‘Citizens must have access to land’


…NCD boss maintains

By Matthew Jabby

Dr. Kargbo urges equal rights and opportunities in land access and ownership
Dr. Kargbo urges equal rights and opportunities in land access and ownership

Citizens must have equity in terms of opportunities for land access, ownership, efficiency in terms of improved land use and development of national economy, says Dr. Abubakarr Hassan Kargbo, lecturer at Njala University.

Dr. Kargbo, who is also Chairman of the National Commission for Democracy (NCD), was speaking yesterday at a conference organized by Green Scenery at the Atlantic Hall, National Stadium in Freetown.

He said the ‘conference on citizens perspective on the right to land’ was apt, coming at a time of continuous national debate on the issue as part of the current constitutional review process, which provides an opportunity for the issue to be encoded in the new constitution. He expressed hope that deliberations at the conference would impact the current constitutional review process, with worthy recommendations from participants.

Dr. Kargbo opined that an ineffective regulatory framework was the root of many problems that characterize the issue of land tenure in Sierra Leone, including claims to historical land, injustices among some communities, proliferation of unplanned urban settlements, bad land use practice and human-wildlife land use conflicts.

Another serious aspect of land issue, according to him, was environmental degradation, uneconomic land subdivision, unjust land distribution and other land related problems.

“Over the years, Sierra Leone has been categorized as one of the poorest countries in the world but endowed with renewable and non-renewable natural resources. Questions related to land acquisition have always remained at the core of Sierra Leone’s political, economic and social development from pre-colonial, independent and the aftermath of the 11 years civil war,” he noted.

The NCD boss emphasized that since the end of the civil war in 2002, the country was being faced with an accelerated exploitation of its rich land and natural resources, resulting to land dispossession, forced eviction and displacement of customary land owning families and communities, especially in mining communities.

He said a research conducted by USAID in 2008 revealed that in Sierra Leone, 5.5 million people occupy 71,600 square kilometers of land, of which 40% is agricultural; 39% is forestry; while 4% is protected, adding that the population is 62% rural and 38% urban.

He said the country’s Gross Domestic Product is derived from 43% of agricultural, 33% service, and 24% industrial sectors.

Kargbo said the legislation governing the acquisition of provincial lands is also dealt with in the Concession Act of 1931, CAP 121, which regulates the rights to land in respect of natives and non-natives.