Salone News

Minister Sandy and the land thieves

5 November 2020 at 03:20 | 1352 views


By Santigie Momoh, Freetown, Sierra Leone

I have been quietly observing Dr. Dennis Moinina Sandy (pictured) since he "assumed office" as Minister of Lands, Country Planning and the Environment.

Sandy came to national notice in the first administration of former president Ernest Koroma but as soon as he started hitting hard on the country’s land thieves and assorted criminal elements he was quickly shown the door.

Sierra Leone, before the current administration, was a country were rogues and bandits ran amok, taking whatever they could grab and make it their own while the Head of State sleepily goes through another day in his bureaucratic sanctum.

One favourite item for the criminals was land. They would take any unprotected land in sight and build a house or houses on it with the connivance of Ministry of Lands officials, and then forge brand new and clean ownership documents prepared by morally bankrupt lawyers. They will then have these documents or forgeries signed by well known state functionaries at the ministry who had wined and dined earlier on with the thieves and received pecuniary benefits. These oily officials, after receiving their filthy bribes, even sometimes have the audacity to go to court to bear false witness on behalf of their partners in crime.

This was the situation under the APC when Sandy was first APC Lands minister. He kicked out some of the corrupt officials some of whom were proud party card members who teamed up and asked the party leaders to eject this un-APC interloper and the leaders obliged without thinking about it too much because Sandy actually refused to become an APC member. That was a crime because the APC do not like political tourists; you have to pay back (with party dues and donations) for being allowed to "eat". In other words you won’t survive for long in an APC government if you don’t join the party or display some kind of skulduggery.

After Sandy was removed by the APC mafia, he went quietly back to his teaching job at the Fourah Bay College Economics department where he was said to be a very strict and no-nonsense scholar and teacher. He later joined and actively participated in the campaign to elect retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio who, after the 2018 election victory wasted no time to make him Lands minister. I suspect Sandy specifically asked for that ministry to complete the job he had started when he was within the rotten APC system.

Here we are with Denis Sandy at the infamous Ministry of Lands. This is a ministry that had tamed tough-guy ministers in the past. Sierra Leoneans love three things: A beautiful wife, a car and a house. Those three things are great symbols of success in this unfortunate country. Because the typical Sierra Leonean does not make a lot of money, most of them, educated or not, will steal, rob or kill to have a car, a wife or a house. Sometimes the wife would not matter that much but they have to get that car or house. But to get a house you need land (Sierra Leoneans don’t like buying houses, they build). Hence the scramble for land and the rampant beatings, killings and endless court cases.

Sandy is seldom in his office. He is often out there settling and investigating land cases accompanied by his bodyguards. He is a totally different kind of minister. Former ministers would sit in their office and tell aggrieved persons to go to court where a corrupt judiciary awaits them, but Sandy prefers to settle things in his office thus saving potential litigants tons of money. He has all the necessary documents and experts under one roof. His only weakness is, he likes to show off. But that’s okay. Nobody has ever been charged to court for showing off.

It should be noted however that Sandy never intervenes on private land matters (except called upon for help), his main preoccupation is government lands for which the Ministry was actually created, among other things. There are maps and documents on such lands at the ministry.. They used to be called Crown lands, a legacy of British colonialism.