Gambia: Lands Minister Quizzed On Land Leasing

Land and land related issues was central at the sitting of the second day of the Fifth Ordinary Session of the 2019 Legislative year on Tuesday June 11th, when deputies at the National Assembly called on the Minister for Local Government, Lands and Regional Government Muse Drammeh, to explain the processes of leasing land and related issues in the country. Members made these demands from the Minister during the question and answer session.

The Minister in his response said to lease a landed property depends on whether the property is situated in state lands or in regional areas. He said lease processing of a landed property starts after the applicant submits processed lease form along with a complete certificate of occupancy, to the department of Lands and Surveys; that a file is opened to this effect by the DLS for an applicant and sent to the department of physical planning and housing for planning advice.

According to the Minister, the letter is sent to the Ministry for approval of grant for lease or otherwise, to the applicant. The Minister said if approval is granted, the DLS notifies an applicant to pay the required fees for the lease process, surveying of the property, preparation of lease plans and documentation. Drammeh said applicants pay stamp duty at the GRA and finally register the lease at the Ministry of Justice upon completion of the process.

He however said that in order to lease land in regional areas, an applicant should contact any Regional Governor's office to obtain forms and apply; that District Authority members are the authorized persons to authenticate ownership of applicant's land; that an applicant in the Regions should also obtain a planning report from the department of physical planning and housing and that an applicant's application for lease is sent from the Governor's office to the Ministry of Lands for approval or otherwise. Drammeh said after this process, lease documents and plans are sent to district authorities for signatures of approval after which the Governor's office would make a request for DLS to prepare lease plans and documents pending the Minister's signature.

On matters related to the regulation of the activities of housing agencies in the country as some encroach on state as well as individual lands, Minister Drammeh responded that his Ministry is cognizant of the impact on land and land owners since the emergence of real estate companies, in the absence of an existing piece of legislation to regulate the activities of real estate agents; that notwithstanding this, they have been working closely with real estate companies with the objective to regulate their activities; that real estate companies have been encouraged to form a body that will deal directly with the state in the development of a regulatory framework as a primary stakeholder. He informed the Assembly that the body has been instituted and currently collaborations are underway.

On the Lands Commission, Minister Drammeh disclosed that this has been constituted and the Chairperson and members sworn in. He said the Commission has since started operations and held its inaugural meeting on the 24th September 2018.

On rent control and its enforcement, the Minister said this portfolio has been transferred to the Judiciary. This he said is because of his Ministry's lack of mandate to enforce rent control.

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