Ex-Principal Lands and Evaluation Officer Opens Defence

By Mamadou Dem

Hamidou Jallow, former Principal Lands and Evaluation Officer at the Ministry of Local Government and Lands and Waa Juwarasecond accused person in the ongoing criminal trial involving Lamin Waa Juwara and Tamsir Onsis Konteh, yesterday testified before Principal Magistrate Momodou Jallow as the second defence witness (DW2).

During his testimony, Mr. Jallow told the court that he is currently unemployed but he used to work for the Department of Lands and Surveys at the Ministry of Local Government and Lands.

“I have been working there for almost 20 years,” he disclosed.

According to him, he started at the said department in 1985 as a Training Survey Assistant and in 1988 he was redeployed at the Departments of Lands and Survey, adding that there were two departments then.

He said he started in this department as Lands and Survey Technician and rose through the ranks up to the position of Principal Lands and Evaluation Officer.

Dw1 narrated that this position includes evaluation of properties of all local government authorities in The Gambia, processing applications of lands, assignments, mortgages and all other assignments given to him by the director of lands.

“In a nutshell, I was the valuator for the government,” said the witness.

He continued: “During my time as Principal Lands and Evaluation Officer, I also acted as the Director of Lands when the Director is on leave or out of the jurisdiction. I also stepped in for the deputy Permanent Secretary of Lands at the Ministry of Lands for 3 months when he was on leave in 2011.”

Further dwelling on the administration of land, Mr. Jallow testified to the court that lands are administered by four main institutions, namely, alkaloship, chieftaincy, local government authorities and the state. He said alkalos play a very pivotal role in the administration of land because he/she determines title of all customary lands.

He added that all other institutions relied on the determination of title for all customary lands. “When the alkalo endorsed any land document pertaining to customary land, the chief and the local government authority have to endorse that document based on the alkalo’s endorsement.

The state’s ministry of loca forl government and lands, he said, has two line departments i.e. Lands and Survey, Physical Planning and Housing and that there mandate is mainly to administer land. “These two departments serve as the arm of the ministry in terms of inputs and technical advice,” he said.

At this juncture, the matter was adjourned to the 23rd and 24 June for continuation.

Readers would recall that the erstwhile lands minister, Lamin Waa Juwara, is standing trial for alleged ‘Neglect of Official Duty’ while Mr. Konteh is charged with ‘Making False Documents’, ‘Uttering False Documents’ and ‘Obtaining goods by false pretence’.  Mr. Hamidou Jallow is charged with ‘Abuse of Office’, ‘Disobedience of statutory’ and ‘Disobedience of lawful orders’.

The trio has denied any wrong doing.