In the periods leading to the 2018 general elections, “the New direction” slogan was the most famous phrase in the nation. The SLPP leadership ran their campaign to improve teachers’ livelihood. They even promised to “build staff quarters and embark on long term housing scheme for teachers” (Page 36, bullet point four in the New direction manifesto).
A BAD PRECEDENT
Regrettably, not only have they failed in delivering on that promise, but Teachers, Soldiers, Police, Civil Servants, and low-income earners have been insulted by the public notice from the Ministry of Lands, Housing, and Country Planning. A bogus, wealthy, and selfish politician will argue that not everyone should own lands, but that is not what is stated in bullet point 17 in the 2018 new direction manifesto policy directive.
“The scarcity of land and the ensuing high costs have made access impossible to more than 60% of the population. This has forced the urban deprived to occupy state lands and become illegal squatters. In some areas, slums have developed and assumed a quasi-legal status from long-term occupancy. Several NGOs and MDAs are preoccupied with the attendant problems without the proper institutional framework.” New Direction Manifesto, 2018.
Alternative to their position of mitigating the ensuing high cost of land, the Ministry has turned around to sell a plot – two town lots – for one hundred and fifty million leones. Let’s put this in context, most Teachers, Soldiers, Police, Nurses, and Grade 7 civil servants nets below three million leones a month. If they save their salaries for four years without taking a dime, the total will be one hundred and forty-four million. Even with interest rates, it will be less than the amount Minister Turad Senesie is demanding.
Following this, the Lands Ministry will negatively set a new floor price for lands in the West. Private land owners now have the luxury of charging more for these lands, and only business people and rich politicians will have access to these lands. Instead of solving the scarcity and high price of land, the announced price in the notice only exacerbates the situation. They are pouring fuel on a blazing fire! The current cost only glorifies the wealthy, who will, in turn, resell at a higher price. Indeed, I know Minister Turad, or Uncle Turad, as I call him, is not a fake Ph.D. holder, so the counterfeit degrees parading the corridors of policy making in his Ministry should not be contagious and reflective of the policies he enacts. If he were still a teacher at Government Rokel Secondary School (if my memory still serves me right) or a lecturer at Njala, it would have been impossible to acquire a plot.
What a way to tell private landowners to increase the cost of their lands! As they negate the “education is a privilege and not a right,” the SLPP now says, “Property/land ownership is only for the upper-class.” A proper endorsement of the creation of more slums.
HOW CAN THIS SITUATION BE REMEDIED?
Depending on how sincere the Bio-government is in being labeled as a listening government, it is not too late to work in the interest of the citizens. Since we all know that most teachers and civil servants can’t have one hundred and fifty million as savings, it is only wise that a credit system and a payment plan are designed for low and middle-income earners to acquire these lands. Teachers and civil servants who still have at least ten years left in their service can buy these properties on a payment plan. Most of our leaders have lived in the West, and if they own lands and houses, a mortgage was the means of such acquisition.
Conclusively, Minister Turad Senesie should know that his current system discriminates against the poor. Instead of making land available to all Sierra Leoneans, it only creates an avenue for the affluent population to increase their assets.
This particular land sale should have only been for low to middle-income earners. It is time we start respecting the vulnerable population. Le150,000,000 is equally as derogatory and discriminatory as the “non-native Sierra Leone” legislation limiting access to land.