Gov’t given ultimatum over land discord

Dec 30, 2020, 1:33 PM | Article By: Yunus S. Saliu

As the Salagi land dispute continues, members from seven ‘kabilos’ in Sukuta have issued an ultimatum to government as they demand an immediate release of a report by the panel set up over the land crisis, which ensued between the families and Ministry of Lands and Local Government.

The members of the kabilos and people of Salagi made this demand on Sunday, 27 December, 2020 during an organised press briefing held at Salagi.

At the briefing, they renewed their allegations for the land dealings in the settlement by both past and present Lands and Local Government officials. These allegations include illegal allocation of lands, clandestine leasing and disposition of lands to families, friends and even women friends.

The alleged report is left gathering dust at the Ministry of Lands and Local Government. The reported settlement was conducted by the Ministry of Interior to substantiate allegations labeled against senior officials of the Ministry of Lands and Local Government, Departments of Lands and Physical Planning.

Speaking with dismay, Ousman Bojang, spokesperson of the affected families registered their dissatisfaction over the matter, and he said “we are aware that police have concluded their findings and submitted their panel’s report on our lands – Salagi to the relevant authorities at the Ministry of Lands and Local Government and also to the office of the President (of The Gambia).”

Despite the submission of this panel’s report to the authorities, “still we are not hearing anything about it. So, what next?” he asked rhetorically.

For a very long time, he said their families have been exercising patience while the matter is left unchecked and “this can result to violence which we definitely want to avoid by all means,” he said on behalf of the families.

Making their request known, he said “we are here (today) as affected families to demand the immediate release of the panel’s report on our lands because it is more than six months since this report was completed and submitted to the relevant authorities.”

Ousman Bojang therefore challenged the government to stop keeping mute over the issue as they want to know the decisions of the panel without much ado.

According to Bojang, more than one thousand youths from the seven different kabilos of Sukuta have lost their ancestral and farm lands through illegal creation of Salagi Housing Estate by some “corrupt officials of the Ministry of Lands and Local Government.”

He further alleged that through aiding and abetting, senior officials at the Ministry, Department of Lands and Physical Planning have sold hundreds of plots of lands to would be settlers at exorbitant prices through the covers of land allocation Act.

He alleged further giving (about ten) names of senior Lands and Local Government officials who had at one time sold lands, disposed lands to families, friends, women friends and to some Yai Compins of APRC during the regime of former President Yahya Jammeh, and now through the issuance of land allocation papers that are paid at high prices.

Subsequently, the spokesperson of the affected families alleged and singled (about four names named) out for masterminding the illegal creation of Salagi Estate, while both office of physical planning and lands are liable for illegal sales of lands, illegal preparation of land allocation documents, demarcations and selling of purported hospital sites among other sites created for cemeteries, schools, parks, garages and mosques.

Meanwhile, the family spokesperson emphasised that Ministry’s claims about compensation to the affected families “is nothing but false and even created problems among the affected families.”

“We heard Buba Sanyang saying the Ministry compensated us, that’s not true because they did not compensate families instead, they decided on their own to compensate few people who accepted it against their wills,” he disclosed.

In their volition, he said, “our position is that all empty plots of land within Salagi are our lands and we are the full owners and it should be returned to us.”

Lamin Jatta, youth leader appealed to Office of the President and other relevant ministries to intervene over the Salagi matter before it totally gets out of control.

He added “we cannot continue to tolerate many of these types of scenarios going on in Salagi, as they are taking our lands and sell them out under pretence of state protocols.”

Ousman Jarju, representative of the elders of the affected families wants the government to intervene without further delay.

He therefore pleaded with officials of Lands and Local Government to leave their lands and hand over all lands taken from people of Sukuta back to them, as more than four estates were created in Sukuta without the knowledge of the elders of the community.

“We inherited these lands from our forefathers, government doesn’t own them, they are ours. It is unfortunate that people working for government are the people depriving us and our children from our own shelters,” he lamented.