By Mustapha Jallow
Barely a day after Foroyaa reported a call made by the women vendors for the Brikama Area Council (BAC) to help resolve the ongoing market dispute in Salagi, armed personnel of the Police Intervention Unit (PIU) stormed vendors in the disputed market and asked them to leave the place.
The PIU officers said they were acting under orders. The vendors said the officers refused to disclose where they got the orders from.
The women, who were taken by surprise by officers from the department of physical planning who demolished their canteens and tables, were again served with notice letters by the same department for another demolition to be carried out at their new place on Friday, August 12, 2022.
However, the demolition could not take place on Friday, which led the vendors to return to the disputed market.
Foroyaa understands that the demolition was suspended in order to maintain peace between the planning department and women vendors.
These desperate women provide income to their households through the selling of fish, chicken legs and vegetables, etc. However, they are grappling with social protection from the State.
It was on Sunday morning, 14 August, when Bintou Colley and her colleague vendors came to their former place and noticed the presence of paramilitary officers occupying their market.
“We were not allowed to sell our goods by a team of officers. They said they got orders to remove us from our market. We had a tough push and pull with them, until one of them threatened to use tear-gas against us. We later decided to go on the other side – opposite our former place,’’ she explained.
During the scuffle, Colley said there was an officer who took her cell phone from her, accusing her of taking photos and videoing them. She claimed the officer then threw her phone on the ground after seeing nothing on her phone.
The vendors were not pleased with the way the officers were handling the situation, saying they were treated as if they were street dogs.
She said they reported the matter to Brusubi Police Station with regard to the conduct of the officers. The station noted their complaint and later referred them to Police Headquarters in Banjul.
On Monday, Colley explained that they found another group of armed officers with their senior. She added that their senior immediately left the place with his junior officers after sympathising with them on their plight.
“Today (Tuesday) another group came with their senior. But we are now selling opposite our former place. PIU officers have forced us to leave, but we will not leave the matter like that. We won’t rest until the authorities do what we want,’’ she stressed.
Colley, who was speaking on behalf of her colleagues, renewed their call on the Brikama Area Council, urging them to address the market dispute. She urged the council to build the market where they want it, saying they will not make any profit, if it is put inside the village.
Meanwhile, the Police spokesman, Superintendent (Spt.) Lamin Njie, was contacted for comment on the matter after vendors alleged PIU officers guarding the disputed market, claimed to be a reserved land, intimidated and harassed them. Njie promised to find out from their regional command and get back to Foroyaa.
When Modou Jonga, BAC’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) was told about Salagi residents’ plea, he still maintained the council’s position for not getting involved into the matter until they are formally noticed by the physical planning department.
It could be recalled that Mamudou Manjang, director of physical planning, earlier told Foroyaa in an interview that the demolished market is a state reserved land which has been allocated to NAWEC. He indicated that another place was identified for the women to use as a market, which he said developments were currently taking place in the area.
He made this assertion at his office in Banjul, while responding to accusations and claims made by Ousman Bojang, a claimant of the said land now used as a market, which recently got demolished.
However, BAC’s CEO said they were not formally notified by the department of physical planning that a piece of land has been allocated to Salagi residents to be used as a market. He declined to make further comments on the matter until they are formally notified.