URR, WCR governors testify at Lands Commission
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
As proceedings into the ongoing Lands Commission chaired by Justice Mahoney at the High Court in Banjul progresses, more witnesses continue to give their evidences. Two top regional officials yesterday in the persons of Alhaji Omar Khan, governor of the Upper River Region (URR) and Alhaji Lamin Sanneh, governor of the West Coast Region, testified before the Lands Commission.
The evidences of the two regional governors covered their responsibilities as regional administrative officers, allocation of lands within their respective areas, among others. Governor Alhaji Omar Khan was the first to testify and he informed the Commission that, on the 21st November 1989, the government of The Gambia approved a directive that created lands in provincial centres like Bass. He explained that the land created in Basse composed of residential, commercial, agricultural and other related land uses. The Commission asked Governor Khan as to whether there was any customary ownership within the Basse layout. He said by the time the said layout was created he was not in office and as such he cannot tell whether there is any customary land use or not.
Governor Khan, however revealed to the Commission that the Department of Physical Planning and Housing came to the site to find out who and who should be compensated before the Cabinet approved the plan. The URR governor’s revealation prompted the Commission to ask whether records of what he said were there. Khan said that despite he was not a governor at the said time, he believes the records of such must be there.
About Basse-Mansajang Kunda allocation
The URR Governor was asked to explain the circumstances surrounding land allocation in Basse-Mansajang Kunda in 2006, among other things with respect to land allocation procedures. According to him, people applied for land through the planning authority, the Department of Physical Planning and Housing made a sketch plan of the area and it was approved with attached terms and conditions. The governor explained that the main terms and conditions for allocation of land in the said Basse-Mansajang Kunda layout were that those allocated land must initiate development on the land within two years of allocation and they should not sell the allocated land without approval of the planning authorities.
Further giving his evidence before the Commission, Governor Khan said the planning authority composed of the chiefs, alkalos, officials of the Local Government Area Council, the governor and officials of the Department of Physical Planning and Housing. The URR governor insisted that those allocated lands made an application through the Department of Physical Planning and anyone found allocated in a wrong place will be evicted inline with the land administration for the use of the land in question. “For example an individual is allocated a land for residential use within agricultural area will be evicted, because the place is meant for agriculture not residential purpose,” the URR governor explained. He told the Commission that one Kebba Susoho was compensated a land in Basse, but Modou Gaye was allocated based on his application on the grounds that he was going to build a Madarasa.
Koba Kunda layout extension
The Commission questioned the URR governor about the procedure used in creation of the Koba Kunda layout extension, and he responded by making reference to what he called the request made for extension of the said layout due to the need for land. According to him, a request for an extension of the layout was sent to the Ministry of Local Government and Lands and it was approved. After the approval, he stated, officials of the Department of Physical Planning and Housing in Banjul came to the site for survey in 2008 and allocations in the extension were completed.
Governor Khan further informed the Lands Commission that people applied for land by filling forms and the allocation was based on first come first served and also based on the need for land by the applicants. The URR governor said he cannot recall any re-entry exercise as the head of the region. Governor Khan at the end of his evidence made some suggestions to the Lands Commission. The URR governor recommended for an effective and efficient land management within the growth areas like Basse so as to avoid land disputes.
Governor Alhaji Lamin Sanneh
Governor Sanneh was the next person to testify after Governor Khan. He informed the Commission that he was appointed governor on the 23rd of June 2008 and Abdou Badjie was his predecessor. The West Coast Region governor said there are two types of lands within his region such as the state and provincial lands. He described the state lands as those belonging to the state and provincial lands as those belonging to customary land owners. He said his role entailed among other things soliciting lands for the state for the purpose of building schools and other important projects whenever the need arises through consulting local landowners.
He was questioned whether he had any idea about an Indian Company called Agro Investment Company in Sohm Village of the Kombo East in the West Coast Region, the WCR governor said he had no idea about the said company. When shown a leased document of the company for identification, Governor Sanneh replied in the positive with detailed explanation that the community of Sohm Village brought a document for his approval and he approved it, but he has no idea as to how the land was acquired. He added that he has no idea about the size of the land.
About Sony Enterprise in Mandinaring
When asked to explain what he knows about the Sony Enterprise in Mandinary, the governor said he found out that the said company was already allocated land and as such he cannot tell whether there were consultations between the community and the company officials, because he was not in the office at the time. However, the West Coast Region governor admitted that the alkalo of Mandinary lodged a complaint to him about the allocation of land to the said company. Governor Sanneh told the Commission that consultation is very important in land allocation related matters because such will greatly help him as the governor to advise people about land allocation issues so as to avoid problems.
The governor was asked to cite series of consultations he made in soliciting lands for the state to build different projects such as schools, police station, among others. He said he received land related complaints on a daily basis and these complaints comprised of both agriculture and residential lands either between family members of the Kabilos. The governor renewed his call over the need for people to be contacting his office or any other governor’s office in land allocation related matters. “There is need for people to contact offices of governors and other land authorities before allocating lands to potential buyers, because our lands are going into the hands of foreigners. Some people will come and apply for lands for a purpose within two or more years they will turn the land into another use and even end up selling them to others. They should be seeking advice of the governors before selling lands, our lands are becoming scarce and there is a need to address the issue,” Governor Sanneh told the Commission in response to a question as to whether he has anything to tell the Commission.
He gave a brief explanation about an agricultural land located in Makumbaya, which was turned into a residential land. According to the governor, the said land has a long history right from the 1990s when he (Sanneh) was a teacher at the Makumbaya Primary School. He then made reference to a meeting convened by the village alkalo for clearing of the said land.