July 18, 2017 By Joseph S. Margai
Technical Officer in the Department of Lands and Surveys, Ministry of Lands, Country Planning and the Environment, Joseph K.J. Lavalie, has disclosed that he was only aware of 100 acres of land provided by his ministry for the relocation of Tokeh residents and not the 300acres as stated by the village headman.
The Lands Ministry official, who was talking to our reporter last Wednesday in his New England Ville office, said he was in 2013 assigned by the then Minister and Director of Lands, Alhaji Allieu Pat-Sowe and Alex T. Konoyema respectively, to draw up a plan for Tokeh relocation.
“I was ordered by my former bosses to do the demarcation and draw up a plan for the relocation of Tokeh residents. The ministry only apportioned 100 acres of land to do so and I did it without qualms,” Joseph K.J. Lavalie said.
But Headman Slowe had told our reporter recently that 300 acres of land were allocated by government to the people who were asked to leave their previous locations for development purposes.
According to Lavalie, in 2013, they discovered that the soil at Tokeh beach was not good for the construction of residential houses, adding that all lands at the beach are state-owned and that the particular area in question was identified for a proposed development.
While property owners in the village, including Headman Alhaji James Slowe, have urged the Ministry of Lands, Country Planning and the Environment, to issue land documents to them so as to guarantee ownership, Technical Officer has assured that plans were underway to issue documents to all of those who have been relocated.
He said the delay on the part of the Ministry of Lands to issue land documents was not deliberate and that it was due to certain changes in the leadership of the ministry.
He added that the process took place during the tenure of former Minister and Director of Lands, Alhaji Allieu Pat-Sowe and Alex T. Konoyema.
“The current leadership has been engaged and informed about the process. The signing of documents for lands should only be done by the Minister and Director of Lands. I have no authority to do that. I was only assigned to do the demarcation and develop a plan for the allocated land,” he said.
Lavalie said he was unaware of claim that lands were unevenly distributed among property owners.
“All the lands were allocated to them in the presence of the village head and other stakeholders. We don’t know all of them but their local authorities know them, thus, lands were apportioned to them in accordance with what their authorities recommended,” he said.