Nianija chief named in alleged bribery scandal 

Oct 14, 2020, 11:05 AM | Article By: Momodou Jawo

Dawda York, the chief of Nianija District in the Central River Region (CRR) north has been named in an alleged bribery scandal, The Point investigation has uncovered.

The Nianija chief was alleged to have taken more than D80, 000 from one Alhagie Modou Ceesay of Kerr Katim village in Naimina East District of CRR South on various occasions in order to rule in Alhaji’s favour in a district tribunal land dispute he (Dawda York) and three other district chiefs of CRR had presided over.

In an audio obtained by The Point, Chief York was heard speaking on top of his voice requesting Eight thousand dalasis (D8, 000) from Mr. Ceesay of Kerr Katim village days before the said district tribunal’s hearing in an attempt to rule in favour of him (Ceesay). The money, the chief said was meant for maintenance of his private vehicle which was having a pump problem.

In the same audio, Chief York said “even if the sky is to fall down, he is going to use his power and rule in favour of Mr. Ceesay of Kerr Katim.” However, despite taking the Eight Thousand dalasis (D8,000) from Mr. Ceesay, Chief York ruled in favour of the Jallow Kunda family of Pakan village.

The Point’s investigation also unearthed that in 2005, 2007 and 2010 respectively, some family members of the Jallow Kunda of Pakan village in the Naimina District sold various lands to Alhagie Modou Ceesay of Kerr Katim, Musa Ceesay of Kerr Katim, Alhagie Katim of Bativillage and Samba Kura Ceesay at various prices.

However, since acquiring these lands in 2005, 2007 and 2010 respectively, the buyers have been using them as farm lands until this year's farming season when the chiefs asked them to stop cultivating the said farmlands pending the outcome of the tribunal court proceedings.

Meanwhile, after about 15 years down the line, one Modi Kah Jallow of Pakan village took the matter to the tribunal court, claiming that the said lands were sold without the consent of the rest of the Jallow Kunda family of Pakan village.

On 1 July 2020, the district chiefs held court in Janjangbureh and ruled in favour of the Jallow Kunda family. The judgement was witnessed by Chief Dawda York of Nainija, Chief Morro Jawla of Sami District, Chief Modou l. Baldeh of Lower Fulladou West District, and Chief Ngai Dampha of Naimina West District alongside other court members.

In the said judgment, they ruled that: “After hearing from both sides, the Group Tribunal has seen that according to our tradition in The Gambia, something belonging to a family can’t just be taken by few without the consultation of all the family members.”

“Those who sold the farmland are: Omar Penda Jallow, Ebou Penda Jallow, Ousman Penda Jallow (late) Omar Isata Jallow, Sutay Jallow, the late Tamsir Jallow, the late Mamamdou Bah Jallow and Omar Korkaru Jallow.”

“You have agreed that you sold the farmlands unknowing to the other family members and they agreed that they sold the family lands to the following people; Alh Mot Yassin Ceesay, Musa Ceesay, BabucarrCeesay and Samba Kura Ceesay.”

“According to our tradition nobody has the right to sell family property without the consent of the whole family members. Based on this fact, we returned the land back to the Jallow Kunda family. They should pay back the amount of 185, 500.00 to the buyers, with each of them fined to pay D25,000, which should be paid on Monday 6 July, 2020. Failure to pay this amount and return the money to the buyers they will be jailed for one year six months.”

However, four months down the line, the Jallow Kunda family haven’t paid the said money nor have the chiefs enforced their judgment.

Alhagie Modou Ceesay of Kerr Katim, who was contacted for comments on the matter, confirmed that the Nainija chief on various occasions had requested money from him.

“I’m so much disappointed that the chiefs who presided over the matter ruled in favour of the Jallow Kunda family even after my family members were able to produce authentic documents proving that the said lands in question were sold to us back in 2005. What’s annoying is the fact that four months after the judgment, we couldn’t get our money back or our lands.”

He added: “We have been working on the said lands for the past 15 years. In fact, at the moment we don’t need our money back anymore. We need our lands because it belongs to us. You can’t acquire something legally for 15 years and now they want to take it from you.”

“In 2019, Chief Dawda York asked me to give him D35, 000. I told him I didn’t have such an amount but I was able to give him D30,000 of which I did. He also requested another D22, 000. Chief York claimed that he has take D10, 000 from the other party, as he needed the D22, 000 to refund D10, 000 to the Jallow Kunda family and the remaining money could be shared among themselves,” he said, adding “this was before the first court sitting.”

Mr. Ceesay claimed that in the same year during Koriteh prayers, the chief asked him to give him another D5, 000 which he did. “At another time, he called me and said his groundnut that he was supposed to cultivate for the 2019 raining season was spoiled and that I should help him with some groundnut. I sent him full bag of groundnut and D1, 000.”

Prior to the final judgment, he went on, the chief sent a boy on a motorbike to their village. “Surprisingly, the boy said it was the chief who sent him to me. He said the chief said I should give him D15, 000; which I did. In fact, I also gave the boy D200 to buy fuel in order to return home. I was doing this in order to get back my lands. These were farmlands that my family were depending on for cultivation. The amount of money that I spent on buying credits for him is uncountable.”

He vowed to appeal the chiefs’ judgment at the High Court, claiming that the judgment was not fair that the chief ruled in favour of the Jallow Kunda family.

Chief Dawda York, who was contacted for comments on the matter declined to comment on the alleged bribery scandal, saying; “at the moment I can’t say anything with regard to the matter. If you want anything on the matter you have to come here, but I can’t say anything on the accusation.”

“I can’t say anything on the matter. It was our work and we did what we were supposed to do. I have told you that we can sit and discuss the matter. I would have loved you to come to my village anytime you come around your village. As I am speaking to you, we are currently in discussion, but if I am done I will call you back.”

“You are also following the case because you are a Gambian and I am also a Gambian. However, remember that you are also very young and you have a future. I think it’s important we discuss the matter on all angles.”

Meanwhile, Chief Modou Lamin Baldeh of Lower Fulladou West District of CRR, who was also contacted for comments on the matter, said he didn’t receive any money with regard to anything.

Quizzed as to why their judgment is not enforced, Chief Baldeh said: “In fact, I am working on it in ensuring that the judgment is enforced. If the Jallow Kunda people can’t pay the money, there’s penalty on it, so they should face those penalties.”