By Omar Bah
A US-based Gambian has accused the ministry of lands of acting in bad faith in the land dispute involving him and one Winston E.E. Able Thomas, a land dealer.
Muhammed A Jawara alleged that the said land was bought by himself and Sulayman Jawara from Muhamadou Touray and his brothers of Pirang Berending. But according to him, Thomas allegedly sold part of the land to one Muhammed Jagana.
Jawara, who doubles as the chief executive officer of Gikay Farms, has since threatened legal actions against Physical Planning, Kombo East chief and Winston E.E. Able Thomas, for allegedly conspiring to take his land in Pirang Berending but PS Sanyang had encouraged him to be patient and allow the lands ministry to take over the matter.
“We have been unable to do anything in the disputed land for two years because of the bureaucratic red tape we have been subjected to by officials of the Ministry of Lands, to be specific PS Buba Sanyang. Since the government does not have balls to maintain peace, we are going to clear the place for watermelon production before the rain stops,” he said.
He said based on his interactions with officials of Physical Planning, the chief of Kombo East, and PS Sanyang, he strongly believes “these people should be investigated for corruption. It baffles me how PS Sanyang is involved in so many questionable land issues without being investigated”.
“There is a need for serious land reforms in The Gambia. The current system that allows officials to be compromised and continue to engage in nefarious activities should be consigned to history,” he alleged.
He said a meeting was held by the lands PS and all the stakeholders involved in the controversial land dispute shortly before the Eid prayers.
“The PS promised to follow up with a visit to the farm after the prayers. However, all attempts to reach him after Eid prayers, including daily calls and occasional visits to his office, have failed. He is keeping us at bay while protecting Mr. Able Thomas. We have been trying to avoid taking the law into our own hands for more than a year. The people who are entrusted with maintaining law and order through execution of their duties are not interested in doing their job.
I am very disappointed in the way and manner in which PS Sanyang and Chief Bakary Sanyang handled this land issue. From the beginning, they had shown their reluctance to be transparent and impartial. It appears they want to frustrate us to the point of giving up on what belongs to us. That will never happen.
“After several months of reaching out to various departments from Physical Planning to the ministry of lands, I have come to the conclusion that these officials are comfortable in conniving with Mr. Able Thomas to do his fraudulent activities even when Mr. Thomas himself is pleading with me to sell him the land. This is indisputable. It is a shame that the new political dispensation is allowing unscrupulous people to do the same things we have all fought against. PS Sanyang should be ashamed of himself,” he added.
“Mr. Thomas himself is comfortable knowing that the very system that is supposed to be neutral is there to protect him in his activities regardless of whether or not he has a legitimate claim over the disputed land. The good news for us is that we will take this to the very end and we will ensure that this criminal ring is busted for everyone to see,” he added.
He said even the police stated that they are willing to provide their report to any authority who requests for it.
“This was communicated to both physical planning and PS Sanyang on numerous occasions but they are not interested in finding out the truth,” he added.
When contacted for comments, PS Buba Sanyang said the issue of the land is very much part of his ministry’s agenda. He said the ministry was caught up in lot of issues over the past week. “We will surely do something about it very soon,” he said.
Meanwhile a police investigation report obtained by The Standard has recommended forgery and criminal trespass charges against Thomas and 2 agents of his Limz Organic farm, Modou Lamin Dampha and Morr Ndow.
In 2019, Sanusi Touray of Banjul, lodged a complaint at the police over a land he bought on 8th March, 2018, on behalf of Muhammed Jawara and Sulayman Jawara from Muhamadou Touray of Pirang village measuring 400m X 256m X 290m after Thomas had reportedly sold it out to one Sulayman Jagana.
The police investigation found Able Thomas and his agents wanting of forgery and trespass.
The report revealed that one Kebba Khan, a former employee of Limz Organic Farm, was designated with the responsibility of purchasing properties for the company.
In 2000, Khan reportedly bought a land located in Tubakota from Muhamadou Touray of Pirang.
Muhamadou Touray told the police investigators that the land he sold to Khan belongs to his late father’s Quranic student, Bekaye Jabang.
The police said Mr Khan was issued a transfer by the late alkalo of Tubakuta for the land but before he could finalise the transaction of the with the company, he parted ways with them.
The police investigators concluded that Modou Lamin Dampha and Morr Ndow, both employees of Thomas then approached Aminata Gassama of Pirang Brending, secretary to the alkalo, requesting for a transfer document but they could not produce the original document.
“Our investigations revealed that Thomas invaded the property of Sanusi Touray and sold part of it to one Sulayman Jagana on behalf of Haji Jagana of USA,” the police said.
The investigation also reveals that the late alkalo of Tubakuta, Karafa Bojang, transacted a transfer document for the land Thomas bought in Tubakuta to Haji Jagana after a phone call from Thomas.
Bojang said Thomas told him he was selling the property of Bekaye Jabang which was bought on his behalf by Khan in Tubakuta.
But the police investigation reveals that the property in dispute belonged to the late Ebrima Touray and it was legally purchased by Sanusi Touray on behalf of Muhammed Jawara and Sulayman Jawara.
During the investigation, Thomas, told the police the land he bought from Muhamadou Touray measuring 3000 meters by 5000 meters is located in Pirang and he bought it for D17, 000.
But the investigations reveal that there is no such measurement of 3000 by 5000 within the bushes of Pirang and Tubakuta villages.
Thomas argued that the alkalo of Pirang Brending prepared the transfer document and was confirm by the then chief of Kombo North Jung Conteh.
The police said Thomas provided the investigators with a photocopy transfer document as proof of ownership but alleged that the company had lost its original transfer document.
The customary owner of the disputed land, Muhamadou Touray confirmed to the police that he had sold the land to Sanusi Touray and not Kebba Khan, adding that the land he sold to Mr Khan decades ago is located in Tubakota.
The 70-year-old alleged that Thomas’s agent Morr Ndow had once tried to sit him to a dialogue over the land but he declined.
“During the course of the investigation, the site was visited where the property in question was observed and it was confirmed to be within Pirang village as the cattle track was used to separate the Pirang and Tubakota. In addition, the property that was sold to Thomas was confirmed to be within the jurisdiction of Tubakuta village,” the report added.
In 2014, the former chief Basiru Jarju, led a team of elders and alkalolu of Tubakuta, Pirang and Basori to demarcate the borders between the three villages.
Alhagie Basirou Jarju, also a former district chief, told the police that he witnessed the demarcation of the borders between the villages and can confirm that the cattle track was identified as dividing line.
He recalled that during the demarcation it was revealed that only one Bekaye Jabang of Pirang village owns a plot of land in Tubakuta located near the Daffeh Kunda property.
Jarju added that the disputed land belongs to Muhamadou Touray’s late father, Ebrima Touray.
Ismaila Fofana, a staff at Physical Planning responsible for Kombo Central, Kombo East and Foni also told the police investigators that the cattle track is the boundary between Pirang and Tubakuta villages.
“…any land that falls on the western side of the cattle track is considered as Pirang and any land that fall on the southern part of the track is considered as Tubakota. To the best of my understanding, I considered Muhamadou Jawara’s land to be part of Pirang,” Fofana said.
Sulayman Jagana, who bought the land from Thomas, informed the police that prior to buying the 100m X 200m property from Thomas he was told the land is located in Tubakuta and not Pirang.
“The Tubakuta late alkalo Karafa Bojang confirmed to us that the site that Thomas bought from Muhamadou Touray is located in Tubakota. He also issued us the transfer of ownership in the name of Haji Jagana. I paid Thomas an amount I cannot recalled and one vehicle mark (Tata). The whole amount was D400, 000. Haji Waggeh and Ba Saikou Kanteh were witnesses to the said transaction,” he said.
He said it was when he later visited the land again with the person, he bought it for that they realise someone has erected signed boards there indicating that the land “is not for sale”.
“I consulted Thomas but he said he could not remember selling the land to anyone. It was later that we confirm it was Sanusi who legally bought it from Mohamadou Touray and that the land is in Pirang and not Tubakuta,” he added.
Morro Sama Bojang, the Pirang alkalo said he could only remember issuing a transfer of the land in question to Muhammed Jawara and Sulayman Jawara.
“…and before issuing the transfer I went to the land myself and confirmed that it is indeed in Pirang,” he added.
The late Tubakuta alkalo Karafa Bojang had also informed the investigators that he recalled Kebba Khan buying a plot of land from Mohamadou Touray of Pirang village but that plot is located in Tubakuta and it belongs to one Bekaye Jabang.
He said the land was given to Mr Jabang by the late Malang Daffeh of Tubakuta.
“He was the only individual from Pirang who owned a plot of land in Tubakuta. It was in 2018 that Thomas called me to inform me that he had directed one Morr Ndow to me with some customers whom he sold the property he bought from Touray through Kebba Khan and I should prepare them a transfer. I prepared the transfer of ownership from Thomas to Hajji Jagana. But I have to admit that I never visited the land before issuing the transfer I issued the transfer because I thought Thomas will never deceive,” he added.
The police said they have tried to reach out to Kebba Khan to no avail.
“It is evident that Winston Alde Thomas provided the investigators with a photocopied transfer document as proof of ownership and alleged that the company had lost its original transfer document.
According to the police report, Nfansu B.K. Conteh, who was the chief of Kombo East District during the year of 2000 denied the alleged chief stamp presented by Thomas as proofs of ownership. He also denied authenticating a transfer document prepared in typo writing form.
The police said a thorough fingerprint and comparison was made at the criminal records office in Banjul on a fingerprint extracted from a land document tendered by Thomas purportedly thump printed by the alkalo but the result revealed that the finger prints were not identical.
The police investigation had also recommended for the file to be taken to the Attorney General’s Chambers for legal advice.