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No Legal and Moral Justification to Allocate Land to the President

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Madi Jobarteh is a Gambian rights activist


Instead of the NPP giving a baseless response to the allegation that the President has been allocated public land it should have been the Ministry of Regional Governments and Lands to come out to put the records straight. It is the Ministry which is responsible for state lands. Therefore, the Minister responsible, Hamat Bah, should come out to clear the air regarding this allocation. I hope he will do so at the next ministerial town hall hosted by the Ministry of Information.

Until the Ministry comes out, I wish to state that there is no legal or moral justification to allocate state lands to the President. The State Lands Act empowers the Minister to grant State lands to individuals for residential or other purposes. The regulations of the Act provide that applications are submitted to the Department of Lands and Surveys to review and advise the Minister accordingly to grant successful applications. Furthermore, there are eligibility criteria to be considered for land allocation. Among these criteria are that those individuals who already have at least one plot of land of their own do not qualify to be considered for allocation (Clause 5).

If one goes by the criteria, Pres. Adama Barrow does not qualify to be allocated state land because he already has at least one piece of land of his own. In his declaration of assets submitted to the IEC for the purpose of the 2021 presidential elections, Barrow said he has multiple landed properties in Yarambamba, Taf Gardens, Old Yundum, Kanifing, Talinding, Mankamang Kunda, Tujereng and Jambur (https://malagen.org/election-hub/gambian-leader-declares-over-d50m-worth-of-assets-to-iec/). Is the Department of Lands and Surveys not aware of these properties? If so, then what is their legal justification in advising the Minister to allocate land to the President?

Furthermore, in November 2023 the National Assembly passed the Former Presidents’ Act, which provides lavish pensions, incentives and other benefits for an ex-president. Now that he is President, Adama Barrow is accommodated at State House which is the best home in this country. But as soon as he leaves the presidency, he is automatically qualified to enjoy those lavish benefits in the Former President’s Act.

According to the Act, a former president enjoys a lifetime monthly pension of 80% of the monthly salary of a serving president. A former president also enjoys a gratuity amounting to 12 months of his monthly salary. In addition, a former president enjoys a fully furnished residence equipped with utilities and other facilities for his comfort. Or, if the former president decides to live in his own residence, the Government maintains that residence with all facilities in place such as telephone, internet, etc.

The Act is so generous that it also provides cooks, housekeepers, and gardeners just to serve the former president, as well as providing him health insurance for him and his wives to enjoy treatment abroad. A former president also enjoys vehicles with fuel and drivers provided by the Government, as well as having a fully funded vacation anywhere in the world, not to mention the fact that a former president’s wife or husband is also paid. These and many more are what awaits President Barrow when he is no more a president.

Meantime, the President currently enjoys a monthly salary of D255,000 or D3 million per annum from which he could buy land of his own if he does not have one already. So long as he is the president, Adama Barrow does not pay tax, rent, food, medical treatment, transport, laundry or anything at all. Therefore, morally, why would President Barrow be given a state land? What more does he need when the people of the Gambia have secured a safe, comfortable and the best life for him now and forever?

I hereby demand that Minister Hamat Bah rescind any decision to give state land to Pres. Barrow. Legally and morally, he does not deserve to get land from the Government when there are thousands of deserving Gambians without land. Giving the President land would tantamount to abuse of office, corruption and using public office to enrich oneself contrary to the Constitution under Section 68(4)(b) which states that,

“The President shall not …use his or her position as such or use information entrusted to or received by him or her in an official position directly or indirectly to enrich himself or herself or any other person.”

Public officials should not turn public office into a personal benefit. Those who serve in the Government – from the President to the last person in the office must realize that public resources are not for them alone. Just because one holds the position of a President, Minister, National Assembly Member or Judge should not mean therefore you should enjoy unlimited land allocations, vehicles, and all kinds of allowances for clothing, food, telephone, accommodation, travel, and fuel. Government is to serve the citizens and not just public officials.

Therefore, I call on President Adama Barrow to remember his oath of office and refuse any state land allocation to him. If the land has already been given to him, return it without delay. In that same vein, I wish to commend the UDP leader for raising this issue. The role of the opposition is to hold the Government accountable. Therefore, I urge all political parties to play their accountability function effectively to ensure good governance and justice prevail in the Gambia.

For The Gambia Our Homeland

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Madi Jobarteh

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