By Mustapha Jallow
Mamudou Manjang, Director of the Department of Physical Planning and Housing, on Thursday clarified that the Sukuta-Salagi land is a reserved place for the government, which is now allocated for NAWEC.
Manjang made this assertion at his office in Banjul, while responding to accusations and claims made by Ousman Bojang that he is the rightful owner of the said land used as a market.
He indicated that Ousman Bojang has no authority to allocate a market or canteens in reserved areas.
He said a place has since been identified for residents by the government to use it as a market. In fact, he said the residents are currently developing the area.
“Bojang had sold some part of these reserved areas. So, we had to also demolish the structure because this is government property,” he added.
According to him, there were due processes that were followed to acquire the places and documents were also shown to them so that they can understand that the place they are claiming ownership is a government reserved land.
“Those claiming ownership were all compensated. So, if they said they were not compensated, they should visit the lands ministry to get their compensation because the ministry is ready to engage them,” Manjang said.
After so many allegations against physical planning, he explained that the police mounted an investigation into the matter. Upon completing the investigation, he said the police came up with recommendations and one of them was that families must be compensated which was done. Manjang urged Ousman to desist from occupying government’s reserved lands, while noting that the women vendors selling in the area don’t know anything about the land.
“Instead, they are there to only give power to Ousman in order for him to gain control of the reserved land.
“The reason why we made the demolition was because they refused to move after time was given for them to relocate and in fact, we were also helping them to move their belongings but they did not,” he narrated.
According to the physical planning director, the place is an approved layout and their presence was to ensure the protection of the reserved land.
“It’s approved layout, which has been allocated to NAWEC by the lands ministry. So, there is a place identified for Salagi residents to use as a market. Therefore, an individual does not have the right to allocate or build a market for his people without involving relevant authorities,” he said.
Nonetheless, Mr Manjang referred our reporter to lands ministry for further information. The permanent secretary of the aforesaid ministry asked the reporter to write a letter to them first, before he grants him an interview.
Meanwhile, it was on Wednesday when women vendors and claimants of land at Sukuta-Salagi market expressed their anger and concerns over the demolished market by officials from the Department of Physical Planning.
They claimed to inherit the land in question from their forefathers and ancestors. But the physical planning director dismissed those claims, saying Ousman does not own the land, but it’s a reserved government property.
When our reporter visited the disputed land, he observed that the market, where mothers and other young women make little income to pay for their children’s school fees, rent, fish-money, and daily needs, was demolished. No structure or canteen was spared during the demolition.