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Bafoussam Councils Clash Over Land 

By Lindsay Agbor

Part of plot under dispute

Part of plot under dispute

Bafoussam City Council and Bafoussam 1 Council are at daggers drawn over a piece of land.

On July 19, 2016, Bafoussam 1 Council laid a foundation stone for a “befitting building” on a piece of land situated adjacent to the Bafoussam grandstand, Tamdja. The land was previously used as a parking lot or as an extension of the small grandstand during public events.

On Tuesday, July 19, Dr. Jules Hilaire Focka Focka, Mayor of Bafoussam 1 Council, announced during a press briefing the construction of a council house on a piece of land bought at FCFA 120 million.

According to the Mayor, the building was going to consist of a block of three buildings; one to house the offices of the executive and related services, a second for technical services and one for a restaurant, at a total cost of FCFA 470.

He said FCFA 20 million was allocated to monitoring and that the project is funded by FEICOM. But on August 11, some agents of the Technical Service of Bafoussam City Council stormed the site and marked ‘X’ in red paint at several locations on support walls and entrances.

The Technical Service staff wrote on some walls, ‘To demolish before 72 H’, being an injunction from the Government Delegate to the Bafoussam City Council, ordering the contractor to stop work and demolish what was done so far, yet worked continued.

According to some reports, the said land sold to the Bafoussam 1 Council by former Bamendjou MP in the Haut Plateaux Division, Gabriel Chendjou, and current CPDM Section President, has registration problems due to non-development in time of the said land.

Meantime, it was noticed from the map of the area that Bafoussam 1 Council has occupied an area that does not include the supposed land bought from the MP, given that construction work has taken the whole area and even borders with the grandstand.

Since the conflict began, the population has been divided into camps, especially among CPDM militants with supporters of each party ready to show proof of their party’s right to whatever action.

While others castigate the Government Delegate, who, according to them, has no legitimacy before the population to stop an elected official from undertaking ‘a commendable work’ for the community, others have blamed the Mayor.

One of them said the Mayor deliberately bought a long-time problematic land in order to defy authorities.

They argue that it would have been good for the Mayor to accept the site allocated for them at Kouekong so that a new town can be created in order to decongest the present Bafoussam City, a proposal the Mayor allegedly refused.

The First Deputy Mayor to Bafoussam Council, Hypollite Tchoutezo, said their problem with the appointed officials stemmed from their refusal to contribute financially to public events.

He said since the Mayor refused to contribute to all official ceremonies, they have been blacklisted as a council that likes problems.
Genesis

A source involved in the land dispute said that in 1992, a certain Hon. Chedjou Gabriel, former MP for Bamendjou, and a former Divisional Delegate of Urban Development and Housing, applied for a piece of land near the grandstand.

The source said the then SDO allocated the land to Hon. Chedjou and in the letter of allocation, stated that he had three years to construct a building on that piece of land and, if he didn’t, the piece of land would be withdrawn from him. By 1998, Hon.

Chedjou had not yet constructed on the said piece of land. In 2001, he requested for authorisation to build on the land, but the Government Delegate to the then Bafoussam Urban Council, Mbou Samuel, turned down the request in a correspondent on February 27 2001, a copy of which The Post has.

Chedjou’s request was turned down because of “out-to-date planning certificate, lack of certificate of alignment and inappropriate project for the zone in view of the regional planning and development program of the city of Bafoussam.”

Other reasons later stated Chedjou’s file for the permit to build was incomplete, that they had to use that piece of land for the extension of the grandstand when the time comes, and also because the land was marshy.

Chedjou received the same refusal from the same authority when he reapplied for authorisation to build in 2003, 2005 and 2008. However, this time around in his letter, the Government Delegate attached, according to our source, a note from the then Minister of Urban Development and Housing, which has declared the whole site as of public utility amongst 10 other sites in the city, in an Arête No. 000689/Y.14.4/MINDAF/D410 DU 25 JUIN 2008.

Reportedly, when Emmanuel Nzete took over as the Government Delegate to the Bafoussam City Council in 2011, Chedjou applied for authorisation once more, but Nzete also refused. In 2015, Nzete once again turned down Chedjou’s application. He reportedly advised the MP to negotiate with the City Council.

Seemingly realising that he would never be authorised to build on that piece of land, Chedjou is said to have sold the land to someone else – Mayor Jules Hillaire Focka Focka. The Mayor reportedly failed to produce relevant documents when he declared his intention to begin construction on the said piece of land.

At a meeting convened on August 8, 2016, where the two parties were present including the Regional Chief for FEICOM and the contractor, Governor Awa Fonka Augustine asked the Mayor to stop construction work and go to the site allocated at Kouekong.

Meanwhile, the BCC had to repay the cost of purchasing the disputed land and to compensate the contractor for the work done so far.

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