5 December 2012

Gambia: Workshops Demolished At Bund Road, Banjul

The workshops situated at the bund road in Banjul between Muslim high School and the navy headquarters were demolished yesterday by the Police Intervention Unit.

This demolition exercise, according to the eyewitnesses, started in the afternoon on Tuesday by the police intervention unit (PIU's) accompanied by the Banjul City Council officials.

This reporter visited the demolition site where he met officials of the council, the PIU officials and the Bulldozers demolishing the structures which is said to be welding workshops.

A security staff of the council who prefers not to be named told me "we are sent by the council to demolish these buildings." He added that they were told that the place is needed by the state and later referred the reporter to the spokesperson of the council for explanation.

On the ground, the welding workshop owners found there who were apparently shocked by the destruction expressed their dissatisfaction to the council for the prompt manner in which they carried out the demolition of their workshops with only 24 hours notice.

Among the workshop owners spoken to were one Momodou Mustapha Njie. Mr. Njie said they have received a notice from the council that they should leave the area within 24 hours without allocating a place for them to go and do their business. "This land was given to my forefathers as my father explained to me. It was a swampy area and we used our human labour to fill it up to this stage and construct buildings for our workshops". He further said: " we are not against the demolition since they said the land is needed by the state but they should notice us in advance and they should also allocate a place for us because here is where we earn our living".

Mr. Njie said he was a lecturer at the Gambia technical training institute (GTTI) for the past 20 years and established the welding workshop to train Gambian youths to create employment and to reduce unemployment rate. Mr. Njie was explaining this history at a time when a bulldozer was being utilised to demolish his workshop and was almost in tears. He said he has over 30 staff that are all family men and at this juncture are all wondering where to get work. He finally said "am already having contracts and one of them is Muslim High School to produce tables and benches". He said they are finally appealing to the president to find a solution because they asked them to leave when there is no place relocated for them to do their work.

Tamsir Njie, a workshop owner also raised his concerns that they are really disatisfied with the way the officials demolished their buildings without due notice, because 24 hours notice he said is not enough to move out. He said he was wondering where they would go to to complete their contracts; that they have already spent part of the contract money. He added that the number of workshops demolished were employing over 200 staff and apprentices. This means he said that all those people will be left without job and their families are at home.

However efforts were made to hear the version of the Banjul city council but proved fruitless. This reporter will consult the Council to hear their own side of the issue.

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