From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

Letter from America : Congo Cross/Wilkinson Road Widening/Realignment Muddle
By Ezekiel Coker (in United States of America)
Feb 8, 2011, 17:00

I wish to commend Lawyer James Blyden Jenkins-Johnson very highly for his brilliant and comprehensive exposition published in Awareness Times newspaper on the various laws relating to the protection of the property rights of citizens. He also pointed out the shortcomings of the government in allegedly failing to first address all the important issues connected with the widening and realignment of Wilkinson Road/Congo Cross highways before embarking on the implementation of this major project.

Before proceeding further, let me first hasten to say that without any doubt whatsoever the governmentís action in undertaking the widening and realignment of these important highways linking the extreme Western parts of the city with the central parts is highly commendable. The layout of the city creates a bottleneck between the city centre and either the eastern or western part.

But it is sad that, as reported in the article by lawyer Jenkins-Johnston, the government does not seem to have made adequate and comprehensive plans for the convenience of residents along the route, nor has any liaison seem to have been established with the public utilities companies and with the police in anticipation of the problems which have been pointed out. It baffles me that the government did not foresee the problems which might arise in the widening and realignment of these thoroughfares.

Such a project is of a complex nature which is made worse by the density of population and the many dwelling houses as well as commercial buildings situated along the route. Obviously for the success of this major project, private properties inevitably have had to be compulsorily acquired. This is an unavoidable requirement in the development of any city worldwide. But such acquisition should have been in strict compliance with the various laws in the country.

In addition, the inevitable relocation of hardware of public utilities like electric poles and power cables, transformer units, telephone poles and cables both underground and overhead as well as water pipes has resulted to extra work and expenses by the respective companies. These extra expenses had almost certainly not been budgeted for by any of these companies. There does not seem to have been coordination by the government with these public utilities companies for the orderly relocation of their hardware.

Also there does not seem to have been any liaison with the police for temporary plans to have been made for the easing of the congestion which was bound to occur during the implementation of the widening and realignment.

By the compulsory acquisition of private properties without apparently compensating owners so far, Government seems to have trampled roughshod on the rights of citizens. Law and Order is the strong pillar on which any progressive country is built. It is enshrined in the constitution of the country. For without this sine qua non, anarchy will prevail. When Law and Order is brazenly violated especially by the government itself, then who is there to protect the rights and ensure the safety of citizens? The citizens thereby have nowhere to take their grievances to seek redress.

It is an undeniable fact that an efficient government depends on an efficient civil service for the effective and smooth implementation of all its policies. An efficient civil service depends on senior and responsible officials who are sufficiently educated and motivated as well as possessing foresight together with high degree of organizational and administrative abilities.

We may be tempted to throw blame on the senior civil servants under whose responsibilities the project falls for the problems which now seem to have arisen in the extension and realignment of these major roads. But let us not jump too hastily into any conclusions.

It is to some extent mere speculation on what action government should have taken or did not take before this important project was embarked upon. It is not actually known exactly what arrangements were made behind-the scenes by the government to alleviate the inconveniences and other problems which were bound to occur. But whatever arrangements government might have made in anticipation of the problems, the outcome at present does not reflect the effectiveness of any such arrangements.

This is manifested by the many problems which have now arisen and which are staring at government in the face. The great inconvenience being experienced by some citizens to negotiate deep ditches to gain access to their premises, the damage reportedly being caused to some houses as result of the blasting of rocks along the route, the damage being caused to water pipes as well as to electric and telephone cables, the failure of government to acquire private property in strict compliance with the laws all point to the fact that government failed to have made any comprehensive plans beforehand. The government has consequently been exposed to serious criticisms which are justified by the available evidence.

It is hoped that now that the apparent failings of government in the implementation of this project have been exposed, government will take prompt and positive steps to remedy all the shortcomings which have been pointed out so eloquently by Lawyer Jenkins-Johnston.

© Copyright 2005, Freetown, Sierra Leone.