Alim Bangura (L) and Mohamed Adikali Sillah ( R): The claimants
By Ransford Wright & Prince C. Kamara
A land dispute between the Sillah family of Kaffu Bullum, Mahera in Lungi and the former bodyguard to erstwhile President Ernest Bai Koroma is threatening to tear apart the Mahera community if nothing is done by the authorities do avert any calamity.
Investigating the issue, AYV interviewed several people who claimed ownership or knew something about the seven acre land in question.
According to Alhaji Kambali Osman Sillah the land belongs to the Sillah family and that he recalls that on one occasion during the height of the Ebola epidemic during the APC reign, Alimu Bangura, bodyguard to former President Ernest Bai Koroma accompanied by Honorable Nicholas, approached a few members of the Sillah family informing them that the former president wanted to buy their land. He admitted however, that he alone could not sell property belonging to a whole family but that since he had been told it was the president who wanted the land, he could not resist.
He further admitted that he has no ownership document and that the amount paid at the time for the land was Le150 million and that he only signed on a document but gave the buyers no document for the land in question.
Moses Kanu Titos, retired government surveyor under the Ministry of Works, Housing and Infrastructure, told AYV that the land in question is owned by the Sillah family. He went on to say he was hired in November 2010 by Mr. Mohamed Adikali Sillah to survey the land in question.
“My team and I surveyed up to seven acres from the hill down to the beach,” he said, adding that a few years later, he was approached by the former Honorable Nicholas to re-survey the same plot of land but declined, saying he had surveyed the land once and that it belongs to the Sillah family at Mahera and that they have the document for the land in their possession, signed by the Kaffu Bullom authorities. He stated that he does not know nor has he met Alimu Bangura but that he sometimes hears rumors about his coming to make threats about his ownership of the land at Mahera in question.
When AYV contacted Mohamed Alikali Sillah, a member of the Sillah family at Kaffu Bullom, Mahera in Lungi who resides in Freetown, he explained among other things that he had been informed by youths in Mahera that they were protesting against one Alim Bangura because he had been coming to Mahera armed with a pistol, firing into the air and threatening that no one should enter the land in question as it is his property and that he would not hesitate to gun down anyone who dares. He informed AYV that as far as he is concerned, Alim Bangura is simply using intimidation tactics to grab land which has belonged to his family for over one hundred and fifty years beginning with his great grandfather. “We are the fourth generation and we are many in our family with various ambitions to bring development to our community,” he said.
He lamented that Alimu Bangura and Hon. Nicholson at one time approached a few of their uncles claiming they had been sent by the former President Ernest Bai Koroma to purchase the land. He added that it was during the reign of the APC and therefore his uncles felt intimidated, thereby giving leeway to Alimu Bangura and Hon. Nicholson to grab the land after giving them a sum of money without the consent of the rest of the family, most of who are in the Diaspora.
He went on to say that in 2010, he surveyed the land in question and has the documents to the effect. He maintained that he took the matter to the Local Court and won Alimu Bangura and that, the Local Court gave orders that the land should be returned to its rightful owners. He claimed that while the matter was in the Local Court, Alimu Bangura and others went to the land using the name of the former President Ernest Bai Koroma, saying he was the one that gave them the order to claim the land and went ahead to erect an illegal fence on the property. He went further to say that when he returned from the Diaspora, he erected solar lights for his community and is planning to construct chalets and guest houses on a part of the land to create employment for the community people. He added that at one point, Alimu Bangura went over national television claiming that the land belongs to him. “Therefore, if Alimu Bangura is now laying claim to the land, where is the former President who he had said wanted the land?” Mr. Sillah asked.
When contacted by AYV, Alim Bangura (former bodyguard) said the allegation against him is “totally incorrect” and denied using the name of the former President Ernest Bai Koroma to claim any land. He further stated that he bought the land in 2015, and has documents in his possession. He added that as far as he knows, if he had bought the land as far back as 2015 and then the grandchildren of the people he bought the land from come and say he grabbed the land in question, they should go and ask their parents, adding that anyone who has contention can go to court because when he worked on the land for two years no one came up to contest his ownership. He said that his lawyers are putting the necessary papers together to take legal action against Mohamed Alikali Sillah whom he accused of destroying his gate erected at the said site. He challenged the Local Court verdict in the possession of Mohamed Alikali Sillah as “absurd.” He added that land tenure in Sierra Leone starts with the Local authorities but that it is the government which finally authenticates land ownership. Alim Bangura however declined to produce his documents and refused to disclose how much he bought the land.