Over Unlawful Repossession Of State Land… Bar Association Undresses Lands Minister

The Sierra Leone Bar Association, the umbrella body for lawyers in the country, have cautioned the Minister of Lands and the Environment, Dr. Dennis Sandy, for what they have referred to as the forcible repossession of state lands from private individuals without following the due process of the law.
The President of the Bar, Basita Michael (Mrs.), on behalf of the Bar, noted that the Bar has closely followed reports of forcible possession of land purportedly deemed to be ‘state land ‘.
“A number of accounts note that officials of your Ministry, in some instances including the Minister, supported by armed military personnel and Police officers, have entered a number of parcels of land and have forcibly repossessed the same,’’ the release states.
The release cited section 6 (4) of the 1991Constitution of Sierra Leone, which provides that “the State shall protect and defend the liberty of the individual, enforce the rule of law…’’
The Association noted that the laws relating to repossession of land and state acquisition of land are very clear. The release criticized the Lands Minister for not following due process in all the recent actions he has taken with regards repossession of state lands.
The Bar Association affirms that, to the best of their knowledge, information and belief, the Ministry of Lands had not sought a court order for possession, a declaration from the courts that the land being repossessed belongs to the state.
“…with all due respect, the Minister of Lands, Housing and the Environment cannot be the determinant of what lands are or not state lands,” the release went on.
They noted that, it is only the court that has the power and authority to make such determination and it is only the courts that re-grant such possession of land.
The Minister was also cautioned on the misuse of the military and the Police in a civilian democratic government, noting that such forces should only be used to execute lawful orders.
The release concludes by urging the Minister to ensure that it does all in its power to take active measures to prevent tenure disputes from arising and from escalating into violent conflicts and also to endeavor to prevent corruption in all its forms in land administration.
The Lands Minister has faced a barrage of criticisms lately about the way and manner in which he defiantly enters and repossesses state lands in the past one year. His illegal and kangaroo use of military outfits has been widespread and alarming. He has been reportedly accused of failing to honour court orders on land matters that are currently before different judges of the superior court of adjudicator in the country.
The call to order by the country’s lawyers and the recent position of the Krios in Freetown to his rampant violations of people’s rights to property has raised serious concerns that the loose cannon of a Minister needs to be tamed.
President Julius Maada Bio has been very much silent over the actions of his minister and I think the recent actions by the Krios and the Bar Association should send a signal that Minister Sandy will find his day in court if he continues to go the current path.

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