Ex-APC Minister named in‘Land Grabbing’ tussle at Gloucester!
A case of double standards and inconsistency
Former Minister of Lands, Country Planning and the Environment, Diana Konomanyi, has been named as the kingpin at the centre of a land grabbing sage at Gloucester Village in the Mountain Rural District in the Western Rural Area. The corpus of the issue is a vast tract of land, about 150 acres, situated on a mountain range connecting Gloucester and Bathurst Villages in the district that was originally cleared by a team of ‘land grabbers’ purporting to act on behalf of the community. Land grabbing has been the norm in the Western Area since the early 199s; it intensified during and after the war, and has now reached cataclysmic proportion and taking a devastating toll on the environment.
The land in question was cleared of its forest cover in 2015 or thereabout, by youths in the surrounding community sponsored by a group comprising women who provided food for the youths who did the clearing. Each of the women was allotted three town lots,but they needed a proper survey plan from the ministry for them to be able to properly utilize the land or sell it off to wiling and ready buyers.
This practice, though totally illegal, has somehow been institutionalized by a caucus at the ministry of lands who connive with the land grabbers to provide them with ‘letters of offer’ in exchange for portions of the land, which are then sold to available buyers that are capable of navigating the legal system to acquire a freehold title through dubious application of the land tenure laws governing the administration of lands in the Western Area.
Following the clearing of the land at Gloucester, the then Headman, Wilhelm Kallon, explained that he approached the ministry on behalf of the concerned community members to provide them with a master survey plan to enable them to legally utilize the land. When the ministry officials visited the site, they realized that it was a prime location that would fetch a lot of money if sold to the upper class or the business sector.
This was when Diana Konomanyi came into the picture and sprang into action as the minister with authority above all others. According to Mr. Kallon the former Headman, he and Diana came into serious conflict over ownership of the land, with Diana denying that Headmen had any right to administer, let alone allot state lands to members in that community.
Again, a seemingly justifiable line of action by the ex-minister; juxtapose this with the impunity that land grabbers have enjoyed over the past decade, it becomes obvious that Diana Konomanyi acted in bad faith, which has nothing to do with the regularization of land tenure, acquisition and ownership in the Western Area generally.
While this may sound and look appropriate action on the part of Madam Konomanyi, it however underpins the grand criminal conspiracy at the ministry to dispose of state lands illegally, using land grabbers as scapegoats or accomplices as the circumstances dictate.In this particular instance, the land grabbers have been used as scapegoats.
With available land becoming a scarce commodity in the Western Area, the price of one town lot of land in the mountain Rural District generally has become prohibitive for the common man, but very attractive to the wealthy, the business class and the politically connected who prefer to live up on the mountains and hilltops, far removed from the congestion and noise of the city center.
Names like Dangote, Africa’s richest man; IMMAT and Home Land Estate Development Company have popped up as competing bidders to purchase over 50 acres of the most strategic portions of the land.It would appear that Home Land Estate Development Company won the bid, or it is merely a surrogate arrangement with the real owner who prefers anonymity.
Mr. Kallon’s main contention is that Diana Konomanyi’s actions were ill motivated and borne out of greed and avarice. After all, hectares of land in that district have been disposed of in exactly the same manner, but the ex-minister did not show as much enthusiasm as she did in respect of this particular piece of land in question. It therefore made poor logic, for good reasons, in the eyes of the community, for Diana to implement the law in respect of one piece of land, and disregard it altogether in respect of another, in exactly the same category and set of circumstances.
On 19th September last year, the former minister is reported to have issued a moratorium on Mr. Kallon, and all headmen in the mountain district for that matter, to have nothing to do with land issues as that was not within their mandate. She then arranged for soldiers to be deployed to the land in question to forestall any attempt by the community to have access to the land, let alone dispose of it. Mr. Kallon said he was detained at the CID on a number of occasions because of his effrontery to challenge the minister’s manner of intervention into matter, after government surveyors had measured and plotted the land on behalf of the community, but had not provided them yet with the relevant documents.
Now that the APC has been removed from power, lawyers purporting to act on behalf of one Home Land Estate Development Company, which has already paid an undisclosed sum of money to Diana, for over 50 acres, are in a hurry to seal the deal, and have promised to sponsor the affected community members to implement a project of their choice, as a way of compensation.
A meeting was held last Sunday betweenone lawyer Bangura at his Pultney Street office in Freetown, together with one Mr. Tarawalley, who claims to be a shareholder and supposedly acting on behalf of the company, and a cross section of one hundred women in
Gloucester, led by the new Headman, Fred Hanciles, who had been allotted three town lots each as beneficiaries among others in the community before Diana slammed her moratorium. The lawyers, according to some women who attended the meeting, ‘advised’ them to settle for the ‘compensation’ or risk losing out altogether, as they have no authentic legal documents to support their claim to the land.
In all this, Mr. Kallon said that Diana Konomanyi muscled her way into a deal fraught with illegalities, and without disclosingthe real purchase price, to whom it was paid, or into whoseaccount the money was lodged.
Past Monday, a follow up meeting was held at Gloucester by the affected women, again led by the new headman, Fred Hanciles, a reputed supporter of the APC, where it was agreed that the purchaser, Home Land Estate Development Company, provide funds for the construction of a well at the school’s community centre, and hundreds of desks to be utilized by schools in the community. They now await the response from the lawyers of the Company to which the land has purportedly been sold.
This publication is to draw the attention of President Bio’s administration to the fact that land grabbing is still going on, and the lead operatives are tying up loose ends fast, and wrapping up unfinished deals as quickly as they possibly could, before the new administration settles down to business. More to come on this issue.