Apr 22, 2016, 10:58 AM
Twelve people are currently on trial at the Banjul Magistrates' Court before Principal Magistrate Emmanuel Nkea for allegedly giving false information to a public officer.
They are Landing Jadama, Mahamound Faye, Pathe Jallow, Saihou Jallow, Abdul Karim Camara, Muhammed Saho, Haji Mahamodou Tunkura, Essa Kabba, Yaya Mass Cham, Momadou Korka Jallow, Ebrima Sonko and Jahara Camara.
They are alleged to have, in May 2010, presented a petition to the Office of the President through the Secretary General, State House, stating that the demolition exercise for the erected building and fence at Old Yundum Coastal Layout by the Department of Physical Planning was illegal and forcefully done.
Testifying, Essa Camara, the first prosecution witness (PW1), told the court that he is a civil servant attached to the Department of Physical Planning, as a Principal Planner and he resides at Kanifing Estate.
Camara told the court that he recognised the accused persons, including the 7th accused, Haji Mahamadou Tunkara, who was said to be absent from the court on two occasions.
"Sometime in May 2010, the Department of Physical Planning carried out a demolition exercise of those lands that encroached on the Coastal Layout in Old Yundum, which was a government approved layout," he said.
He said they had served the occupants of the said land a notice for several years, on different occasions, for them to stop developing the area, as it is a government reserve area for a road and health centre for the community.
"When the notices were served on them, they were invited to a meeting, but one Mr. Camara, who was not before the court, was the only one who attended the meeting," Camara explained.
"I remember, during this meeting, we informed the accused persons that the land they are claming to be their own belongs to the state, and that plans were under way to develop it in the near future; and so it was better they vacate from the land before the demolition exercise begins."
"In February 2010, we received a letter from the Department of Lands and Surveys, and this letter was followed by another to carry out the demolition."
He added that, before the demolition was carried out, all the accused persons were served with two notices, and that he personally called some of the accused persons over the phone, and met some of them on the ground to inform them about the demolition before the actual date.
Camara identified the notices sent to the accused persons, and the demolition notice, which were tendered in court and marked as exhibits.
He pointed out that at the time of serving them with the notices, none of the accused persons had stayed in the said area, except one Mr. Camara.
Camara pointed out that the accused persons were first served with a notice to stop, and later a demolition notice, and were told that the land was already proposed for the building of the health centre and road.
The said master plan of the layout was also tendered in court.
PW1 further adduced that, after the demolition, some people wrote to the Office of the President, accusing the Department of Physical Planning of illegal demolition of their properties at Old Yundum.
"The office of the Inspector General of Police informed us that the people of Old Yundum had written a petition letter to the Office of the President that the demolition exercise was illegal," Camara told the court.
He added that, after they responded to the police, some of the accused persons were arrested in connection with the case.
Defence counsel Ebrima Jah, who represented the 7th accused person, also held brief for Lawyer Kebba Sanyang and Lawyer L.K. Mboge.
At that juncture, the case was adjourned till 20th December 2010 for cross-examination.