Dador’s Take of the Week Gone 1 Part Three of Three
A personalized review of news and events of the previous week as presented by staff writer Dador Faye and touching on various topics like the courts, cocaine and land allocation.
Just last week, the National Drug Enforcement Agency came out with the following press release:
The Office of the Director General of the National Drug Enforcement Agency (NDEA) is hereby informing the general public that Mr. Abdourahman Touray, the chief executive officer (CEO) of the Pristine Consultant is wanted and should be reported to the nearest Police Station if found.
The National Drug Enforcement Agency is further informing the general public that anyone found harboring Mr. Touray will be dealt with according to law.
End Of release
Mr. Abdourahman Touray is the chief executive officer and owner of Pristine Consultant firm, responsible for the new bio metric national identification project launched earlier this year. That Mr. Touray’s firm won the hundreds of millions of dalasi state contract shows he has been very well connected until recently. But that he is wanted not by the NIA, the Fraud Squad or the Serious Crime Unit pushes me more into believe in the Gambian state’s narcotic status.
Finally. I think, many like me must have been confounded by the revelations at the newly commenced sittings of the Lands Commission chaired by Justice Mahoney at the Banjul High Court. Earlier this year, the chief land-grabber and by far the biggest land magnate in the country, President Yahya Jammeh, ordered for the setting up of such a commission to look into the allocation of state lands over the period 2002 to 2010, if I am not mistaken with the dates. Testifying before the six-member panel at the commission, Malamin Jatta, Director of Lands & Survey at the Ministry of Local Government and Lands, he not long ago received a directive for him to allocate land at the planned Sanlagie Layout to leading ruling APRC party members. Lord what a week gone.
Jatta, also a presidential ethnic kinsman, appeared along with and two other senior land officials, Alieu Jobe and Abdou Jallow. The three explained to the panel their respective roles and responsibilities; the process of land allocation by the various departments as approved and directed by the Ministry of Local Government & Lands and the Department of Physical Planning. The men also touched on the removal of Momodou Nai Ceesay as the minister of Local Government and Lands, the Board of the Commission, Land Task Force and Lands office. They also disclosed that the Office of the President presides over the allocations in Brufut Layout, the AU Villas and Sanlagie Layout. The office was also responsible for the removal of plots from the Brufut Layout and allocation of lands to people of Banjul near the ports to the Bakau Wasulung Kunda Layout.
Malamin Jatta informed the panel that there are different “parallel processes involved in the allocation of lands to either companies or institutions and even individuals for residential purposes.”
"My lord, since I took over as the Director of Lands and Survey from late 2002 to date, I have never received approval for a layout. However, there were layout plans made by the then minister of Local Government and Lands, Momodou Nai Ceesay. After his removal, the land task force was handed over to Joseph Joof and upon inquiries, some few plots of land were withdrawn and returned to the state because they lacked the requirements and these plots were later given to some senior civil servants, who did not apply to the Lands Office, because there was no Lands Board in existence at the time," Jatta told the panel.
He also told panel members that most files that were sent to the office of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) at the time of the now defunct Task Force on Land allocation were never returned. He also disclosed that in spite of all the allegations against former minister Nai Ceesay no layout plans were developed and passed to his office until recently with the Sanlagie Layout that is even to be yet finalized. There was no mention of the about half a dozen layouts, like the Paradise Estates, Lamin Daranka Estate, etc, given to private developers, most of them Indians. Few know how these estates were allocated to the private developers. Someone close to the commission told me that those areas are “out of the mandate of the commission.” Those to be investigated are those allocated by Lands, GTA, she said.
One of the men also disclosed that there has been some piecemeal allocation of lands to civil servants for residential purposes though a more massive allocation has been caught up in cabinet because the minister got sick. It was also disclosed that some plots at the planned Sanlagie Layout are reserved for senior civil servants and security officers and this was sent to Cabinet for approval. Announcement was made for those allocated lands in Brufut to report to the Lands office for transfer to the Sanlagie Layout and a list was made to that effect," he disclosed. Another disclosure was a directive made for allocation of lands to members of the Gambia Under 17 Football players and some members of the National Assembly, which is however still to be executed as they continue to wait for approval from the Ministry of Local Government and Lands.
The three men also talked of the Land Sales Committee set up by the Cabinet between 2003 and 2004, which was chaired by the Finance Minister. He said members of the committee members include the directors of Treasury, Physical Planning, Lands & Survey, a representative from the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), as well as a representative from the Office of the Solicitor General at the Attorney General's Chambers and a representative from the Office of the President.
The Lands and Survey Director informed the Commission that the minister of Local Government and Lands is usually given the opportunity to identify prime lands or state lands. "The minister upon identifying a prime land will inform the Land Sales Committee about it. The land will be available for sale to the public after and these often surveyed and measured to the satisfaction of individual purchasers before any payment is affected. Receipts are issued to buyers and copies are kept in a file, which are sent to the Land Sales Committee through the Ministries of Finance and Local Government and Lands. These categories of buyers are leased holders instead of the traditional customary free holders," he explained.
Jatta said he thought the rationale behind the Land Sales Committee was meant to cut down on speculations about land sales in the country.
"This is so because speculators knowing that the land is located in a prime area regardless of whether it is developed or not, they will take loans from Banks on false pretence that they are going to develop these lands and end up using the money for something else, hence the concerned bank or banks takes the prime or state land as a collateral to recover their money and this led to the state loosing lands," he reasoned. He added that overseas Gambians often come to the country with so-called partners on the pretext that they are here for business and after acquiring lands for such purpose they leave. Jatta’s accusations were not only against Gambians living abroad but also against state institutions like the Assets Recovery and Management Corporation, Gambia Tourism Authority and Social Security and Housing Corporation.
Ah what a week gone!