Hon. Ousman Sillah

Foroyaa has been bringing statements of Deputies at the recent adjournment debate in the just concluded sitting of the first Legislative session in the 2019 year. Yesterday, we dealt with the speech of Suwaibou Touray the Member for Wuli East Constituency. In today’s edition, we bring you the speech of Ousman Sillah, the Member for Banjul North Constituency.

“Immediately before this sitting, I had a constituency consultation with the electorate that has given me the mandate to represent the country at this level and during which so many issues were raised. I will be dedicating the best part of my contribution to this debate on the issues raised by the electorate of Banjul North and first among which are the roads, drains and sewerage,” said Ousman Sillah, National Assembly Member (NAM) for Banjul North, in his contribution to the debate on the adjournment on Tuesday, 2 April, 2019.

The Banjul North NAM started by welcoming the announcement of the launch of the project for the construction of the roads, drainage and sewerage system in Banjul. He noted that this Banjul project is said to be in the tune of US$35 million and that its implementation will be done on a pre-financing basis. He added that there are issues being raised by the residents, particularly of Banjul North constituency and which he would want the Minister of Works to throw more light on them.

“To that effect, I’ve even presented some questions requesting for oral answers and was expecting that they were going to come before this Assembly during this first ordinary session but unfortunately are not tabled,” he said.

He added that notwithstanding this he would want the minister to tell them the source of the financing, the number of streets to be covered and the duration of the project implementation.

Mr. Sillah said the rainy season is looming or fast approaching and that the residents are concerned about the present state of some of the streets which are already excavated to commence construction work. He said the Ministry of Works, Transport and Infrastructure and National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) need to intervene to mitigate any potential disaster such as flooding.

The Banjul North NAM said his constituents have also raised concern about the price increase in basic food commodities, especially during the month of Ramadan and would want the government to do something about it to pre-empt or prevent any hikes.

“For them they are talking about the Ramadan but as you know we are already in a fasting period as our Christian brothers and sisters are on Lent and that price reduction should have started now,” noted the Banjul North NAM.

However, the Banjul North lawmaker emphasised that the durable solution to this perennial price increases of imported food commodities is for Gambia to start investing more in agriculture to produce the food the people consume.

“Government must really make efforts in ensuring that Gambia begins to consume what it produces. It has been a slogan in the recent past but we really need to be serious about it not just for talking or propaganda sake,” stressed Mr. Sillah.

He said the investments should be made in the productive sectors in order to support the womenfolk and youth of the country and to take advantage and utilise the vast potentials offered by the natural resources such as the abundant water, fertile soil and the human resource.

On the issue of the scarcity and high cost of cement that was raised at the Assembly, Mr. Sillah called on the government to consider alternative methods of construction that would require less cement since the product is imported.

“Gambia is blessed as we have clay. Why don’t we introduce methods of building that would require less cement? We need cement of course in construction and here the ministry of youth and sports can come in. How can we invest in having machines that would be producing firebricks? Young people can be engaged as we are talking about youth unemployment,” said the Banjul North NAM.

He added that clay bricks houses require less cement and are more conducive to the humid weather conditions in the Gambia as the houses built from it are cooler inside than cement bricks.

On the issue of the exorbitant house rent charges, the Banjul North NAM said they have long been decrying and clamouring about it at the Assembly, but nothing is done yet to address it.

Mr. Sillah said they have been crying about in the chamber that rent is really ‘killing’ workers and a mechanism has to be in place to regulate it, adding that government has to come up with a system that would peg rent to the income of workers. He said some landowners have long realised their investments in the buildings they rent out to tenants but still continue to increase the house rents.

The Banjul North NAM called on the Assembly to task the relevant Select Committee to engage the appropriate ministry to address this issue of high rents.

“We have a problem with housing. I have asked a parliamentary question before concerning some spaces in Banjul. Banjul should not be left to die. But people are migrating and leaving for various reasons such as space, the unhygienic environment due to poor sanitary conditions, leakages from the sewage and the stench, issues with family compounds of multiple ownership ending up being disposed off ….” said Mr. Sillah.

He said some people have such emotional attachments to Banjul and would have loved to continue living in the city but could not do so due to these explained reasons. He said the Ministry of Regional Government and Lands could enter into an agreement with the ministries of Interior, Health and Tourism to allow Banjul City Council to transform the open spaces of former Old Lines, former Campama Psychiatric Hospital and former Old Atlantic said to be owned by the respective ministries into low cost housing complexes and premium apartments.

Responding to the questions raised by the Banjul North NAM, Hon. Bai Lamin Jobe, Minister of Works and Infrastructure said there is no money available for the implementation of the Banjul infrastructure construction project. He said what they have done is to develop an elaborate plan which is fully costed and are therefore inviting contractors to tender for the pre-financing of the construction of some components of the project, adding that so far it is only one contractor who has agreed to pre-finance the construction of some roads.

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