By Yankuba Jallow
The Physical Planning Department on Tuesday, 11 May 2017, around the hours of 4 pm conducted a demolition exercise in Southern Brikama, on the highway leading to Kitty Village. Two Trucks of Police Intervention Unit (PIU) personnel gave protection to officials and workers.
The occupants decried the actions of the PIU and Physical Planning personnel, saying they lost a vast portion of their land to an Estate Agency and the remaining portion was meant for their residence. They questioned if there was any court order, because they held that the matter was never in court for the determination of justice.
It was observed that there were pegs that served as a demarcation between the disputed land and the estate which are painted in white and many mango trees were seen in the estate land. It was also observed that an old well was on the land which according to the occupants was dug by their forefathers many years ago.
Musa Bojang an occupant of the disputed land in his narration said their family own that land for more than a century because his third paternal grandparent were the settlers of the land. He continued saying the land has been used by his parents as a groundnut farm for 40 years.
He added that since his childhood days the disputed land was theirs and all the big trees on the land was watered when he was very young.
He said that in the year1985 the disputed land was turned into an orchard before a building was erected on it in the year1997. In explaining how the incident occurred, he said last year one Lamin Sanyang confronted him telling him to desert the land because it is the government’s property. He averred that on Tuesday, May 11, 2017 a group of men and some PIU officers came under the leadership of Musa Jobateh and said they are assigned by the Department of Physical Planning to destroy the structures erected on the land because they are occupying lands of people and they requested for them to remove their belongings from the buildings.
“I insisted that we are not occupying anyone’s land” he said. He said the operation leader of the PIU group Musa Touray told him that the PIU officers are with them to maintain peace for them to be able to destroy the structures without any difficulties. He also said one Ismaila Fofana ordered the PIU to secure the land for destructions to commence. He held that since 1997 they have been paying tax for the said land and that his newly constructed house has been vandalised without any justification.
Saikou Bakary Bojang also a victim whose whole building under construction was destroyed in his absence said their land area was a very vast land but it was reduced in size and sold to an estate leaving the smaller portion for them to use.
The Director of Department of Physical Planning said the disputed land has been identified as Social Security Layout in the year 2004 and the perimeter was demarcated in 2005. He added that the occupants were given notice to evict the said premises last year and this year too before they came for the demolition, they notified them adding that as the time the notice were issued the developments were not far. He held that the law recognises a notice of eviction that is pasted at a place that it is visible to the occupant.
“We are the only government institution mandated by the law to perform demolition” he said. He also said customary ownership of land is recognised by the law and all those who own lands in the disputed land were compensated by Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation. He averred that all lands in the Greater Banjul Area are owned by the State and the law guarantees the government to take land from persons for public use but with compensation.