Tuesday, November 29

Alleged Victims Of Land Grabbing Demand Justice

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Left- Abdoulie in black sitting next to Haddy in glasses
Photo: Mustapha Jallow

By: Landing Ceesay

Some land owners in Sotokoi village, have demanded justice over their lands allegedly sold to a real estate agency called ‘Unity Real Estate’.

Abdoulie Manneh and Haddijatou Njie both own a plot in the village situated in the Kombo North District in the West Coast Region made the complaint on behalf of their colleagues at a press conference on Saturday.

“We feel that we are victims of land grabbing. We are victims of a system that is failing us. We are victims of all these real estate agencies that are basically coming and doing sort of land sales. Most of us here got our lands in Sotokoi for about 20 years now. All of a sudden, we see people coming in demarcating our lands, and destroying everything that’s on our properties,” Abdoulie Manneh, a land owner in Sotokoi stated.

He said they have been going to court for ages, still nothing comes out of it, as a result they called on the president and all parties involved for redress. He also said the problem of land grabbing is a major issue in the country that needs urgent attention.

“We want to post some of these questions to the President down to the last person in the change of authority, we want to ask them what is going on? What do we need to do to get our lands back as victims.? We still believe that there is a judicial system that’s basically there for all us, but it seems that the judicial system is one sided. We need justice for our land and we want our lands back,” Manneh said.

Haddijatou Njie, also a land owner said all they want is to have their lands back because it’s their property. She said she bought her land since year 2000 from one Lamin Gaye, and that she has all the documents to prove that the land is hers.

One of the demolished structures in Sotokoi
Photo: Mustapha Jallow

“We the owners of these lands should be notified of the demolition before going into our lands and destroying our properties. Because, we are not sitting just like that without developing our lands, some of us started fencing, some completed fencing and are now constructing their houses, so even completed both fencing and construction of their houses. But the unique real estate and one Omar Bojang who claimed ownership of the land together with physical planning and the land office destroyed all the properties they found in our lands without notifying us.”

“This country has laws, so no one will just get up one morning and start constructing without going to the authorities for proper documents. Those authorities are the physical planning, Brikama Area Council and the lands office. These are the offices where people go and make sketches for their compounds, so they should know that the demolition of our properties is very wrong. Since everyone is going digital, I think the authorities should have a mechanism in place that shows who owns a particular land and how the person owns it,” Haddijatou Njie said.

Njie, said she has been going up and down for more than five months to engage all the parties involved but nothing yielded. She said their properties are wrongfully demolished and now they want justice but it seems that is becoming a problem for them.

Lamin Gaye, a native of Brufut, whom the land owners claimed to have bought their plots of land from, admitted that he sold about 40 plots of land in Sotokoi village.

“This land was given to me since 1984 by the then Alkalo of Brufut who is my grandfather when I was a member of the Gambia National Army. I wanted to establish a cashew plantation immediately after my graduation from the British Army training school that’s why the land was given to me by the then Alkalo of Brufut. Omar Bojang who is claiming that the land belongs to him and his family is not true, his grandfather was welcomed in Brufut by my grandfather from Yundum for settlement. So how can he claim ownership of this land?” he asked.

Gaye said he sued Omar Bojang at the Brikama Magistrates’ Court and the case is still pending. He said if he is not the rightful owner of the lands, he would not be mad to even touch it, nor to sell it.

“We are going to the court but still the case is pending there the court hasn’t decided anything yet. I don’t know why they are delaying this case. I know that the physical planning, the police and even the magistrate are all corrupt? I am a soldier, I’m not afraid to tell them the truth,” he alleged.

However, the Alkalo of Sotokoi said since he replaced his late brother as the Alkalo of Sotokoi he has never issued any compound document to anyone. He said those claiming to be the owners of the land are not telling the truth because he as the Alkalo never issued any document to them for any land transaction.

Sotokoi village is located in Kombo North in the West Coast Region, 40 land owners are calling on the authorities to return their plots to them. The plots in question are allegedly sold to a real property developer Unique Real Estate by one Omar Bojang, who claimed to be the rightful owner of the lands.

Meanwhile, Omar Bojang claimed to have inherited the said land from his grandparents.