By Awa B. Bah
Deputies at the National Assembly on Monday September 10th 2018, engaged the Minister of Agriculture, on the large stock of fertilizer stored at Mansa Konko Area Council. Members made the called during the sitting on questions and oral answers for which due notice was given, during the Third Ordinary Session of the National Assembly, in the 2018 Legislative year.
Deputies took turns to express their disappointment and dissatisfaction on the manner the fertilizer was handled by the Ministry for many years now, posing a serious health hazard to both animals and people in the area.
Fabakary Colley, the Member for Kiang West demanded answers from the Minister of Agriculture on how soon those responsible, will remove the said fertilizer. The Minister in his response, said he learned about the stock of expired fertilizer through the correspondence he was responding to; that he sent a request to the National Environment Agency (NEA), the authorized institution responsible for hazardous substances on the environment, to assess and advise them on the safe disposal of the expired stock.
Halifa Sallah the Member for Serrekunda in a supplementary question to the Minister asked him to confirm that what is in the store, is not fertilizer but toxic waste. The Minister in his response said the information about storage was for fertilizer and not toxic waste; that he is sure it is fertilizer that is stored at the place. On why the fertilizer was stored for years while farmers demand for it, the Minister said he was not in a position to know the reason for its storage as toxic waste; that he has set an investigation on the issue on who stored the fertilizer and why up to this time and promised to update NAMs on the issues, when available. NAMs challenged the Minister to engage himself personally and that of the expertise of the NEA and MoA; that the issue of the toxic fertilizer has been raised many times by NAMs and yet nothing is done about it. They demanded that the Minister tell them when the said toxic waste will be evacuated and where it will be disposed.
In her intervention, the member for Banjul South Fatoumata Njie, put it to the Minister that since he assumed office, he could have engage those responsible putting into consideration the role Agriculture plays in the Gambia; that before getting busy travelling, he could have thought of how to uplift the sector under review. She recalled his concluded tour and made reference to it as a good moment to engage those responsible. She however expressed her disappointment with the Minister and call on him to act now.
According to Minister Dibba, Agriculture is a specialized is institution with specialized techniques; that the issue of fertilizer, falls under the domain of the NEA unless it is otherwise indicated that it is their responsibility. He expressed his dissatisfaction in the manner the issue was handled by those responsible before him. This issue of toxic waste he said, came to his notice few days ago and assured NAMs that something will be tabled during the course of the week.
The Minister apologized for their disappointment towards his Ministry and said he is not pleased in disappointing people during the execution of his national duties. Further defending his plea, he said he was appointed two days later as Minister of Agriculture and engaged himself on a countrywide tour, to familiarize himself with other sectors of his new Ministry; that during the tour, he met with various directors, and senior officers in the provinces, to get first-hand information on what is on the ground. Minister Dibba said during his engagement with the President on his tour to meet farmers, he received information on the situation of Ministry, on the ground; that upon his return with the President from his tour, he travelled to Mecca, to perform the Hajj; that before he left for Mecca, he was confident of the ground work going on at the Ministry and said he was monitoring on what was happening, whilst in Mecca. He solicits the cooperation of Members and said the rainfall pattern.