By Omar Bah
The chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission has written to the Kanifing Municipal Council police commissioner to provide him with security to cut down a tree near his Kotu home where he plans to start a storey building.
Alieu Momarr Njai had applied for permission to cut the tree on his land as advised by his contractor.
In the approval letter from the forestry department, Mr Njai was urged to ensure that during felling of the tree, he must avoid any damage to lives and properties within the neighbourhood.
But he said although he has clearance from both the physical planning and forestry department to cut the tree, his next-door neighbour has blocked him from doing so on two occasions.
He said when he first attempted to cut down the tree in 2019, his neighbour reported him to the Kotu police who came there to arrest the person who was cutting the tree and when he (Njai) went to bail him, they were both charged with trespassing and destruction of property.
“When I instructed a contractor to cut off the tree whose branches are overhanging inside the said property and its roots spread under the said property, I was requested to report to the Kotu police station where I found the one I contracted to cut the tree. I was told that it was because my next-door neighbour complained that I have no right to cut the tree and doing so is criminal,” he said.
“I was amazed as to whose property was trespassed or destroyed.”
Njai said he acquired that land in March 1963 and the first cement building in the whole of Manjai Kunda was built by him on that land.
“My application to lease the land was approved by the then vice president and minister of local government Assan Musa Camara on 8th September 1976. Since the lease documents could not be traced but the records were available, it was agreed that a fresh lease be prepared and payment for which was made vide GTR 482898 dated 17th June 1980,” he said.
This new lease document, he added, was completed in January, 1982.
Chairman Njai said the land in question was a subject of contention between him and the government.
The government had claimed that the land was reserved for the construction of a market in 1982 but Njai had documentary proof that he had owned the land since 1963.
In 1982, when the government created the Kotu West layout his plot was part of the layout and the area was designated as a market/car park.
Since then, series of correspondence were written relating to the issue of compensation and at some time the government planned to compensate him adequately but he declined.
In 2010, the High Court ruled that Mr Njai is the customary owner of the land.
The court also declared that the state has “no right to interfere with the lawful development of the said piece of land by the plaintiff and restrain the state or its agents from obstructing Mr Njai from building on or otherwise utilising the said parcel of land”.
The Kanifing Municipal Council has since 24 December 2008 said it has no interest whatsoever in the land.