The catastrophe that has recently befallen some residents of Jabang Housing Estate is yet another serious indictment of the Barrow government. It is hard to understand how any serious government concerned with the welfare of its people would take such a drastic decision to demolish properties legally obtained by their owners without going through any form of legal process, simply on the pretext that those properties were constructed on water ways.
Assuming that the affected properties, (even though legally acquired by their owners), were constructed on water ways and their owners never obtained any permits for their construction, morality demands that a much more humane process should have been followed in depriving them of their hard-earned properties, not just arbitrarily deciding to give the owners/occupants less than 48 hours to vacate before the demolition. That was by all accounts the most insensitive thing that any government would do to its own people.
The question that many people however tend to ask is why Jabang Estate out of all the areas of the country that were affected by the flash floods. Has it got anything to do with the fact that the Minister of the Environment lives there and her house was said to have been among those affected by the floods?
We all know that the place is one of the housing estates of the Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation (SSHFC) and as such, we had expected that enough environmental assessment must have been done before it was leased and allocated to people, and in such a case, both the Department of Physical Planning (who were alleged to have undertaken the demolition) and all the other stakeholders were involved in the process.
Therefore, it is hard to see how anyone can single out and punish the property owners for whatever may have gone wrong. If it had happened to some squatters somewhere else who had never acquired their properties legally, it would have at least made some sense (even though giving anyone such a short notice could not have been justified under any circumstances), but certainly not to the residents of Jabang Estate who had acquired their properties through legal means.
Now that the government seems to have realised the folly of their action and they have ordered a halt to the process, albeit after the demolition of some properties, we are all anxiously waiting to see what would happen next. There is absolutely no doubt that those affected would be compensated for not only the loss of their properties but also the anxiety and hardship it must have caused them and their families. That is no doubt going to cost the Gambian tax payers millions of Dalasi, which could have been avoided if those who gave the order for the demolition had used their common senses.
Therefore, it would be quite interesting to see whether anyone in the government would be held accountable for such unnecessary waste of tax payers money just because of some one’s failure to properly do their homework. We are all therefore watching to see who would be made the scape goat for such a rash and costly decision.
Let us also hope that those who bear the greatest responsibility for such a possible heavy financial loss to the government would not only accept responsibility for it and resign, but they would also be held liable for the loss.
Demba A Jawo