Minister Bah Vows to End Real Estate Scamming

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By Yankuba Jallow

Hamat N.K. Bah, the Minister of Regional Government, Lands and Religious Affairs has vowed to end scamming by real estate dealers in The Gambia.

“We cannot let scamming people continue in this country. Scamming people, taking money from people [and] selling lands that do not belong to you will end,” Hamat Bah said.

He said real estate dealers who scam people will be dealt with according to law. The Minister has given a 2-week timeline to publish the regulations in the Gazette and to start enforcing them to protect consumers. 

“We will enforce them in court. They will be dealt with,” he said.

“Everybody comes up with a real estate agency and start scamming people. That has to end. We cannot allow people to be breaking the law and getting away with it,” he said.

Minister Bah said the overwhelming majority of the cases in the courts are related to land. He explained that many people want to become land dealers in The Gambia, adding that one of the most notorious land grabbers in the Gambia belongs to the legal fraternity. 

He called on lawyers advocating for human rights to also consider advocating for the protection of land and the consumers from the scammers. 

“Our land property is being robbed and taken away by all means and schemes. They [the lawyers] do not talk about the right to land. They only talk about the right to freedom of speech. When the people are robbed of the most important commodity, which is land, they will never talk about it. For small issue, they will say go to court because that is how they make money,” Minister Bah said.

He called on members of the legal fraternity to join them in the formulation of the proposed land Bill and regulations.

The real estate sector remains unregulated, and many Gambians have become victims of their deceitful activities. Some of the real estate company owners are going to court with their customers for failing to honour their contractual agreements. Some of the companies were found wanting by the courts and the owners were asked to refund the customers who sued them. One of the real estate owners was jailed and while in jail, he is facing extra 114 criminal charges of ‘obtaining money by false pretence’ at the Brikama High Court for allegedly scamming his customers.

Minister Bah said land is predicted to be the next cause of chaos in the country, adding that strong measures should be taken to correct the wrongs. He explained that the Gambia is at a critical stage. He said the Government should do much in this regard.

“The next crisis will be about land. It will not be politics. The way we use and manage land is important. If we do not manage it rightly, it might lead us into chaos,” he said.

He stated that his Ministry has not developed a land policy since the Gambia gained independence. 

“The Ministry has no policy since independence. The policy is what dictates the strategy. I wonder how they were managing the Ministry,” Hamat Bah said.

He emphasised that land is the most important asset of the Country. 

“With or without a Bill, I cannot wait. I am going to take my decision. I can come up with regulations that are enforceable under the law. It might take another 2 or 3 years before we get that Bill while people continue to suffer. We have another instrument to use while the Bill is still being prepared. There is a Bill in preparation, but we cannot wait for that. Now that I have the power to put in regulations to regulate them, I will use that while the Bill is being worked on,” he said.

The Minister announced that the Gambia Government has lifted the moratorium on land allocation. He stated that there will be payment attached on allocation for companies that do business.

“We no longer give land free to businesses who are making money. That will be stopped. The National Assembly will be involved. The Ministry of Finance – Government will come out with a policy, rule and regulations to guide you so that if you want land, you know how to get the land- with specialised agencies to ensure that the land is bought and the State gets the money to develop this country,” he said. 

He stated that the entire process will be reviewed to ensure that the State gets value from its land.

“There is nothing that can stop them from inducing you. If you know the amount of inducement we face every day, you will not believe it, but I think they are beginning to learn that it is not business as usual,” he said.