The Ministry of Lands, Housing and Country Planning in collaboration with the provincial administration east has held a meeting with land owners in the Nongowa chiefdom in the Kenema district at the provincial administration office along Maxwell Khobe Street in kenema.
In his keynote address, the Resident Minister East William Juana Smith, reiterated the importance of the meeting, noting that the turn out has shown that the government and the people are working together. Hon. Smith called on Sierra Leoneans to come together for the development of the country, pointing out that it is of great concern to government to organize such a meeting so that the people will understand the government’s policy on land. He disclosed that the government is very much concerned about the construction of the Kenema/ Kailahun highway and as such the meeting is timely so that land owners would be sensitized and they would deviate from selling the right of way. The Hon. Minister took the opportunity to call on council to announce names of those who have refused to pay their house rates and other taxes in the city. He called on all to be peaceful and remain united, as development is the only way out.
In his opening statement the provincial secretary east, Alhaji Salia Magona described the meeting as important and timely, noting that the Ministry of Lands has discovered a lot of malpractices in the sale of land and that this has created a lot of dispute between the masses, leading to lose lives in some places. Alhaji Magona called on land owners to do honest business with people, with the fear of God in their hearts, pointing out that the Anti-Corruption Commission is not only meant for corrupt government officials, but also private individuals who engaged in corrupt practices. In his statement, Hon. Member of Parliament representing paramount chiefs in the Kenema district, PC Mohamed Daphie Benya of Small Bo chiefdom, stressed that land owners are fortunate and lucky among their colleagues and there fore called on them all to maintain their respect and dignity at all times. He informed the gathering that Parliament has passed the Anti -Corruption Act 2008, which has given a lot of powers to the Commission to indict, investigate and prosecute corrupt individuals in the country without the interference of the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice. .
The Chief admonished all and sundry to be careful and abide by the laws of the land, pointing out that they as Paramount chiefs have the responsibility to protect the people at all times. The Paramount Chief of Nongowa Chiefdom, PC Alhaji Amara Bonya Vangahun IV, commended officials from the Ministry of Lands and the Provincial Administration for organizing such a meeting, adding that most of the disputes in the chiefdom are land related. Chief Vangahun pointed out that most people have lost confidence in certain land owners for double selling the same piece of land to several people, thereby creating conflict among them.
The Area Town Planning Officer, Alphonso Pratt, in his statement maintained that any land above one acre must not be sold but leased. He stated that all those families with vast acres of land must make sure that these lands are been surveyed by the Ministry so that markets, recreational centers, health centers and schools would be in the master plan for reference. Alphonso Pratt said that these areas are not for sale and that the master plan has to be signed by the head of the land owing family, town chief, the Paramount chief and the regional surveyor so that copies will be sent to SALWACO and Bo/Kenema Power Services (BKPS) for identification. He disclosed that all lands that are seven miles radius from the clock tower in the city center have to be surveyed by the Ministry of Lands, so that provision would be made for developmental activities. He pointed out that the Ministry would frown at any plan that is not signed by the director and licensed surveyor, adding that government need to guide the Paramount Chiefs in dealing with land issues. In his contribution, the Regional Surveyor East, Alpha Sesay said that in order to ensure proper planning of any village, town or city there must be a good surveyor, maintaining that Kenema has now got a city status and as such needs proper planning. He advised land-owing families not to sell land above one acre to individuals or group but to lease these lands for the future benefit of the children.