By Yankuba Jallow
The Supreme Court has on Tuesday held that Bajonkoto village has failed to prove that they own the land in dispute between them and the people of Banni.
The two villages are in the Wuli District, Upper River Region.
The people of Bajonkoto filed the case against the decision of the Gambia Court of Appeal’s holding that the case has estopped by a previous case (res judicata). Both the High Court and the Court of Appeal held that the land in question was the same as the one in the previous case. The previous case involved a community work group of Bajonkoto and the people of Banni regarding trespass.
Both the High Court and the Court of Appeal found and held that the land in the previous civil case and the land in the current case are one and the same.
Aggrieved with the Court of Appeal’s decision, the people of Bajonkoto want the Supreme Court to set aside the decision of the lower court and make a declaration that they are the owners of the land in dispute. They want the apex court to make an order of perpetual injunction restraining the people of Banni from trespassing either by themselves or through farming or construction or any other ways on the Suitland.
The Counsel for the people of Bajonkoto, Azizz. Bensouda contended that the Court of Appeal erred when it held that the people of Bajonkoto were estopped by the principle of res judicata without due adherence to the law and the evidence. Counsel Bensouda further contended that the parties and issues in the current case and that of the previous case weren’t the same. Additionally, he contended that the Suitland in the current case is bigger than the one in the previous case. Finally, Counsel Bensouda submitted that the previous was about trespass. The land in dispute is in the possession of the people of Banni.
The people of Banni on the other hand put forward that they settled in that area before the people of Bajonkoto. They contended that the said Suitland belongs to them and not the appellants, the people of Bajonkoto.
The people of Bajonkoto called 10 witnesses while those from Banni called 9 witnesses. The disputed land is called ‘Nyorronjo’.
Successive chiefs in the District have held in their judgment that the said Suitland belongs to the people of Banni.
In their unanimous decision, the justices of the Supreme Court held that proof of title must be proof beyond mere balance of probability. Therefore, the court relied heavily on the testimony of DW2 who was a member of the District Tribunal and has sat over the matter with some chiefs and declared that the land belongs to the people of Banni. The highest court upheld the decisions of the High Court and the Court of Appeal that the Suitland belongs to the people of Banni.
Also, the Supreme Court set aside the findings of both the High Court and the Court of Appeal that the suit has been estopped by the principle of res judicata. The Supreme Court held that the facts and issues of the instant case and the previous case aren’t the same.