Over 700 Illegal Occupants Face Eviction at Sime Darby

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Bomi, Grand Cape Mount Counties, Liberia- In an effort to fulfill a mandate from the Honorable House of Representatives Sime Darby Plantation Liberia is set to begin the removal of illegal occupants from the company housing units in estate camps across the plantation area in Bomi and Grand Cape Mount Counties.

The House of Representatives through Speaker Bhofal Chamber in April 2018 setup a committee headed by Rep. Tibelrosa Summoh Tarponweh (Margibi Dist. #1), mandating the committee to verify whether Sime Darby was following all provisions of the concession agreement, especially its social corporate responsibilities in the areas of health, education, water and sanitation, housing and roads.

In its report to plenary, the Committee noted that Sime Darby should reroof and carry out renovation thereby ensuring that housing units being occupied by its employees are up to standard.

The committee, among several requests and with specific time frame, called for the SDPL to install basic sanitary facilities at the school and the plantation, provide proper housing facilities, amongst others.

The company in turn conducted a survey to ensure that it renovates all the housing units being occupied by its employees in full compliance with the House of Representatives recommendations but the results of the survey showed that about 787 individuals who are not employees of the company are currently occupying the company housing units.

Sime Darby Plantation Liberia on October 11, 2018 wrote the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Superintendents of both Bomi and Grand Cape Mount counties and other relevant Government institutions including Ministries of Justice, Finance and Development Planning, Agriculture, National Bureau of Concessions (NBC) informing them that the company has decided to evict the illegal occupants to enable the company renovate the housing units and make them comfortable for its employees in line with the mandate from the Honorable House of Representatives.

The company indicated in the letter to the government agencies that it is spending US$ 16,952 monthly totaling US$ 203,424 yearly as housing allowance to plantation based employees, its employees and staff who are not assigned houses in the estate camps due to the action of the illegal occupants.

In addition to the high cost of housing for its employees, the company also disclosed that it is incurring additional financial costs to provide and maintain educational, medical, hand pumps and toilets facilities in estate camps for the use by both employees and non-employees.

The company also stated in the letter, that overtime, it has been observed that non employees are involved in high rate of theft of palm and other products, pervasive acts of disorderly behavior, illegal activities and the widespread practice of drug abuse among other vices in the estate camps because it is difficult to take action against these illegal occupants who are non-employees of the company.

Sime Darby Planation Liberia further noted that with the presence of the non-employees occupying the housing units, many of the company employees are denied rights to adequate housing benefits, medical care, educational facilities, water and sanitation, repair works including protection and security of employees in the estate camps.

In October, the company issued a notice to the illegal occupants giving them a period of three (3) months for them to leave the housing units to pave the way for renovation.

Following the end of the three months period, the company through the Gbah Magisterial Court issued a Summons to the illegal occupants inviting them to appear before the court to show cause why they should not be evicted for illegally occupying the company properties.

Upon the expiration of the first Summons, the company again through the Court issued a second Summons to the illegal occupants but yet still the illegal occupants failed to adhere to the second court Summons.

In line with the law, the company has now obtained an Eviction Order from the Court and is set to begin the process of eviction of the illegal occupants on today, March 18, 2019.

The company has sought the support of the Liberian National Police and other relevant government agencies to assist in the eviction exercise.

It can be recalled that in February, providing updates to the House of Representatives on monitoring Sime Darby Planation Liberia to ensure compliance with the House of Representatives mandate, Mr. Gregory Coleman, Director General of the National Bureau of Concessions told the lawmakers that Sime Darby is facing challenges including the relocation of illegal occupants from the housing units in the concession area; something he noted is stopping the company from renovating the occupied houses as mandated by the House of Representatives.

“In compliance with the recommendations, SDPL should keep up with the rehabilitation of housing units, but this cannot be done without the government playing its part. That is to ensure that illegal occupants are relocated. So, we are working with the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the county authorities to evict the illegal occupants,” Director Coleman said.