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Monday, March 1, 2021

Kafuta ‘concerned citizens’ seek removal of VDC

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By Alagie Manneh

A group calling itself concerned citizens of Kafuta, opposed to the current VDC, announced Monday it will file a legal action against the committee and the local government authority in the area.

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The group said it will be seeking a mandamus order for the high court to declare the current VDC “illegal”.

They said the current VDC’s existence has no legal basis since its members were “handpicked by the Kafuta alkalo”, contravening a Local Government Act.

Among other issues, they alleged since its “illegal constitution” in 2017, the VDC has never called an AGM and that it has been involved in the issuing of licenses for mining in the area, even though it has no mandate to do so.

According to lawyer Yankuba Darboe, who said he will be representing the Concerned Citizens, most members of the six-man “so-called VDC hold senior government positions and that is why they feel that they can bully the villagers”.

Alieu Sowe, a member of the group, said the current VDC was supposed to serve as an interim body.

“They [the current VDC] said the alkalo, Kata Bojang, has now formalised their role as VDC.”

Mr Sowe explained that when the Concerned Citizens wrote to Brikama Area Council on the matter, BAC promised to investigate and take necessary actions, but that hasn’t happened.

“The BAC came here and investigated and said they were compiling a report and will get back to us. [But] now the same BAC is asking this VDC to go to congress,” Mr Sowe explained.

He accused the VDC of corruption and said its members were using their position to further “exploit Kafuta and its resources.”

He alleged that the VDC registered a mining company in Kafuta and this is registered with the AG’s Chambers. “They don’t have that mandate but they did this anyway. We told the alkalo this but he is insisting that it was he who formed the team,” Mr Sowe alleged.

Lamin Sonko, head of Kafuta market community and a member of Concerned Citizens of Kafuta, said the VDC has been selling off the properties of Kafuta.

“Ambulances and tractors have been sold here. These and many other issues made the people of the village come together and form this concerned group,” he said.

The ward councilor for Kafuta, Musa Dabo said he did not recognise the current VDC of Kafuta.

“The Local Government Act said the establishment of VDCs shall be determined by the council. It means here in my ward I shall determine the VDC. But I told them [the current VDC] I do not recognise them. They are insisting they were selected by the alkalo even after I showed them the Act governing these issues,” he said.

Mr Sonko said that the offices of the VDC have been turned into a ‘profit-making entity’.

“They [the members of the current VDC] opened a business in their own names. The illegal mining has been on for more than a year,” he added.

Enunciating the legal process, Yankuba Darboe said: “The legal action is intended against the local authority [BAC] for failing to act as they are obliged to do under the law, even though they have been formally notified of the illegal constitution of the Kafuta VDC. They have the authority to dissolve that VDC and ensure we have a properly constituted VDC in Kafuta that is in line with the law. But that didn’t happen.”

Yankuba said the general sentiment is that the BAC chairman, Sheriffo Sonko, “feels he is above the law”.

“But we will be suing both the VDC and the local government. We will seek a mandamus order to this regard. To an extent, I think the governor also is backing them,” he said.

Contacted to shed light on the allegations, BAC chairman Sheriffo Sonko, told The Standard: “Sometime back we received a letter from some people regarding the issue. There is a committee here which handles such things and it did visit the place. Until they finished their investigations, I don’t like to discuss this issue.”

Pressed to respond to some of the allegations, chairman Sonko tensely said: “My brother, I am busy. I don’t have time for this”.

Lamin K Bojang, son of Kafuta alkalo and personal secretary, described as ‘false’ allegations that the VDC was illegally constituted.

According to him, the VDC was put into office by the people of Kafuta, who adopted their “own constitution”, instead of the Local Government Act in the matter.

“We have a constitution that is adopted by the community. What this Concerned Citizens group is telling you are all lies,” he added.

Malang Jatta, VDC the chairperson declined to comment on the issue, urging The Standard to wait for the outcome “of an investigation by the BAC and the local government authorities of the area”.

“I would not advise you to publish anything regarding the issue. I cannot speak on this now,” he added.

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