Magistrate Compensates Le5m For Property Worth Le600 In 1969
The Magistrates Court in Makeni has ordered the compensation of five million Leones for a thirty-hectare piece of land that had gone into sales agreement for six-hundred Leones in the late 60s; upsetting Rights Groups and sects of elders of Makeni.
The land is between Teko and a nearby village called Romyanka, in the outskirts of Makeni city, about 155 miles North of the capital Freetown. A document produced in court by Aisha Yeama Conteh showed that her father, late Dr Hadj Momoh Conteh made a part payment of two-hundred Leones (Le200.00) for the thirty hectares of land, to late Pa Kapr Loya Kanu, in August 31st 1969, remaining a balance payment of four-hundred Leones (Le400.00).
Aisha was the Appellant in this matter after a Local Court in Makeni ruled against her in 2015, and the Respondent-Gibrilla Kanu, represented the Kanu family. The two sides made their first appearance in July 2017, before then Resident Magistrate Sheka Papa Kamara, where Aisha testified that she was taken to the US in 1989 when she was 12 yrs old, adding: “My first visit to Sierra Leone was in 2007, and I was prepared to pay the balance of four-hundred Leones (Le400.00) to the Kanu family through the evaluation of experts at the Central Bank of Sierra Leone, after late Paramount Chief Masayele Antham, formerly of Makarie Gbantie Chiefdom advised us to settle our impasse amicably, but the Kanu family failed to listen”.
The Respondent denied in his testimony that there was no ‘buying and selling agreement’ between the Appellant’s father and his late uncle. Magistrate Sheka Papa Kamara had course to put a stop-work order on the land and the sales of parcels of the disputed land carried out by the Kanu family, followed by an alarm raised by Appellant, as the matter proceeded.
At that juncture, Magistrate John Fornah took over Magistrate Sheka Papa Kamara, following his transfer. Overall, the Appellant and Respondent made over thirty-five (35) appearances before the verdict was given, and Aisha was earlier represented by lawyer Randy S. Bangura and later, by lawyer Ibrahim Samba; the Respondent-Gibrilla Kanu was represented by lawyer Boniface S. Kamara, on behalf of the Kanu family.
Prior to the ruling, Thursday, October 11th 2018, the Presiding Magistrate, John Fornah stated that he retired in to Chambers with both assessors, “and they gave me their opinions and both of them said the same thing…that the father of the Appellant and the land owners of Karene had an agreement for the said portion of land, for which Appellant’s father made part payment. On that note therefore, if the Appellant’s father died without completing the payment for the said portion of land, it is but pertinent for the Respondent to have compensated the Appellant for the part payment made by the father of the Appellant for the portion of land in question”.
He quoted: “Section 5 (3) of Time Limitation Act of 1971 provides that any claim to Right of Private Land shall be made within a period of 12 years”, and enjoined with a query: “Was the property legally transferred to the father of the Appellant?…the answer is No; on grounds that there is no Conveyance, Deed of Gift or any other document through which property can be transfered from one person to the other, before this Court”.
“On the face of the Local Court, the Appellant asked a pertinent question to the Local Court Chairman, concerning the part payment of two-hundred Leones (Le200.00) paid by her father, and the said question was put to the Respondent by the Chairman, and the Respondent replied that he was going to have a family meeting, and since then, that question was never resolved up to this time. Common Law will look at it as a breach of contract, but Equity will not take this vivid attitude of the Common Law”, the Magistrate underscored.
He summarised: “Having gone through the entire evidence together with the sales agreement, this Court will therefore uphold the Local Court decision in favour of the Respondent, since the said land was never absolutely transferred or disposed of to the late father of the Appellant, as the sales agreement was frustrated by the father of the Appellant who died without completing payment of the remaining balance sum of four-hundred Leones (Le400). On the issue of cost, I order that both parties bear their own costs… I so order!”.
The Magistrate then ruled: “In light of the above, this Court would like to assess the value of two-hundred Leones (Le200.00) in 1969 as compared to present day 2018, and having assessed same in my estimation from that time to now, this honourable Court therefore orders the Respondent to restitute the sum of five million Leones (Le5m) to the Appellant representing the two-hundred Leones (Le200.00) part payment made by her late father to the land owners of Karene.
But Aisha instantly challenged the Magistrate’s verdict, threatening a High Court Appeal, and in line with her threat, the five million Leones (Le5m) compensation is withheld and kept in suspense by the Magistrate. She asks the following: “Which Bank did the Magistrate consult to arrive at the five million Leones compensation in equivalence of the two-hundred Leones (Le200.00) part payment made in 1969? Does he mean that the value for the thirty hectares of land is fifteen million Leones? Why must an Act passed into law in 1971; three years after the transaction, has to affect me alone, disregarding my pertinent question at the Local Court, for the part payment?
The matter is one of the hottest debates within and outside Makeni, following the judgment, Cross sections of elders of Makeni who claim to have been family-friends to late Pa Kapr Loya Kanu and Dr Hadj Momoh Conteh are showing disregard for the judgment, both in public and in phoning sessions held on radio talk-shows across the country.
Others opined that Aisha is paying the price of her late father; an SLPP die hard of yesteryear in that part of Sierra Leone. Rights Groups across Sierra Leone have also shown keen interest in the matter, questioning the yardstick the Magistrate used to arrive at the five million Leones compensation without any professional advice of financial experts, with regards the value for money.
By Alie Mozart Sesay
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