Land tussle grips Marampa
Beneficiaries constituted as the Land Owners Association in the Northern town of Lunsar’s seven sections and surrounding nine villages, have voiced concern over their entitlement in the proceeds emanating from surface fees the London Mining Company pays to land owner beneficiaries.
In a tour of the Marampa Chiefdom’s iron-ore rich area, in the Lunsar Township, Sierra Express Media discovered in a fact finding mission that lots of beneficiaries are actually not au fait with what is entailed in the pact signing their benefits, other emoluments and chances to provide suitable candidate employees in the indigenes’ employee priority list.
One Section Chief in the Marampa Section, Chief Pa Alimamy Bala Kamara told Sierra Express that strangers rather than indigenes as often the case are almost certainly being the more accepted candidates for job recruitment. The Chief said their children are denied job recommendations by their own Paramount Chief because they have got no brown envelopes to offer him and “when strangers come with such he approves them”.
A score of skirmishes has laid wrath between what they call the true beneficiaries and those imported beneficiaries. Many who have been party to the history since the DELCO mine folded its operations in the area, account a down trodden economic and social life, grappling with life once again as the mines which create the job hub, pulled most inhabitants back to their various localities and the town was laid moribund without legacies to account on evidence of the existence that jobs or mines operations were once upon a time feasible in the area.
This is said with much consideration in terms of such companies meeting their Corporate Social Responsibilities that worth should be reflected in the likes of good feeder roads, trunk roads, and other infrastructures, recreational facilities, education benefits, and life social amenities.
According to Chairman of the Land Owners Association, Mr. David S. Kabbia, a land beneficiaries’ pact was never signed between London Mining and the land owner beneficiaries to detail what they now have as welfare concerns.
He said what is legally binding in the holds of documents was initially a US$25,000 threshold that the company is entitled to pay in a contract lease of 25 years, subject to renewal at the close of every 5-year term of the contract phase. Chairman Kabbia said latest thoughts and suggestions are that they should seek to improve on the company’s Corporate Social Responsibilities for the second year succession phase of a 5-year lease.
Mr. David S. Kabbia said they wanted to now increase their threshold limit in the contract agreement from 20% to a shift drip of 25% as it has emerged in the new priority list of demand, so that they can be able to situate a yield to their demand thresholds. The current 20% interpreted in real figures means they are currently receiving the sum of $150,000 as surface concession dues.
Currently as it stands, each land owner is receiving shares as per acreage of land covered in the Mining Lease. Some coveted it as being unfairly reasonable to their earnings. There seems to be a major problem with the land tenure system and land acquisition methods as many now cry that the authorities are denying them land rights in certain areas to limit their thresholds. This has resulted in bad blood as it is gradually generating differences of opinion from within the member communities. Not too long ago, the people of Mabente had a row with officials of London Mining Plc over the demolition of certain building quarters in that zone to clear land acreage of over 3,000 hectares. The movement for the emancipation of the Magbente people, lead by one Mohamed Tarawally, rose to the challenge against what they called unfair treatment subjected to them by the Paramount Chief PC Koblo Queen II of the Marampa Chiefdom.
Among their claims they said the Chief is not representing their interests in contract negotiations as he often takes advantage of the fact that the beneficiaries from that section are not lettered enough to understand what they are entitled to in terms of contract baggage. The dispute began when the said Mohamed Tarawally rose equal in a meeting held at the CSE compound in Lunsar to suggest that since the agreement binding the fate of his beneficiaries is a legal document, it should be safe for the land owner beneficiaries to hire the services of a lawyer as their legal client to oversee and possibly sign for on behalf of them in contract situations that means well for them in terms of welfare cover, job security and entitlement benefits.
This was said in agreement that the lawyer will be able to understand and provide best of advice and policy guides to them as to what and why they should and must undertake certain things in the agreement. It was at this point an opposition emerged. A cross section of members in the meeting, we are told, disapproved of the idea to hiring the services of a lawyer, while the people of Magbente stood ground on what their leader, Mohamed Tarawally suggested and later got Shears Moses and FC Keifala as their solicitors.
Sierra Express is told in Lunsar that the Magbente people resolved in a meeting that all activities ongoing in their land should be put on hold until they have a mutual understanding with the mining company and the land owner beneficiaries in their village.
In what they consider as a breach of this resolution by London Mining, the people of Magbente rose to the occasion to stop a demolition exercise which was ongoing at the Senior Staff Quarters of the then Delco mining company. It was on this that their leader, Mohamed Tarawally was arrested, roughly manhandled, and brought to Freetown’s Criminal Investigations Department where he was later slammed a three count charge of riotous conduct, disorderly behaviour, and conspiracy to commit offence, all in contravention of the 1965 Public Order Act.
Sequel to all of these disclosures, Sierra Express contacted Paramount Chief Koblo Queen Pathbana II for his side of the story and this is what he had to say: “First and foremost I am not a member of the Land Owners Association. The land owners are the very ones who always negotiate for themselves and only bring their resolutions for me to assent to. Let me tell you something, Mr. Editor, look I’m a wealthy man. Before I was crowned Paramount Chief, I was a business man and I was doing very well. My late father was the Paramount Chief here and himself was a rich man, I didn’t come from a poor background so I need no pittance from anybody in the guise of brown envelope so to speak to help enhance them with jobs. I have no job to offer anybody and at the moment I haven’t established a company or a business that warrants the need of employees.
To the recruitment process, the mining companies have their recruitment officers and credentials committees that are capable enough to select, approve and recruit their workers. This process is simple for all to see. First they advertise all the job vacancies that are existing for which they need clients, second they have their salary structures, which I am not privy to, and third I cannot as a chief exert my authority on any company here in operation because if I do I must be altering their system of operational rules. So to make it clearer, if I have ever done any such recommendations to the companies for them to employ somebody, the fact should be there with them for your perusal.
Let me also briefly tell you how these companies came to be here today. When I was first appointed as the heir to the throne in 2001 I wrote some letters to the London stock market in search of investors to work on the mines concentrate here; it was there I came in contact with London Mining Plc, a limited liability company who then agreed to come to Sierra Leone.”
By Abu Bakarr Sulaiman Tarawally & Mohamed Kabba Turay
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