By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT
The Gambia’s Ministry of Justice (MoJ) published a statement on 11th October 2021 alleging that “reports circulating on social media that the government is blocking the purported owners of a piece of land from accessing their property” … “is totally false and couldn’t be further from the truth”. The statement further claims that “this matter is the subject of ongoing litigation in two suits before two separate judges of the High Court”.
At first, many questioned the authenticity of the press release which lacked an official signature and date. However, a check on the MoJ official Twitter page showed that the release was published on their official handle and that Media Houses were emailed the same press release from the MoJ.
Below is the MoJ’s Tweet which includes the press release.
Kanifing Magistrates’ Court Ruling
After getting hold of court documents numbered “KMC/CS/132/19” and “HC/424/20/MF/056/F1” Gainako can confirm that two litigations have been sought in court by the plaintiff “Global HOMM” to a conclusive end from the Kanifing Magistrates’ Court and the High Court respectively.
Both rulings conclude that the Global HOMM have possession of all that property situated at Bijilo bearing serial registration No. K12/07. During this period the premises was previously occupied by the Anti-Crime Unit from 2018 to September 2021. They eventually moved out of the premises after receiving eviction notices from the Sheriff’s Office.
The first ruling from the Kanifing Magistrates’ Court dated 12th September 2019 and signed by Principal Magistrate I. Janneh Njie also awarded Global HOMM a total sum of D75,000 for “general damages and trespass”. The ruling further provides for the 3rd Defendant [Ministry for Lands & Surveys] to “accept payments of land rent from” Global HOMM on the property.
After reviewing receipts provided by Global HOMM, Gainako can confirm that a total of D589,550 was paid to the Ministry of Lands and Survey on March 5th 2020 as ordered by “point d” Kanifing Magistrates’ Court ruling. This highlights that Global HOMM has complied with the first ruling from the court.
Below is the Kanifing Magistrates’ Court ruling numbered “KMC/CS/132/19”.
High Court Ruling
The second ruling by the High Court was dispensed by Justice F. A. Achibonga on 29th June 2020. The ruling indicates “that the purpose for which the Applicant’s [Global HOMM] said property has been compulsorily acquired by the Defendants is not for PUBLIC USE”. The ruling further reinforced that Global HOMM’s “lease bearing Serial Registration No. K12/07 remains valid and subsisting”.
The ruling declared that “all transactions entered into by the respondents with any 3rd parties in relation to” Global HOMM “property are hereby set aside”. The respondents, in this case, includes the Minister of Lands & Regional Government, the Director for Lands and Surveys and the Attorney General.
A letter written to Global HOMM from the Ministry of Lands dated 17th October 2019 indicates that the property “is required by the Government of The Gambia for public purposes (presidential villas for the forthcoming Organization of Islamic States meeting to be hosted by the Gambia)”.
If the Government has allocated the property to a Senegalese investor, then this agreement has been “set aside” by the High Court’s ruling.
The High Court ruling includes an additional fine of D500,000 to be “awarded in favour of the Applicant against the Respondents”. This means that the total fines to be paid to Global HOMM by the Government comes up to D575,000 as of 29th June 2020. However, to date, only Global HOMM has complied with the court rulings to pay Land Rent totalling D589,550 in March 2020.
Below is the High Court ruling numbered “HC/424/20/MF/056/F1”.
Were the Owners Blocked or Not?
On the first point raised by the MoJ’s press release that claims that the owners were not blocked from entering their property, it can be seen on video on numerous occasions that Global HOMM Representatives were indeed blocked from accessing their property with Construction Materials.
The media first reported that the Country Representative for Global HOMM was denied entry with the delivery of Construction material by Police Officers on 30th September 2021. Global HOMM ramped up efforts to possess their property when they came with an Officer from the Sheriff’s Office to possess the property on October 4th 2021. However, when the Officer arrived to possess the property, a standoff ensued between the Police and Representatives of Global HOMM.
Global HOMM owners were denied access to their property with construction materials for the second time in the presence of the media.
Eventually, Police Officers arrested the Global HOMM country representative, Ms Nenneh Freda Gomez and two others namely; Lamin Sey and Gilbert Manga at the property on Monday 11th October 2021 and charged them with criminal trespass and malicious injury [damage] to property. This occurred when Ms Gomez attempted to bring construction materials into the property.
Since then, Global HOMM has resulted in dumping construction materials including bags of cement and a tip of sand outside their property.
A number of queries were raised from sceptics who opined that the Government has a right to appeal the case and until that was concluded the Representatives of Global HOMM have no right to acquire the property. Gainako has enquired with a number of Lawyers on this and has been informed that for the appeal to deny the owners from enjoying their property the Government must file an injunction restraining Global HOMM from accessing their property after filing an Appeal.
According to the advice received there is a three-month period allowed for an appeal to be lodged at the High Court and a 28 days’ notice for an appeal to be lodged at the Kanifing Magistrates’ Court. All parties to the case are notified once an appeal has been lodged. When the Lawyer of Global HOMM was contacted they informed Gainako that no notice of appeal has been lodged and that they have lodged a case in the High Court against the Police for their alleged “illegal arrest” on Monday 11th October 2021.
Ms Gomez informed this media that their case is expected to be heard in court on Wednesday 20th October 2021.
To confirm the above statements from Global HOMM our reporter visited the Registrar’s Office to enquire about an appeal or an injunction on the case. The Registry’s Office at the High Court informed this medium that no appeal or injunction restraining the owners from accessing their property has been lodged by the Government.
A letter was also hand-delivered to the MoJ on Monday 18th October 2021 requesting an official comment on the statement given the judgements passed by two Gambian Courts. No response has been received to date however this will be duly communicated when received.
Given the video evidence and court rulings, the statement from the MoJ on the disputed property at Bijilo is clearly FALSE.