Governments over the past decades have had little consideration for planning and housing for low income earners, but more focus had been on land allocation, especially in the Western area, and this has seen the emergence of criminal cartels and the sale of a piece of land to several individuals by land owners. This situation is about to change now, judging by the stance of the new Minister of Lands and Country Planning, Dr. Turad Senesie, who, during the weekly press conference held on Thursday 25th February at the conference room of the Ministry of Information told Journalists that his first priority at the helm of affairs is to undertake reforms in the ministry by creating separate Directorates of Housing and Planning and also digitizing all their operations.
Dr. Senesie explained that governments in and out have focused on land allocation especially in the Western Area with little or no planning, neither working towards affordable housing for low and middle income classes.
“I believe there has to be a change of approach in the discharge of our duties as a ministry,” he said, adding that government will now focus on Country Planning and Affordable Housing as a priority while Land Allocation will be a secondary issue.
“In order to meet the timely expectations of the public, I intend separating the Directorate of Housing and Country Planning into two separate directorates; Directorate of Country Planning and Directorate of Housing,” he announced.
The Lands Minister maintained that the Directorate of Country Planning will be charged with, among others, controlling and regulating urban planning, establish an urban design unit, establish country planning and district planning committees, Initiate a holistic development plan including structure and local plans, and conduct research relating to town and urban planning.
The Directorate of Housing on the other hand, he went on, will be working with partners to build affordable housing around the country for low and middle income earners, envision the modernization of towns and cities, replace derelict and shanty communities, encourage the setting up of home finance institutions, encourage large scale production of local building materials, work with the Sierra Leone Housing Corporation to improve on service delivery.
Dr. Senesie pointed out that in the Western Area, land accounts for about just 17% of the total land available in the country, noting that because of the scarcity in the supply of land, expensive rent imposed by landlords and upsurge in urbanization, the rush for land has increased, thus inviting state and non-state actors into the sale of a piece of land to multiple buyers with multiple documentations. This state of affairs, according to him, has led to series of conflicts over land ownership in communities.
To correct such anomalies and other related crimes associated with land allocation and ownership, Dr. Senesie said his ministry is going to pursue digitization of the entire system using robust and appropriate technology
“It is my belief that Sierra Leoneans want to see their towns and cities competing with other towns and cities around the globe. We can do this if we are all ready to just do some amount of sacrifice and demonstrate some level of nationalism. This requires Discipline, Decency and Honesty (DDH). Let us all inculcate the habit of DDH and make our towns and cities the envy of Sub Saharan Africa,” he challenged citizens.
The press conference was chaired by the dynamic Deputy Minister of Information and Communications, Madam Mamadi Gobeh-Kamara, who earlier on updated the media on the activities of government over the past week.
By Bampia James Bundu
Strategic Communications Unit, Ministry of Information and Communications