By Omar Bah
The Ministry of Lands is planning to continue with the demolition of properties it said are built on illegally appropriated land.
Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Permanent Secretary Buba Sanyang disclosed: “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.”
He said the government will not allow people to take the law into their hands by appropriating public places for their own personal use.
Turning to the recent demolition in Sukuta Salagi, he said the Kombo North, South and Central districts were designated state lands from March, 1994.
He said 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,” he posited.
He said Section 11/1 of the Land Acquisition and Compensation Act states that were any land has been acquired under the act compensation shall only be payable in addition to any improvement or construction on the land.
He said it was in this regard that some people whose properties were demolished in the Brusubi mixed used area were compensated.
The community of New Yundum, led by the local development committee recently called on government to return “the community reserved lands” on the Coastal Road opposite the Yarambamba Housing Estate, some parts of which have been allocated to parliamentarians and civil servants last year.
But PS Sanyang said the land in question was forfeited by the courts from a Momodou Jagne and a Mr Cham to the state.
“We told them if they feel they own the lands they should go to the courts for the courts to set aside those decisions. They didn’t do that and decided to put signboards there to say they owned the place just to provoke the government. I think we have to respect the law and other people’s rights. If you want to exercise your rights you have to exercise them within the law. If we get the law wrong as decision-makers, the courts are there to tell us we are wrong,” he warned.
Sanyang said the ministry engaged the community “but what they told us was that they want some public space. We made it very clear to them that if they want public space they should express it to the ministry for us to find an appropriate area to allocate to them but they said they don’t want to deal with the ministry and yet they want to prevent people from developing their sites.
“If they have any proof that they own the area they should bring it forward to prove to government that the place rightfully belongs to them,” he said.