The garage owners from the Hasting Wharf community, near the derelict airfield, have raised concerns over the intimidation from the Ministry of Lands and Country Planning (MLCP) and eviction process. “OSD, Lands, and police are coming here and harassing us. Recently, they came here and said they want this place. A surveyor from Lands called, Man Arun, who was a former soldier, is the one coming here to inform us that Parliament has agreed that this land should be given to people,” said Alie Thullah, an auto mechanic and garage owner. He said, “In 2014, under former President Koroma, we were at Up Gun. So the Freetown City Council (FCC) came and evicted us. They told us that they do not want any garage at the back of the Under 5 Medical Clinic. Then, we moved to Shell at Kissy. At Shell, authorities came again and moved us to Texaco. Later, we were evicted from Texaco. The Drivers Union at Texaco under the leadership of Abu Sillah told us to move. Finally, we settled at Rogbangba. When the Ebola epidemic broke out, we were evicted in order for the Ebola Hospital to be built. The authorities told us that we can stay by the Car Wash at Hastings Junction. We were there when the construction of the Toll Gate came. Then we were moved to this place near the airfield,” he said. He continued, “The timber companies also came and added to our presence so the place opened up. Later, the Airport Management wanted us out of here but when we cleaned and made the place nice, they let us stay.” A garage along Wilkinson Road, in the west end of Freetown, faces similar harassment from a variety of government MDAs. Musa Koroma said, “It seems like every day either the Ministry of Lands, or Environment, or Health, or some agency come here to hassle us. They just want a small bribe but they harass us and tell us we have to leave for no good reason.”
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The Ministry of Lands want to move the Hastings garages to Six Mile. Thullah said going to Six Mile will cause them to lose their customers as most of the cars they work on are in Hastings. “Cars from Senegal, Mali, Gambia, Guinea Bissau and Guinea, Conakry all come here for our services. We are educated, skilled and employed so they should not treat us like common criminals,” Thullah pleaded. Meanwhile, the Permanent Secretary of the MLCP, Israel B.K. Jigba, said he has no knowledge of the issue. The Director of Surveys and Lands was also contacted severally for comment but could not be reached. The garage owners said the authorities promised them plots of land, with electricity and portable drinking water in their last meeting. “We have heard rumours that they have leased this place to Indians to build warehouses,” one mechanic said.
By David Thoronka
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