By Omar Bah
Gambian businessman and consul to Angola, Haji Jawara, has written a protest letter to President Adama Barrow complaining against former Lands Minister Musa Drammeh.
In February, Jawara who spent 32 years in Angola and owns a multi-million dollar holding company called Samuja announced he is relocating all his companies from Angola to his native Gambia. Samuja is the leading manufacturer of diapers, sanitary pads, kitchen towels, paper handkerchiefs, restaurant napkins, and facemasks in Angola.
But in the process of finding a land to relocate his business, Jawara said he encountered many obstacles with the former lands minister, Musa Drammeh.
In the letter addressed to the president shared with The Standard yesterday, Jawara wrote: “Your Excellency, during the mandate of Musa Drammeh at Lands, I visited his office several times with regard to allocating me a piece of land to start constructing my factory but he refused for almost two years.”
Jawara said Minister Drammeh’s refusal to allocate him the land has delayed his project and caused him significant financial losses.
“When I had the idea to relocate my business to The Gambia, I informed the president about it and he welcomed the idea and directed me to the ministry of lands. I went there, and asked them about the process required and I followed due process and paid all that is required but Drammeh kept twisting and turning me until at some point he told me there was no land for me at Kamalo area.
But within 40 days of coming into office the new minister Abba Sanyang, was able to allocate me a land in the same place that Drammeh said there was no land,” Jawara alleged.
“Why should it be difficult for a minister to allocate land to a Gambian to build a factory that would employ Gambians. There were even instances when I went to his office and he ignored me. These were desperate times because my machines were already here packed at my brother’s factory,” he said.
Jawara said though he appreciates the land allocated to him by Minister Sanyang at Kamalo, the space is not big enough to accommodate his factory.
“It is also very close to the swampy river. This is because the reserve lands that were there when I applied has been allocated to foreigners by Musa Drammeh,” he alleged.
Jawara appealed to the government to allocate him another 40m-by-40m plot which will be able to accommodate his factory.
Consul Jawara also advised the government to stop allocating reserve lands to foreigners.
“I am very worried that within a few years all our reserve lands will be occupied by foreigners and that should not happen. I am calling on the government to revisit the way they allocate land to foreigners. We should be prioritising our Gambian brothers and sisters. If as a Gambian you go to India or Lebanon, there is no way they will sell or allocate you government reserve land,” he argued.
Musa Drammeh reacts
When contacted for comments, former minister of lands and now minister of fisheries, Musa Drammeh denied all the allegations.
“Haji’s allegations are not true because two years ago, there was never any directive from the president’s office to allocate land to him in Kamalo. The truth is that he (Jawara) applied on his consul letterhead and I advised him to go to the lands office to request for the form and when he came back, he requested for one hectare I told him we don’t have that at Kamalo and that the only place we can get him a hectare is at Nyambi- Kala where we are yet to demarcate.
“That was the story behind the whole thing. There is nothing like a directive given by the office of the president. The president’s office has nothing to do with land allocations,” Drammeh said.
On the alleged allocation of lands to foreigners, Minister Drammeh responded: “Let him publish one name of an Indian or Lebanese who has been illegally allocated land. And in any case the allocation is meant for Gambians and non-Gambians alike who want to invest in the country. There is no special criteria of allocation of lands to non-Gambians, if they apply and they meet the requirement they have all the right as investors to be given land and he Haji doesn’t know how those allocations are done.”