DECEMBER 2, 2014 By Alusine Sesay
As land grabbing and unplanned settlements increase, Director of Surveys and Lands, Christian H.A. Pratt, together with his line directors, recently engaged Member of Parliament Hon. Pateh Bah, Chairman Western Area District Council, Alhassan Cole, councillors, headmen and local chiefs in the Western Rural District on a joint effort in discouraging land grabbing.
Speaking at a meeting held in the conference room of the Ministry of Lands, Country Planning and the Environment, Mr. Pratt noted that land grabbing was becoming a daily practice by some ill-motivated Sierra Leoneans.
The newly appointed director told stakeholders that one of the reasons for engaging them was to request their fullest cooperation as community stakeholders to curb what he referred to as “a national problem”.
He expressed frustration that some people in communities usually connive with others to illegally sell government lands, making instances of the effect of it to the coming generations. He urged stakeholders to always collaborate and establish better relationship with the ministry to help in land management and planning in their various communities.
Director Pratt emphasized the ministry’s responsibilities in carrying out public surveys and planning, not oblivious of the social needs of the people.
Also speaking, Chairman Western Area District Council, Alhassan Cole thanked the director for convening a “timely meeting” that seeks cooperation from the rural district council and headmen.
He noted that he is sometimes amazed by the rampant erection of unplanned structures and massive grabbing of land in the Western Rural District, adding that the unattended issue has led to huge piles of cases on access road blockages, haphazard constructions and grabbing of potential land reservations.
He pledged his unflinching support to ensure that the ministry achieves its goal and promised to continue engaging residents of his district on the issue.
Hon. Pateh Bah also pledged his total commitment to the initiative, noting that land grabbing is a big issue of grave concern in the Western Area.
Augustine Kai-Banya, Director of Country Planning, highlighted some of the threats ministry officials face in carrying out their official duties. He pointed out that land grabbers would always violently intervene when government officials are performing their work, which he claimed is responsible for the indiscriminate uncontrolled development of new structures.
He appealed to community stakeholders to join hands with the ministry in fighting against land grabbing.
Abu Bakar Jalloh, Environment Officer in the ministry, informed stakeholders about the dangers of constructing houses in environmentally disaster prone areas.