By Yankuba Jallow
The Gambia’s National Assembly on Tuesday, 20th March 2018, commenced the adjournment debate for the First Ordinary Session of the 2018 Legislative Year.
The motion was moved on Monday by the Member for Niamina Dankunku Samba Jallow, who doubles as the Minority leader in the assembly.
The Member for Upper Saloum Alagie Mbow, said his constituency has never benefitted from electricity supply since independence; that they are tax payers like those in towns and villages in the urban settlements and deserve electricity supply as well; that the roads that led to their rice fields are deplorable adding that if there are good roads, the people of the area can produce more to feed themselves and sell the surplus. Mbow suggested for the Assembly to change or revisit some of the country’s Laws citing the Central Bank of the Gambia and the GNPC Acts, where the issue of Board of Directors is not properly spelt out.
For his part, the member for Jokadou Salif Jawo, said since independence, no single village has benefitted from electricity in his area with poles erected everywhere; that the past rainy season saw poor yields for farmers and Government is not buying the meagre farm produce harvested by ‘our’ farmers. He said this has forced farmers to sell their produce in Senegal because Government is not paying them cash, but instead give them promissory notes. He calls on Government to construct good roads that will make it easyfor the people of the area to access the trans-Gambia route; that all the villages of his Constituency are far from the Trans-Gambia highway. He said youth should be motivated by creating the favourable environment for them to stay and that returnees should be reintegrated in the societies.
Muhammed Ndow, the Member for Banjul Central said the prices of basic commodities are high and Ramadan is just around the corner; that it is during this month that prices of the basic commodities increase. He called on the Ministry of Trade to take the necessary steps to tackle the challenges so that prices will remain stable and affordable to the masses during the holy month of fasting. On the issue of National Security, Ndow said the country’s security is questionable; that murder and armed robbery has become the order of the day; that people feel unsafe to go to certain places with the fear of being attacked by armed or unarmed bandits; that the people of Banjul will never vote for any Government that does not have the development of the City at heart. Mbow said the development of the City should have passed this stage and calls on Government to redirect its focus towards developing the City of Banjul.
Fatoumatta Njai, the Member for Banjul South said she is scared and terrified in the way and manner Government handles the issue of identity documents by giving the contract to a foreign Company. She cited a provision of the GPPA Act on how to deal with contracts where one of the bidders is a foreign Company; that in such scenario, the contract should be given to the local Company. Njai said Simlex is a foreign Company and has not tendered their bid whilst Preston is a local one and has tendered bid documents. She raised the issue on how Government procured the contract and gave it to Simlex and called on the Ministry of Justice to revisit the contract, since Simlex’s issues are all over the media. On the issue of the office of the first lady, Njai decried that it is unconstitutional and unlawful to establish such an office; that the Constitution of the Gambia does not provide for the office of first lady (the wife of the president); that any payment she receives is unlawful. Njai suggested that appointment of cabinet Ministers should be brought to the National Assembly for scrutiny so that their qualifications and other matters can be ascertained; that if the President appoints members of the cabinet, then they will be answerable to him or her and will remain loyal to the president.
The Member for Foni Jarrol Alagie Sankung Jammeh, asked who a dictator is and who can be regarded as a dictator. He made mention of this statement contrary to the allegation levied against the former President by some Members of the National Assembly; that one cannot make everything right in one day and no one can deny the successes made by the Government of the second republic. He cited some of the success stories brought by the former regime including electricity supply that the first republic could not do in thirty years; that today one can wake up in the hinterland and reach the Kombos without delay, due to the good road network that the former Government constructed. Jammeh asked the Minister of Justice what he is doing with the investigation that led to the death of Haruna Jatta of Kanilai; that Jatta (the decease) has left a family and relatives behind who are concern about the outcome of the investigation; that the family wants to see justice as the final outcome in Mr. Jatta’s case.
He said Government is seizing tractors from poor Gambian farmers and placing them at police stations; that this cannot yield any benefit to either Government or farmers.
Kebba Jallow the Member for Jarra Central said his Constituency has no meaningful water and electricity supply as well as Hospital; that the only hospital available is in Jarra Soma.
The Member for Niamina West, Demba Sowe was heaping praises on Government and referencing his points on the issue of freedom of speech. He however said his Constituency lacks electricity, a good road network, no hospital medical personnel to attend to patients and difficulty to access farmlands.
The Member for Nianija Amadou Camara, said his Constituency lacks good roads and access to rice fields; that the only health center is at Kuntaur which is a referral center without a Doctor, forcing patients to go to Bansang Hospital, which is far.