A Chinese company, Orient Agriculture Ltd has been ordered to restore 1,486 acres of land to dozens of families in Nimiyama Chiefdom, Kono District, Eastern Sierra Leone.
The company had signed a deal in 2013 with local leaders including the Paramount Chief, George B. Torto III,to purchase the land at a price of US $ 130 per acre. The land in question belongs to several land owning families who had no knowledge of the transaction, and had never authorised the sale or disposal of their property.
The representative action, which commenced on 10 February 2015, also sought damages against the parties to the deal for trespass to land, destruction of crops and economic trees as well as special damages for loss of revenue. In addition, the plaintiffs asked the court to issue an injunction against the defendants.
On Wednesday17 February 2016, the high court nullified the sale and ordered that the plaintiffs be put back in possession. The judge also awarded damages of nearly Le 450,000,000 (Four Hundred and Fifty MillionLeones (about US $85,000) and issued an injunction against the company and the local leaders restraining them fromany future dealings with the land.
Fanta Sia Nyanda one of the affected family members, expressed after the judgment “the law has come to our aid. We now have confidence that the courts can work for us.”
Namati’s Director, Sonkita Conteh Esq. who argued the case on behalf of the affected farmers said on Friday, “The court applied a clear principle in our laws: chiefs cannot sell land.They cannot undertake land transactions without the consent of the families to whom the land belongs. Companies seeking to invest here and every Sierra Leonean should take note.”