Bar Association Accuses Lands Ministry of Acting Illegally - Sierra Leone News

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Bar Association Accuses Lands Ministry of Acting Illegally

As anger grows in Freetown over forceful repossession of lands and property owned by Krio families by the Ministry of Lands, the Sierra Leone Bar Association has condemned the act of the Ministry describing it as illegal.

The Sierra Leone Bar Association said, in letter dated May 6, 2019, which is addressed to the Ministry of Lands, that it has been following reports of forcible repossession of land purportedly deemed to be State land.

The Association said that a number of accounts note that officials of the Ministry of Lands, in some instances including the Minister, supported by armed military personnel and police officers have entered a number of pieces or parcels of land and have forcibly repossessed them.

The Association note that “Section 6 (4) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone 1991 provides that the State shall protect and defend the liberty of the individual, enforce the rule of law.”

Referring to the Ministry in confines of the law, the Association note that “the law relating to repossession of land and State acquisition of land are very clear. In all of the recent actions undertaken by your Ministry, you have not deemed it fit to follow the provisions of the law, to the best of our knowledge, information and believe,” it said. “Your Ministry has not sought a court order for possession, a declaration from the court that the land being repossessed belongs to the State or any other order, declaration or relief from the court.”

“With all due respect, the Honorable Minister of Lands, Housing and Environment, cannot be the determinant of what land is or is not State land,” the Bar Association noted. “It is only the court that has the power and authority to make that determination and it is only the court that re-grants possession of such land if possession is lost.”

The Bar Association said that “the uses of military personnel are illegal and contrary to the tenets of democratic civilian government, and also the use of police personnel without a lawful court order for repossession is illegal and unjust”.

“To buttress our point, we will refer you to provisions of section 30 of the State Lands Acts of 1960 which provides 30(1) without prejudice to any remedy which the grantor may have under any other law, where any person without right, title or license or whose right, title or license has expired or being forfeited or cancelled, is in occupation of Crown land, the Attorney General or some person appointed by him in that behalf or the Director of Surveys and Lands, may enter a suit in the Supreme Court or in a Magistrate Court to recover possession thereof,” the Bar Association noted.

It said that section 23 of the constitution of Sierra Leone guarantees everyone a right to a fair hearing.
The Bar Association said, “International human rights treaties ratified by Sierra Leone including the African Charter on Human Right on People’s Right guarantee every individual of the right to have their cause heard.”

“Forcibly repossessing land without any court order and without payment of compensation deprives individual of this fundamental human right,” the Bar Association said.

The Sierra Leone Bar Association urges the ministry of land to ensure that it does all in it power to take active measures to prevent tenure dispute from arising and from escalating into violent conflict, and to endeavor to prevent corruption in all its forms in land administration.

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