By Tabora Bojang
Amie Bensouda, the lead counsel at the Janneh Commission, has submitted that former president Jammeh allocated land to Gam-Petroleum Company in Mandinaring without due consent of its customary owners.
In her submission before the commission yesterday, Bensouda argued that the allocated land, which belonged to the Ceesay Kunda kabilo, was a customary land that fell under leasehold when the government introduced the 1991 Lands Act that transferred provincial lands administration to the minister.
“The government did not own the land in Mandinaring [and therefore] it could not have properly taken it from the villagers and give it to a third party,” Bensouda said.
She contended that Sub-Section 5 of the same act is merely for the purpose of transferring administration of lands from district authorities to the Minister for Lands but not transferring ownership of the land to the minister.
She said this is unconstitutional under our law and an outright deprivation of land belonging to people in the provinces.
She further argued: “The third party must acquire it first before it can apply to lease it and where a government takes it for a third party, it can only be for public purposes under the appropriate law.
“Gam-Petroleum was a private company, so government could not compulsorily take land from anyone and give it to them. They had to validly acquire the land,” Bensouda said.
She further argued that the act provides for the best administration of these lands by the state to the direct or indirect benefit of the community in which the land is situated but the allocated land neither benefitted nor helped the people of Mandinaring.
She reminded the commission of a conducted environmental impact assessment, which showed that rice growers and fishermen would have to vacate the land for the project to proceed.
This report she noted valued this at D6.8 million and recommended that remuneration be paid to those who will be adversely affected by the Gam-Petroleum project.
It also recommended for a well-equipped training for a hospital to cater for emergency cases and basic utility services of electricity and water, which were lacking.
She said evidences from one Pa Ceesay and the Minister of Lands indicated that the land was not voluntarily given.
She said Pa Ceesay in his evidence said that the chief had informed them when they started protesting that if the “king says a road will pass through your head, your head would break but the road would pass.”
She said the Minister of Lands in his testimony of June 2018 before the commission said he was working under authority when the land was allocated.