By Mustapha Jallow
The Department of Physical Planning has issued notices to vendors in Salagi threatening to carry out a demolition exercise on the 18th August 2022.
The notice did not go down well with the residents of Salagi , who are adamant that they will continue to use the place as a market.
A group of women vendors and land owners, who are yet to recover from “shocking experience’’ of watching their source of livelihood being ruined few weeks ago, on Wednesday expressed their anger and despair after officials from Physical Planning Department served them notice that their canteen or stalls will be demolished again on the 12th August 2022.
The Department of Physical Planning said the land is a government reserved property, which is now allocated to NAWEC. On the other hand, women vendors and Ousman Bojang, the claimant of the land have refuted the claim and argued that the land in question was inherited from their forefathers and ancestors.
When our reporter visited the disputed land on 20th July 2022, he observed that the market was fully demolished. Vendors said it was a place where they make a living as most of them are breadwinner of their families. It was observed that no structure or canteen was spared during the demolition.
However, vendors were spotted selling just about 7-meters from the former market. The new place they are selling now is believed to belong to another man who allowed them to sell until they get a new place to sell.
“We spent all of our savings and even borrowed from relatives to build these canteens. Now they are all gone,” said a woman.
A notice was delivered to the occupants in the area to vacate. The Department of Physical Planning indicated that they will do another demolition. The vendors also insisted that they will not move.
“Take note that being satisfied that the canteen, stalls, tables described below has been erected without a development permit and without the prior approval of the West Coast Planning Authority Development Control Regulations, 1995 / declared unsafe under the provisions of the development control regulations, 1996 being empowered to order its removal or demolition of the canteen/stalls 12th August 2022,’’ the notice letter stated.
Take notice added: “That upon failure on your part to comply with this notice, the planning authority will arrange for the canteen/stalls to be removed or demolished and charge the cost of such removal or demolition to you.’’
After seeing the notice, the women vendors and land-owner quickly held a press briefing with reporters, where Ousman Bojang still insisted that the land belongs to them, saying they were never compensated and they will at all cost protect their properties.
“Unless when I die, they can take our land but I will fight for till my last breath. Also, we are aware those in Salagi Extension were compensated. But those of us in Salagi proper, were never compensated. So, the authorities should take note of that,’’ he said.
Bojang said before he came with the idea of establishing the market, he had engaged his Kabilos, Alkalo, Governor, Brikama Area Council and concerned authorities.
“But to our surprise our structures and women’s canteen were bulldozed,’’ he said.
He maintained his position that they are the rightful owner of the land and therefore called on the government to make the investigative report on Salagi dispute public. He accused certain individuals, physical planning officials and the lands ministry for confiscating their lands.
Bintou B. Colley, a vendor and Secretary of Salagi women group expressed her dissatisfaction of how the government is handling issues of this nature, particularly physical planning and the paramilitary. She added they are now been intimidated constantly by the officers stationed in Salagi.
According to her, the physical planning officers came under paramilitary escort and told them that the place is a highway, which cannot be made market. She added that notices were given to them but they refused to take them because they did not do anything wrong. Colley explained that officers later put the letters on their tables.
“But why us,’’ she asked? Adding: “Why are not those selling on the streets served the same notice.’’ “We are not moving an inch. If they like, let them demolish all the canteens and tables, we will still sell our goods on the ground.’’
Colley said they are ready to face any consequence that would be levelled against them by physical planning because they are doing the right thing. She added they are going to the place identified to them as they alleged that piece of land is owned by Sillah-Kunda family, whom she added are still battling with physical planning.
She said if government was since the beginning willing for dialogue – they would reach to an agreement but what they see was that physical planning wants to ruin their entire lives, which she adds they will not accept.
Aminata Sanneh, another vendor narrated similar concerns saying they are still suffering the trauma caused by authorities. She expressed her disappointment in the president, after they stopped on the road, when he was passing through the area – and they lodged the complaint to him but no action has been taken in order to address their problems.
Foroyaa visited the allocated land for market and found some women selling there. These women accused those selling on the highway of not doing the right thing. They call on them to come to the allocated land for market, which is inside and free from dispute, to sell.
On the other hand, the land allocated as the market is under dispute because the Sillah Kunda family are claiming title over the land. This is why the vendors selling on the highway are fearful of going there. Another reason given was that, the vendors said selling on the highway is more profitable for them than going inside.
It could be recalled that the Brikama Area Council (BAC) CEO Modou Jonga informed Foroyaa that they were not formally notified by the Department of Physical Planning that there is a piece of land allocated to Salagi residents to be used as market.