By Mustapha Jallow
Lamin Bojang, the chairperson of Kerewan Area Council (KAC), on Thursday said his council no more has power over Berending sand mining sites after they were taken away from them and handed over to the governor.
“The case of the mining-sites has been taken from the council and handed over to the Kerewan Governor. So, council has no power now over the mining issue. It is now between the Berending Alkalo and the Governor,’’ chairperson Bojang said.
Bojang made these remarks on 29th September 2022, while clearing doubts and responding to accusations made by the current chairperson of Berending Village Development Committee (VDC) and some members of the council of elders.
The VDC chairperson earlier accused Kerewan Area Council chairperson for sabotaging the VDC, saying that he and other community members felt that the role he played was unfair towards them. He accused the chairperson for also siding with a group he believed was undermining the leadership of the VDC.
But chairperson Bojang refuted the claim and accusations leveled against him and his council, saying the reason why he closed the mining sites was that he does not want what happened to Faraba Banta to happen in Berending because there were attempts to that action.
Berending community has two mining sites, sand and gravel. The profits from the mining are used for the community’s development projects such as health, youth and skills centres by the VDC. But the village is in a dilemma after the Geology department took over and control the mining sites, following an internal dispute between the VDC and a group believed to be members of the former VDC.
He added: “Well, I’ve no hand in the mining sites. I don’t receive the community funds. I did not also support or side with any group in Berending.’’
Going into little details, Bojang said it all started during a push and pull among the villagers with regard to the mining sites. He said this has prompted him to quickly intervene, saying he was informed by the Alkalo that there were two groups in the community arguing over mining sites.
“I acted and visited the sites. After my assessment, I decided to close the sites,’’ he said.
He said he closed the sites “because if I did not close it, on that day, they were going to fight. And it was going to be bloodshed. You remembered that community, Faraba case, the Berending issue was about to be like Faraba incident. That was the time I intervened and closed the sites.’’
After some time, according to Bojang, he advised the community members to form a committee which will be in charge of the sand mining sites. He said the Geology Department came in later and informed the council that they are taking charge of the sites.
He indicated that the Geology Department told him they are going to be in charge and raise funds and some percentage will go to the community of Berending.
According to him, the mining sites were under the Kerewan Area Council to manage, but the geology department later took it from them. He added that the Geology Department told them that the government gave it to them to manage it.
“So, the reason for the intervention was to install peace in the community because I was invited by the village Alkalo to help restore the peace because if the villagers fight at the mining sites, it is really going to be bloodshed,” he emphasized.
Bojang went on to say that the issue was even taken to the ministry of lands by the community, where the minister told him that he was going to send the matter to the governor, who will be in charge of the matter. He claimed that the minister had called the governor and informed him to see how best to solve the dispute.
“This is how it was taken from me and given to the governor. And the funds are paid to the governor. I am just there as a witness to the governor during the handing over of funds to them. I have no key role to play in this for now. What I only do is to witness the handing over but funds are not coming directly to me,’’ he said.
“The fund doesn’t pass through me. It is directly handed over to the governor and the governor will give it to the cashier of the region to save it. The sites’ closure did keep peace for some-time before Geology came and reopened the sites,’’ he said.
Meanwhile, Bojang advised residents of Berending community to cooperate and see the interest of their community.