By Tabora Bojang
The Ministry of Local Governments and Lands has asked real estate companies to submit documents of all the lands they are converting into estates in The Gambia to the ministry or risk facing consequences, including closure.
Abubakarr Bensouda, the president of the Association of Real Estate Companies, AREC, which consists of 52 real estates in the Gambia, disclosed this to journalists at a press conference over the weekend.
“They [government] have requested that all estate companies send over their title for all their estates. These include layout plans, title deeds, leases or area council transfers so that they can verify ownerships and determine whether one has rights to sell those lands. Government has also said those who defaulted would face consequences including shut downs,” he said.
Bensouda, who is also the CEO of Blue Ocean Properties, said AREC has welcomed these directives and has urged its membership to comply and submit all the documents requested.
He said his Association has been advocating for the government to promulgate laws, policies and regulations that will regulate the booming real estate industry and safeguard sanity, efficiency and customer confidence.
“There is a lot of noise around real estates and it is important that we clear the air to make sure people don’t lose faith in real estate companies in the Gambia. AREC was established in 2013 by Physical Planning to put all the real estates together and communicate with one voice to the government and solve the lack of regulation in the sector. Over the last 15 years, the real estate sector has been growing but unfortunately there is no regulation and in the absence of regulations, companies have been trying to self-regulate. But the solution that we see is for the government to put in regulations, standards and guidelines for the sector. There has to be segregation between the different types of companies for instance companies that build and companies that don’t build, companies that only sell lands or those that are just agents. There has to be a licensing system and companies need to be issued licenses to be able to operate and in the event one is not doing what is meant to be done, the license is cancelled. We also want AREC to be recognised in terms of legality. People have to sign up to AREC because there has to be one general body for all stakeholders in the estate sector,” Bensouda stated.
He also revealed that AREC had recently met with the new minister of lands and he has expressed commitment to help and address the lack of regulations.
The AREC president argued that the absence of regulations in the estate industry continues to escalate disputes concerning among others, land confirmation, since there is a heavy reliance on alkalolu exacerbated by the absence of village boundaries.
“So it is very difficult to know where for example Sanyang starts and where Sanyang ends. It is quite difficult and that is why we encourage members to do a lot of searching and confirm ownership before they purchase lands,” he lamented.
AREC board member and CEO of S&S Properties, Satang Saho, disclosed that there are over 100 real estate companies operating in the country but only 52 are registered with AREC. “We cannot monitor or try to control what others are doing if we don’t have legal backing from the government,” she said.