FEATURE | THE MINISTRY OF LANDS MUST RESTRAIN ITS APPETITE FOR LAWLESSNESS
Updated: Jun 19, 2020
By Barrister Lamin J. Darbo:
THE MINISTRY OF LANDS MUST RESTRAIN ITS APPETITE FOR LAWLESSNESS
In an extraordinary assault on law and truth, Mr Buba Sanyang (the Permanent Secretary) at a press briefing 02 June 2020 stated the position of the Ministry of Lands (the Ministry) on demolitions: “We are planning to embark on another massive demolition in areas where lands allocated to people by government are annexed by people who have decided to build structures on them. This will come as the second phase demolition to be carried out to enable those people to acquire their lands. Government will not allow people to annex these spaces.”
Herein the lawless propensity of the Ministry!
Under the law, Government can only acquire in the public interest and lands so acquired must be used only for public purposes. The Permanent Secretary must study his critical brief.
He also asserted “… the government will not allow people to take the law into their hands by appropriating public places for their own personal use”.
It is the Government acting badly, and in complete defiance of the law.
In a bid to make more effective use of the Government megaphone, the Permanent Secretary claimed “… the Department of Physical Planning sent a letter to the alkalo of Sukuta in August 2007 informing him that the state was planning to use the land located between the Old Salagi Layout and Pateya village as a residential layout…The alkalo was advised not to process any documentation for land transactions or development for that area and that anyone who had questions should consult the department. This was made very clear to the alkalo”.
Contrary to the assertion of the Permanent Secretary, the competent lead department on land acquisition is the Department of Lands and Surveys not the Department of Physical Planning that purportedly “sent a letter to the alkalo of Sukuta in August 2007”.
As if to put the icing on the cake of state vandalism and utter lawlessness, the Permanent Secretary rather pleadingly intimated to the briefing that “section 38 of the Physical Planning and Development Control Act 1991 prohibits people building without obtaining development or building permit”, and that “… all developments without permit have consequences”.
I am aghast at the cruelty of the Ministry, at the cruelty of its constituent departments of Land and Surveys, and Physical Planning and Housing (DPPH), at their routine violations of the law, and the evasive and secretive conduct underlying their operations.
Aghast at the unwillingness of government to step in and wipe the tears of numerous ordinary citizens dispossessed of their lands by the cruel twins of land administration under this lawless and rampantly corrupt Ministry.
In my possession is documentation including a completed lease originating with the Department of Lands assigning dozens of plots, in some cases more than seventy compounds to individuals out of lands stolen from their customary owners in Salagi. They are refused clearance for development or other purposes but those who purchased these lands through dubious channels including from staff of the Ministry’s constituent departments of evil have no issues with clearance.
And all these lawlessness under purported colour of law and public authority!
Irrespective of the Permanent Secretary’s position on the State Lands Act 1991, the Land Acquisition and Compensation Act 1991, the Physical Planning and Development Control Act 1991, and their subsidiary legislations, the controlling law on land acquisitions is section 22 of the 1997 Constitution of the Republic of The Gambia (the Constitution).
Any law at variance with the Constitution is void to the extent of the inconsistency.
In particular, the lands at Brusubi, Salagi, and Nemasu in Sukuta, and those involving New Yundum, and Brufut, all in the Kombo North District of the West Coast Region, Brikama in Kombo Central, Tujereng and Tanji in the Kombo South, and Bakau in the Kanifing Municipal Council, were trespassed upon by agents, or purported agents of the Ministry on the pretext the lands concerned were confiscated and reserved by Government.
Complete nonsense with no iota of truth!
As Government has no land in these areas, it cannot confiscate and reserve same.
In the event Government requires use of private land, it must follow a stipulated legal process. It is for no reason that “Protection from Deprivation of Property” is included among the fundamental freedoms and entrenched.
According to Section 22 of the Constitution:
(1) No property of any description shall be taken possession of compulsorily, and no right over or interest in any such property shall be acquired compulsorily in any part of The Gambia, except where the following conditions are satisfied:-
(a) the taking of possession or acquisition is necessary in the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality, public health, town and country planning or the development or utilization of any property in such manner as to promote the public benefit; and
(b) the necessity therefor is such as to afford reasonable justification of the causing of any hardship that may result to any person having any interest in or right over the property; and
(c) provision is made by law to that taking of possession or acquisition:-
(i) for the prompt payment of adequate compensation, and
(ii) securing to any person having an interest in or right over the property a right of access to a court or other impartial and independent authority for the determination of his or her interest or right, the legality of the taking of possession or acquisition of the property, interest or right, and the amount of any compensation to which he or she is entitled, and for the purpose of obtaining prompt payment of that compensation.
(3) Nothing in this section shall be construed as affecting the making or operation of any law for the compulsory taking in the public interest of any interest in or right over property, where that property interest or right is held by a body corporate which is established directly by any law and in which no moneys are provided by an Act of the National Assembly.
(4) Where a compulsory acquisition of land by or on behalf of the Government involves the displacement of any inhabitants who occupy the land under customary law, the Government shall resettle the displaced inhabitants ….
(5) Any such property of whatever description compulsorily taken possession of, and any interest in or right over property of any description compulsorily acquired in the public interest for a public purpose, shall be used only in the public interest or for the public purposes for which it is taken or acquired.