UDP Claims Land Allocation to President Barrow Violates Section 5 of State Lands Act

UDP Claims Land Allocation to President Barrow Violates Section 5 of State Lands Act
UDP Claims Land Allocation to President Barrow Violates Section 5 of State Lands Act

Africa-Press – Gambia. The UDP takes note of the press release of the Minister of Lands, Regional Government and Religious Affairs, dated 3rd July, 2024, in reaction to statements of fact made by H.E. Ousainu NMO Darboe, during a UDP press conference held on 3rd June, 2024 at the Party’s Manjai Bureau.

The UDP is somewhat surprised by the Minister’s belated reply, which, after one month of reflection, sidestepped the issues and questions raised by H.E. Darboe at the said press conference. H.E. Darboe requested the government to explain why and how the former residence of the Chief Justice, located at Atlantic Road, Fajara, was allocated to President Barrow, who is developing the property, and how the construction is being financed. The Minister avoided answering those questions and simply referred to his mandate to allocate State lands and mentioned people who benefitted from such land allocations, allegedly including H.E. Darboe and some of his family members.

While the United Democratic Party recognises the Minister’s mandate to allocate state lands to applicants, it would like to underscore the fact that such powers vested in the Minister are not discretionary. They are governed by the 1997 Constitution and the other positive laws of the land, including the Land Act. It should be recalled that the Atlantic-Road property allocated to President Barrow is not UNDEVELOPED LAND. It is a DEVELOPED STATE PROPERTY that is being irregularly alienated in favour of a person who already has several properties to his name. That falls foul of Section 5 (Regulation 6) of the Second Schedule of the State Lands Act, Subsidiary Legislation, which states that “A person who has not been allocated a plot… but has more than one (1) plot in his name, shall not be considered for allocation of land”. This stipulation disqualifies President Barrow from being allocated public land.

Indeed, Gambians would recall that President Barrow’s 2021 declaration of assets, in the run up to the 2021 presidential elections, stated that he owns several landed properties in Yarambamba, Taf Gardens, Kanifing, Tallinding, Tujereng, Jambur, Mankamankunda etc. Such ownerships, pursuant to the provisions of the aforesaid State Lads Acts make President Barrow ineligible for allocation of State lands.

Furthermore, it would appear that President Barrow was recently allocated land in Brufut Heights with several other Ministers of his government, still in contravention of the foregoing State Land Act.

In the same vein, Section 68 (4) (b) of the 1997 Constitution stipulates that: “the President shall not… use his/her position as such or use information entrusted to or received by him/her in an official position, directly or indirectly, to enrich himself/herself or any other person”. The President has used and abused his power and position to have several landed properties of the State allocated to him, thus enriching himself at the expense of Gambian citizens.

In addition to the President, the above provisions of Section 68 of the 1997 apply to any and all public servants working in any and all positions and capacities. Surely, the Minister is aware of the aforementioned stipulations of the State Land Act and the 1997 Constitution. Notwithstanding the foregoing stipulations, the Minister of Lands authorized, ultra vires, allocation of State lands and developed landed properties of the State to the President. He has, therefore, acted beyond his legal powers and authority and outside the confines of the law. Consequently, such land allocations are potentially null and void.

Beyond the legal ramifications of such land allocations, the President should have refused the said land allocations on moral grounds. Indeed, the President is handsomely remunerated at a time when most Gambians are finding it difficult to put three square meals on their family tables, let alone acquire a small piece of land to build a place to be called home. He, the first Gambian, should be content with the landed properties he already possesses and neither request nor accept additional public lands.

In view of all the above, we urge the President to uphold the law, demonstrate moral rectitude and renounce the Atlantic Road property illicitly and illegitimately allocated to him by his Minister of Lands, Regional Government and Religious Affairs, Mr. Hamat Bah.

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