By Muhammed Sailu Bah
North Bank Region Livestock Chairman Ebrima Bah and a resident of Maka village Ousman Ceesay on Thursday 28 May 2015, appeared before the Lower Nuimi district Tribunal in Essau with a complaint against the Alkalo of Maka Village, Balla Manneh. This case comes just after judgment was delivered in a case involving the alkalo.
The claim of the complainants at the tribunal presided over by Fabakary Nana Sonko, the Chief of Lower Nuimi, is that Balla Manneh pulled down two pillars that were erected by the Village development committee and recommended by the Livestock Association’s chairman. These erected pillars indicate the boundary for pasture for the livestock grazing in that area.
According to the two complainants, 10 pillars were erected and two of them were destroyed. They added that they are sure that they were destroyed by Alkalo Balla Manneh because they were found close to his land.
At that juncture the Tribunal asked the defendant whether he is the one who did it and he responded in the negative. The tribunal then asked Ebrima Bah whether he would like to testify on oath but he declined to do so. But Mr Ousman Ceesay the second complainant agreed to testify on oath when asked.
The Alkalo of Maka, Balla Manneh also agreed to testify on oath.
In his testimony, Ebrima told the Tribunal that he and the Former Chairman of the NBR livestock Association Samba Gibbi together with some villagers including Ousman Ceesay and Mustapha Ceesay a representative of the Chief of Lower Nuimi went to the village of Maka to conduct a survey to demarcate an area to be used for livestock grazing. He added that they met the Alkalo.
He said upon completion of the survey they erected pillars to indicate the boundary of the land but then he was suddenly informed by his representative at Maka that two of the pillars were pulled down by the Alkalo of Maka. He said that this shows that the Alkalo was undermining the decisions made by both the Chief and the livestock committee.
When asked whether the information given to him was true Ebrima answered in the negative. He went on to say that their association is represented by three members in each village, including Maka. He was asked to name those representatives, but he was able to name only one person to the tribunal as Ousman Ceesay. The tribunal members told him that it is very disappointing for him not to be able to name his members with whom he claims to work with.
At this stage, the tribunal asked the defendant Alkalo Manneh to narrate his side of the story. The Alkalo denied bringing down any pillar. He said these people have a personal issue in taking his lands just in the name of creating a pathway for cattle grazing. He told the tribunal that for more than 50 years Maka was having a pathway for cattle grazing which he said is 74 metres wide and the cattle were using that without any problem, but now he said they want to take his lands that he has been using for farming for the past fifteen years.
The Alkalo said he did not pull down any pillar, stressing that “whether I lose my land or not I will not pull down any pillar for historical reasons.”
The tribunal then asked the Alkalo of Maka, “How old are you”? The Alkalo said 63 years.
The Tribunal then asked the Alkalo “When did you have your own land?” The Alkalo said “I had my own land in 1966.” The Tribunal said that is 49 years ago and he concurred.
The Tribunal asked the Alkalo: “Where were you farming since then and what have you done for your village?”
The Alkalo replied: “Where I was farming, there was a time that my village needed land to build a school, I identified a place in my land measuring 250 metres by 400 metres and they built a primary school there. This school is used by all children within that area. Again land was needed to build a health facility I later measured another portion of my own land 200 metres by 100 metres which is 2 hectares for it to be used to build a health facility. I also measured from my own land one hectare to be used as a reserved land for an Arabic school in the future. Then later I went to the land that was given to me by two Chiefs, the Chiefs of Lower Nuimi and Jokadu in the year 2000. I started to farm on the land until now that Ousman Ceesay, a native of Maka village and Ebrima Bah Chairman of the North Bank Region Livestock Association said they will take my land for Pastoral Farming which they called LAPOL.
The Alkalo asked Ebrima Bah: “You are now an old man, if you are given a farm that has been used by people for so many years, shouldn’t you ask for the location of the pastoral land used for grazing by the livestock? Ebrima Bah kept silent.
The Alkalo told the court that for 11 years he was using the farm for rotational farming, cultivating groundnuts one year, millet on another and so on. The Alkalo then asked Ebrima Bah whether he asked where the livestock were grazing for the past 11 years but the question was not answered.
The Alkalo further said that the Livestock were using other lands for grazing and pathway. The Alkalo added that some years ago two of Ousman Ceesay’s Uncles Alh Ebrima Camara and Alhassan Joof cleared land which was designated by the committee as reserved land for livestock grazing, but when the Members of the Tribunal came for a survey on the farms, all of them refused to go and check the land that was cleared for the animals to use as a pathway because of their intention of wanting to seize my land with their powers for no reason.
The Alkalo told the tribunal that “If you can remember that whatever land I had, I gave all to my villagers for developmental purposes, and this is the only land I am left with for me and my family to farm on and have a better livelihood.”
The court tasked Ebrima to go and confirm whether the pillars are pulled down or not. The Tribunal as well said it will send a task force to confirm whether the pillars are pulled down or not.
At that juncture the tribunal asked both the complainants and defendant to bring all their witnesses in the next proceedings. The tribunal was adjourned till 4 June 2015.