Encouragement and land grabbing are the order of the day in this country; due mainly to the corrupt practice of officials in the Lands ministry failing since independence to simply, honestly and impartially certify ownership in particularly the Western Area, and together with the Administrator General’s Office ensure that this right is not violated through forgery of documents.
The land issue in Aberdeen between EPA Executive Chairperson Madam Haddijaou Jallow who has only been in the community for not more than five years and the Aberdeen Cape Community School who have resided on the land for seventeen years brings sharply to the front not only the above observation, but also that made at the land reform policy conference in Freetown by Legal Consultant in the Law Officers Department, Lahai Momoh Farmah.
The crucial question is: Is Jallow’s claim of ownership of the land which cannot be traced more than five years down the line more important than that of the Cape Community School whose occupancy of the land dates back seventeen years and which as the nation seeks to overcome illiteracy serves nearly 400 pupils?
Therefore, according to Mr. Farmah, we should be able to draw the priority line between land ownership and land use.
Ownership in such a case as the above between an individual’s claim and the greater good of education in the community, Mr. Farmah said must be determined by the community.
Thus, he said, “If we want to deal with land to change the existing law…we need to go down to the people and ask their consent.”
What is very contentious, for which the Lands ministry needs to do some explaining is, how did Jallow get her ownership to the land, when she has not been more than five years in Aberdeen?
And if she is indeed the owner of the land, why had she all these years not made her ownership known to the proprietor of the cape school and the Aberdeen community?
To prevent such occurrences, in reforming the country’s land policy, there must be areas that are demarcated and protected for certain purposes; so that government will not just come overnight and tell someone to go and take fifty acres of land without proper purpose. In this regard, Mr. Farmah strongly recommends that land use and not ownership is what the country should move towards.
In that direction, the American Land Planning Association states that the goal of land-use planning is to further the welfare of people and their communities by creating convenient, equitable, healthful, efficient, and attractive environments for present and future generations.
As at now, Jallow and some Lands ministry officials have put the future of nearly 353 school-going children in Aberdeen in serious jeopardy as the proprietor reasonably cannot relocate the school before the next academic year starts in September.