Law and Order as the Bedrock of National Development

Without holding any brief, let me state categorically that societies and nations that have made it to the top, in terms of meaningful development, have always espoused law and order as the cornerstone of the very foundation on which the superstructure of development is laid. It is common knowledge that the strength of the superstructure is dependent on the strength of the foundation, not the least the cornerstone of that very foundation. It is therefore a matter of fact that in our beloved Sierra Leone, we can develop faster and better if the laws of the land are respected and applied accordingly. It is my desire in this write-up to consider the gray areas in terms of law and order and to chart the way forward for national development even from the lens of law and order.

 

Without any intention of being fatalistic, it is very evident to nearly all that the Sierra Leonean landscape from the point of view of law and order is nothing but bleak. Take the traffic situation for instance, there is so much recklessness exhibited on our roads by nearly all users of our roads. It is hard to imagine that in this 21st century, there are no road signs in our major streets and as such drivers of vehicles and riders of motorcycles, especially commercial vehicles and motorcycles, flout the traffic rules without compunction. To make matters worse, all this is done with the seeming complicity of the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) and the traffic wardens that are charged with the responsibility of enforcing the traffic rules. The problem is not just about the wrong use of the roads, but also about the refusal to license vehicles and motorcycles on time and to buy the necessary insurance premium. The consequences are evident for all to see as they range from serious traffic jams to regular accidents on our roads to the extent of people losing their lives and others incurring serious injuries. You only have to check the Emergency Hospital at Goderich to ascertain the gruesome nature of most of the accidents occurring on our roads on account of the reckless attitude of most users of the roads. Additionally, there is serious shortfall in the revenue base of the Sierra Leone Road Transport Authority (SLRTA) and consequently, the revenue base of the National Revenue Authority (NRA) is drastically affected with adverse consequences on their reporting capacities. It is interesting that we clamor for development, but as users of the roads we are not willing to contribute our fair share of what it takes to develop the requisite infrastructure that can showcase our commitment to meaningful development in the country. Until we get to the point of using the roads very well, problems will continue to abound. It is even worse when we refuse to license vehicles and motorcycles and not to talk about purchasing the necessary insurance premium. The problems from this end are many and we must be willing to do something to change the situation. As it is, the West that we so admire has not attained its present level of development just by chance, rather it has gotten to where it is through dint of hard work and willingness to obey the laws of the land.

The problem with lawlessness in the country is also evident in our land and housing situation as people acquire and sell lands illegally without regard for the consequences. You only have to see Police files and matters in the Ministry of Lands to appreciate the extent of the problem. From the Western Area to the provinces of the country, there are numerous cases of multiple selling and purchase of lands. As if that is not enough, even the housing situation in the country is in a very bad shape as most people put up structures without proper building permits. As a result, houses are sprouting all over the place without regard for the terrible consequences. Houses are constructed in places where there are no roads and very little or no access to other social amenities, thus creating a deplorable living standard. In fact, on the many hills and the waterfronts of the Western Area, there are poorly constructed houses that defy every acceptable standard. These houses are not built to any modern specification and some of them are even built close to water ways that threaten the lives of occupants during the rains. There are instances of houses, especially mud houses, collapsing when it rains heavily or when the wind blows heavily as most houses on these hills and waterfronts are death traps. It is obvious that if the laws are implemented to the letter, such terrible circumstances will not be experienced by Sierra Leoneans. It appears as if nobody cares about the laws and the adverse consequences of not obeying them. The progress of the entire nation is stifled when the laws are neglected as nothing meaningful happens under such conditions of reckless lawlessness. In fact the lack of respect for the laws in putting up illegal structures has jeopardized the town and country planning situation in the entire country and there is so much disorganization evident in every corner of our towns and cities. Imagine how terrible it is in emergency situations when houses are not accessible by roads. It appears as if everybody has taken the situation for granted and there seems to be no willingness to reverse the trend for even the enforcers of the laws are not ready to do anything.

It is even more deplorable when it comes to work and the ethics of work. On account of lawlessness, most people find it difficult to draw the line between what is personal and official. Both employees and employers are flagrantly violating all the rules of engagement as most offices are now managed like homes without concerns for the rules and procedures or the bureaucracies that govern such institutions. Most workers report for work whenever they feel like and they are mostly busy doing nothing throughout the day, but browsing the Internet and playing one Internet game or the other. For most workers and offices, there is nothing like a work schedule, rather people do their own thing. In some offices, there is no chain of command and everybody makes rules on their own. There are even instances of some bosses asking junior workers to perform household chores that are not part of their job description. In addition to that, office properties are used like personal properties. It is a sad state of affairs when anything goes in most offices around the length and breadth of the nation. Unfortunately, nobody is a whistle blower anymore as the parochial interest of people has overridden the common good and the entire nation is the worse for it.

There is also gross recklessness in the use of public places as law and order is neglected in a very evident way. The sense of ownership that should characterize the mindset of Sierra Leoneans in the stewardship of national properties is lacking as people always shift the responsibility of doing what is right to the other person. There is a gross neglect of public offices and buildings as most of these offices and buildings are very unsightly with no running water, unkempt toilets, no working elevator, structures that have not been painted for decades, and the list goes on and on. The problem is not just limited to the neglect of public offices and buildings, but also evident in the use of public places including our streets. Our streets are now dumping grounds for all sorts of garbage and people urinate and spit everywhere without regard for the consequences. Everything is dumped everywhere as people refuse to take responsibility for safely stowing away their garbage. We now live in places that are unkempt and unsightly all because we don’t want to be law abiding, a situation that is the breeding ground for underdevelopment and lack of progress.

It is even hard to quantify the amount of lawlessness that is exhibited in the nation of Sierra Leone on account of street trading. Petty traders have held hostage most of the major streets in the central business district of Freetown to the extent that some of the streets are closed to vehicular traffic. What is even worse is that this is done with the complicity of politicians and the Police and as a result, they are having a field day in turning the City of Freetown into a city for petty trading. The daily sight of boys and girls roaming the streets of Freetown with few boxes of chewing gum and sweets for sale is worrying and does not portend well for the development of the entire nation. Most of these kids have been brainwashed into thinking that the ultimate in educational pursuit is to make money and as such they can use a shorter route by going into business even at that early age. Armed with this mentality, the nation is rife with petty trading activities that are even affecting the way they perceive law and order. As a result, market stalls are sprouting all over the place in addition to petty traders spreading their wares on the road. Such disdain for law and order is very revealing of the collective mentality of the nation as people always desire to have their own way in everything even to the detriment of national development.

Riotous conduct and public indecency are common occurrences in the streets of the cities of the nation and these are issues that need considerable attention if we are to make progress as a nation. Several cases have been reported of clashes between and among political parties with serious consequences for national cohesion. At a time like this when campaigns are just around the corner, people are waiting with baited breath to behold what will unfold from the arsenals of the different political parties. In the past, rallies have been employed to rain abuses on opponents and have provided the platforms for violent actions that have resulted in the loss of lives. It appears as if most of us are not civilized enough to conduct ourselves peaceably in public places and gathering without resorting to uncalled for actions. When law and order is not respected, the recipe for chaos is dished out and it is even frustrating when politicians seem to be condoning such disorder regardless of the existence of laws regulating public order. In this regard, it should be obvious to all and sundry that those who engage in and support such activities do not have the interest of the nation at heart. In any case, who really and truly cares about the common good of the nation when all seem to be busy in reaping it apart? It is really a sorry state of affairs when the laws that should make for a better society and nation are flouted at will with nobody willing to stand for the law and the good of the land. The entity called Sierra Leone should be regarded above all personal interests and agenda and the inhabitants should consciously espouse law and order as that is the surest route to meaningful development.

However, I have come to realize that there is a serious gap in the knowledge of the average Sierra Leonean about law and order and this is at the backdrop of the massive level of illiteracy that is plaguing the nation. Even though we have experienced a surge in school enrollment, the literacy level is not very encouraging especially among the adult population of the country and even among the young, functional literacy comes under question as it is a cause for concern. It is a matter of fact that a people cannot think and do beyond their level of education. So the problem with law and order is also a problem with the level of education the people have received regarding law and order. The simple but important question is how much does the average Sierra Leonean know about the laws of the country by way of civic education?

Empower the police and the courts by way of capacitating them and making their activities free from political influence so that the laws of the land can be enforced to all and for all as is required in a true democracy. Until we give the Police and the Courts free reins to carry out their constitutional duties without undue influence from the powers that be, the laws of the land will go unnoticed and nobody will comply with them. The adverse consequences of this ugly situation cannot be overemphasized as it has a direct bearing on national development. For a better nation that has all the trappings of development, the laws of the land should take precedence over all other interests and concerns regardless of the people involved.

Chairman's photo
The Chairman
Dr. Abubakar Kargbo

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