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Assistant Director of Lands testifies in land grabbing matter

By Jeneba A Conteh

The Assistant Director of Lands at the Ministry of Lands and Country Planning, Yayah Kamarakeh, has on Friday,522nd  April, 2022, testified before Magistrate Sahr Kekura of the Pademba Road Court No 1 in an ongoing preliminary investigation into an alleged land grabbing saga at No 2 River, involving three accused persons.                                

The accused persons, Zakaria Kargbo, Bai Kabia and Ibrahim Sorie Kamara made their second appearance in court and were arraigned on three count charges ranging from larceny contrary to Section 2 of the Larceny Act 1916, trespass contrary to Section 15(1)(b) of the Public Order Act No46 of 1965 and building without building permit contrary to Section 18 of the Freetown Improvement Act 2960 as amended. 

Police alleged that all accused persons on Saturday, 16 April, 2022, at Comfort Bridge, No2 River, main Peninsular Road, stole two sign posts valued le12 million, property of the Ministry of Lands.      

It was alleged that on count two that the accused persons on the same date and place unlawfully entered into a state land having been warned not to do so, whiles count three added that the accused persons on the same date were found creating a building without building permit from the Ministry of Lands.                                    

The Assistant Director of Lands Yayah Kamara, led in evidence by ASP Davis Cole, testified that he is in charge of records systems  at the Ministry of Lands and  recognised all accused persons and recalled on the  16th April, 2022.

He said while he was at home he received a telephone call from one police officer at the site  and that upon that information, he went to the Anti-Land Grabbing Unit  of the Sierra Leone Police  and made statement. 

The witness added that sometimes in October last year, himself together with some Operational Support Division (OSD) officers of the Sierra Leone Police, went to No 2 River to erect reclamation sign post indicating that the said land is a state land and that the state has reclaimed it.

According to him, they took with them the cadastral sheet that covers geographical location at the said land and that the maps showed the creek and wet land through the Foreshore Act, CAP 149 LSL, adding that the said land was forested before 2015.

He said a sign post was erected last year in the presence of police officers and community members and that after the erection, he took snap shot of the said sign post and that after some weeks, he received information from the police in respect of the land.

Director Kamara said he visited the said land upon receipt of the information.

“I observed that the two sign posts were missing and that both cost six million Leones. There is a proof of evidence that the sign posts were there before they were removed. I took a snap shot with my Samsung galaxy cellphone,” he testified.                    

The said photos and phone were tendered as exhibit respectively in court.  

He said after the photograph had been taken by him in the presence of the police officers, they left the scene and that they received information that the accused have removed the sign board on the 16 April 2022. 

“Upon the information receipt I was called to the Anti- Land Grabbing and Environmental Unit, OSD headquarters to make statement and there I learnt that certain arrest was done.” 

He said the following day; he went to the scene together with the police and observed that the sign posts were removed with over 100 blocks packed at the site together with sands and an excavator.

He said as an engineer, he confirmed that there was construction ongoing at the site, adding that they returned to the station where he asked the police whether they had any building permit, but that none was produced to him.  According to him, the Ministry of Lands did not sell any land to them neither did they grant them building permit.      

The witness was cross-examined by lawyer Amadu Koroma, who pleaded with the court for the document of the aforementioned land to form part of the court records in the interest of justice.

In reply the prosecutor objected to the application made by defense counsels, noting that Section 70 of the CPA 1965 states the means and ways a document could form part of a court records and that in that case neither the witness nor his lawyer were eligible to tender the said document in court because the witness was not the custodian of the document.

Meanwhile, Magistrate Kekura ruled that the defense counsel didn’t provide legal authority whiles making his application and therefore his application was dismissed.

Defense counsel A Koroma renewed his application for bail on behalf of the accused persons, adding that the bench has the opportunity to listen to all the evidence.

He said his clients have been in detention for over a week and all through out that period they were of good conduct. The prosecutor in reply objected to the application for bail on the grounds that the accused didn’t have fix abode and there was a likelihood of flight risk if granted bail.     

Magistrate Kekura, however, granted bail to the accused persons in the sum of 500 million Leones and two sureties in like sum, adding that the bail should be verified by him and approved by the deputy Acting Registrar.

He adjourned the matter to Monday 25th April 2022.                            

ASP Christiana Davis Cole ESQ is prosecuting the matter.

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