By Aramata Jatta
The untold history regarding Land dispute in Old Yumdum, Salaji and Brufut unfolds as Permanent Secretary (1) of the ministry of Lands and Regional Government, Buba Sayang dwell into the circumstances surrounding the tense dispute on the aforesaid areas before the National Assembly Select committee on Regional Government and Lands, Ombudsman and IEC Monday 5th October 2020 at the Assembly chambers in Banjul.
According to the PS, the Yumdum land was previously owned by one Jagne who was at the time Commissioner of West Coast region, and acquired the land from the local people but after the 1994 change of government, a commission was constituted to look into the ownership of the said land, ( the Commission) felt that the former Commissioner abused his office to get the said land and as such the land was forfeited to the state .
The , Commission then recommend the forfeiture , and government then handed the land to AMRC, which is the recovery arm of government and AMRC in return tendered it for sale and Gaye emerged the highest bidder.
In 2016 after another change of government Gaye went to court to challenge the decision of the task force under the Jammeh regime of forfeiting the land from him. Gaye won as the court set aside the report of the task force and returned the land back to Mr Gaye.
Sayang said the ministry engaged Mr Gaye that “he has a tittle over the said land but it was then agricultural, AMRC sold part of his land and as ministry , they had to engage Mr Gaye to see how we the problem is solved. PS said the problem was solved by allowing Mr Gaye to go through the change of process. The process gave condition, which Mr. Gaye is to loss or forfeit to the state 40℅ of the land which was done and Mr. Gaye to have 60℅.
“As a form of bailing out AMRC, the state returned another 20℅ out of the 40% to Mr. Gaye in other for him to drop charges against AMRC which is a state entity.
Sanyang explained that Mr. Gaye was given clearance to work on part of the land and the remaining 20℅was left with government, “they set up a mini layout within this 20℅ and this is where the National Assembly members and some Gambians were allocated”.
Answering concerns raised by Hon Musa Amul Nyassi regarding National Library’s request on a new lactation, Sanyang said “they made a call to his ministry that their current position is situated at a wet land and as such the Ministry responded by allocating them with another land within the kanifing institutional layout . P.S Sanyang told the Law Makers that as far as we are aware we have not got any report of accessing the property”
Dilating on the disputed Salaji site, he informed the committee that Salajai is a government set out layout and the arrangement at the time, was to compensate the land owners in the area in kind(giving part of the land to them) within the layout.
He said the last commotion was caused by the demolition exercise conducted by the Ministry, was as a result of Government unable to access the educational facility within the layout for the contractor who has been awarded a contract for more than one year, who was paid an advance payment but cannot access the primary school ground in other to start his construction.
He said “we feel that cannot be done as a ministry once the educational facility is been identified and catered for within the layout and the ministry of education is given the site officially and they engage the contractor until they awarded the contract only to build the school”.
PS Sayang Said there were some youths who tried to block the process of that allocation and by also allocating it to other people some of whom have decided to start developing on those lands. “the ministry embarked on the demolition to enable the contractor to start his work to build the school as well also to clear some public spaces and some people who we have been allocated by government within the layout”.
He advised that “We have to accept the fact that during the course of process of allocation government allocates to individuals based on their application at the ministry but then also we have to understand that there is an authority at a time within those settlements. PS emphasized, that the state doesn’t enter into people’s land to take but rather they get in to return it to the rightful owners as Gambians.
However the PS also said that the Bufut Land dispute, was caused by the allocation of a portion of a plot of land to the CSC Company, to use as warehouse for storing black stones during the construction of kombo coastal road and that during the Janneh Commission, the families of Bojang Kunda and Sanneh Kunda wrote to the commission, each claiming ownership of the land, but the commission wrote to them that such matter was not in its mandate.
“Then they wrote to the Ministry whichinvited the Alkalo and representatives of the two families of the villages and during the engagement, it was proven to them that thee said area belongs to the Bojang family and thestate did not hesitate to return the land to the Bojang Kunda Family”he concludes.