, by the Metropolitan and Sierra Leone Police.
The owner of one of the demolished structures at Percival Street, Ibrahim Bangura, noted that his photocopy machine was looted, together with two computers, two play stations and a cartoon of A4 sized paper.
He further lamented that, “they used cutlasses, axe, hammer and bars to destroy the center without even allowing us to take our goods before they could start the demolition”
Morlai Kamara of the same photocopy center said that, the City Council violated their rights as citizens, because they had already registered and paid their business license fee in full to the council and inspectors had also visited the photocopy center on numerous occasions without raising any concern about the location.
Store owners and residents could be seen on Tuesday morning collecting whatever they could lay hands on from the bits left behind at various demolition sites along Percival Street, Wellington Street and other parts of the city.
After visiting these sites our reporter also caught up with the Deputy Mayor of the Freetown City Council to get his own side of the story. According to the Deputy Mayor Gibril Kanu, the Local Government Act of 2004 mandated the council to run the affairs of the Freetown Municipality, ensuring that the city is a center of attraction for visitors with an improved social facility.
He said that the city has been reduced to “booths and cookery shops randomly erected at strategic locations in the city and that this has become an eye sore.
He stressed that the central part of the city would be cleared of all makeshift structures that are erected on the sidewalks especially those erected close to Government, Public and Private buildings at the center of Freetown.
Deputy Mayor Kanu noted that “holding a business license does not guarantee any one to erect a make shift structures at side walks or other strategic locations of the city.” He further said that, all the demolished structures are illegal and properties confiscated at the demolition sites by the Metropolitan Police and the Sierra Leone Police can be identified and retrieved at the City Council Headquarters by genuine owners after the exercise.
On the question of selective demolition by the law enforcement officers, he clarified that all planned areas for development had been identified and make shift structures around these areas would be completely demolished by Council Officials, and authorities would make a follow up to ensure that all identified areas are demolished without fear or favour to any one.
“They must not blame any one for the demolition exercise because we did warn all squatters to vacate the sidewalks with their businesses and give way to an impressive city plan that will make the city a center of attraction comparable to advanced countries.”
He maintained that several announcements had been made, through the Council Public Address System (PA system) with the aim of sensitizing the public about city rules and regulations and other ordinances governing the council. By Saidu Bah