Liberia: Margibi Lawmaker Accuses County’s Land Administrator of Dubious Land Sale in Constituency
Margibi County – Margibi County District #1 Representative Tibelrosa Summoh Tarponweh has warned of potential land conflicts if nothing is done to stop the misuse of government office by doing the illegal sale of land.
According to Rep. Tarponweh, the alleged dubious actions of Joe Dorah, Land Commissioner, Margibi County, in suspicious land sale in the county’s district #1, have victimized dozens, including investors.
However, the office of the Margibi Land Commissioner has denied the Rep’s allegation and termed them “false and misleading”.
Documents in the possession of this newspaper from several victims as well as the Office of Margibi County District #1 lawmaker, revealed that Dorah has allegedly pocketed tens of thousands of United States Dollars for duping private citizens and illegally selling government land.
Rep. Tarponweh told FPA that he is obligated as the people’s representative to speak out in the wake of a plethora of complaints from residents, who have been allegedly duped by Dorah, and pieces of evidence gathered that Dorah is involved with questionable land sales.
In addition to drawing the public’s attention to the alleged illegal land sales in his district, Rep. Tarponweh has written the Liberia Land Authority (LLA), alerting the sector agency about the dubious land sales in that part of Liberia.
In the communication to the LLA Chairman, Atty. J. Adams Manobah, Sr., Rep. Tarponweh outlined several instances, supported by copies of receipts and fake land deeds awarded to people, who claimed were victims of Dorah’s actions.
In the communication, copy of which is in the possession of this newspaper, Rep Tarponweh, among other things called for an urgent investigation into these land crisis, and immediate suspension of the Land Commissioner.
Tarponweh’s Pieces of Evidence
The Margibi County’s District #1 lawmaker stated that he has received complaints from individuals and institutions over “dubious private and unwarranted public land sales.”
Some of these people and institutions include Helena Nah, Johnetta Wiggins, Neree K. Bartee, Melvin Z. Lackay, Sr., Minikon Talo and World of Life Fellowship.
He quotes Helena Nah as claiming to have given US$9,800 to Dorah for two lots of land in Marshall City. This money, Ms. Nah claimed in three installments but Dorah is yet to live up to his side of the bargain.
Nah, speaking to FPA said the delay in getting the deed and taking possession of the land prompted her to request for her money, but Dorah has since refused to pay back.
She has vowed to launch court action against Dorah.
Madam Johnetta Wiggens alleged of giving Dorah a red Ford Ranger Pick-up Truck in exchange of a parcel of land in the Foday Town area along the RIA highway. She is yet to obtain the property.
Neree K. Bartee, displaying a copy of the Deed for a parcel land located in Kpakpacon, along the Marshall Road, complained the relatives or people connected to Mr. Dorah sold his land to an unknown woman, something which prompted him to formally complain to Mr. Dorah.
Mr. Bartee said Dorah is yet to issue him a clearance as promised despite investigation proving that Bartee is the legitimate owner of the property.
Bartee added the ‘illegal buyer’ of his property from Dorah’s collaborators is continuing construction works on the property.
For Melvin Z. Lackay, he alleged that he paid US$16,000 through Dorah to the Doewein’s family for 30 acres of land, but is now finding it difficult to take full control of the land.
Minikon Talo complained he was duped in a US$12,500 land deal involving one Samson Sayway and others posing as a salesperson for a parcel of land in Ben’s Town along the Marshall Highway.
He alleged that the signatures of Madam Mary Dorah, mother of Joe Dorah, Isaac Ben and Moses Trabell were forged as Administrators on the Deed issued him in the presence of Anthony Brown, the current Commissioner of Scheifflin Township.
Illegal Public Land Sale
On February 12, 2019, the then Officer in Charge of the National Housing Authority (NHA), Tonia D. Johnson, in written communication placed a government-owned 300 acres of land situated in Scheifflin Township in care of Dorah to prevent trespassing and encroachment.
The land, Rep. Tarponwheh gathered was given by the community to the Government in 2007 for housing development by ECOHOMES Liberia Inc.
Contrary to the NHA’s communication, Tarponweh stated that Dorah, on May 24, 2019, issued an official receipt under NHA’s letterhead for the amount of US$1,000 to the Adventist University as part payment for a parcel of the land.
Dorah, after announcing the sale of the land was being sanctioned by the LLA, entered into another agreement with the Adventist University for the sale of one acre of land.
In addition, Ben’s Town Estate on Marshall Road, named in honor of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has reportedly been encroached upon by Dorah and his agents.
Owing to these alleged bogus transactions, Rep. Tarponweh called for a joint investigation comprising the LLA, his office, the Ministries of Internal Affairs and Justice to urgently treat the land crisis as a national security issue.
The joint team, he said should work with the Judiciary to understand the term of reference of the Probate Courts for having the audacity to issue many probated deeds for one parcel of land, which is a recipe for chaos.
He said the actions of Dorah is instigating chaos, leaving many of the constituents helpless and angry.
“We, as public officials should be in the business of encouraging and protecting investments, rather than encroaching on investors’ properties for personal gains,” he said.
He furthered, it is unacceptable to have a Land Commissioner whose family and himself were always entangled in notorious land deals, especially in this hotbed (Lower Margibi County) for land acquisition to the detriment of investors, development partners, organizations and citizens.
He said: “I believe that the office of Land Authority should be an office to resolve land conflicts between parties involved in land purchases. But if the County Land Administrator has an interest and dubiously transacting by taking money from individuals for private and public lands, it makes it difficult for him to impartially adjudicate land conflicts.
“In fact, Mr. Dorah’s behavior is not only inappropriate, it borders on criminality. In addition, such behavior disqualifies anyone for this important local integrity position. As an agent of the government, his role should simply be neutral in land matters. But as it stands, he is not only conflicted but a nightmare to our citizens and partners and thus unsuited for the post,” Rep. Tarponweh wrote.
Meanwhile, Rep. Tarponweh, among other things has called for an urgent investigation into these land crisis, and immediate suspension of Joe Dorah.
He also recommended his subsequent dismissal if found liable in such acts, and monies taken from individuals and organizations be fully restituted.
He also wants the LLA to set up a committee to impartially investigate all land disputes in the affected areas and turn over disputed properties to those who have legitimate claims.
In addition, he is recommending that a new Land Commissioner be appointed, “preferably a female who will resist the obvious corruptible temptation in land matters.”
Meanwhile, in response, Dorah denied the allegations and called on those who have land issues with him to seek redress through the court.
He also claimed that prior to his appointment as Land Commissioner, he was the administrator of his family property, the position he stills maintains.
Joe A. Dorah, who was appointed Land Commissioner of Margibi County in 2018 disclosed he is in consultation with his lawyer to take Rep. Tarponweh to court for defamation of character.
Meanwhile, an official of the LLA, speaking on condition of anonymity said the authority is reviewing the complaint to make a subsequent decision soon.
He said the 2018 Land Rights Act bars the sale of all public lands for 15 years beginning 2018.
However, he added that the LLA does not investigate disputes over the sale of private land.
Land conflicts has been singled out as one of the major threats to the peace and security of post-war Liberia.
Common causes of land disputes include the double sale of land and illegal possession and encroachment of private and public properties.
Despite hefty legal punishment against perpetrators of these acts, they continue to be widely practiced.
Margibi County, especially the Roberts International Airport (RIA) highway is a hotspot of land conflicts that sometimes lead to violence.
With the increasing rate of land acquisition and construction of private proprieties, the RIA highway, which stretches from Paynesville in Montserrado County to the Robert International Airport in Margibi is turning into the largest urban conurbation in Liberia.