By Yankuba Jallow
“The physical condition of Banjul presents the current dispensation government with an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone and that isby investing in fixing the appalling road, drainage and sewerage conditions of the city and thereby creating employment for the youngpeople,” said Hon. OusmanSillah, National Assembly Member for Banjul North, in his contribution to the adjournment debate on Friday 6 October 2017.
The Banjul North lawmaker said on the issue of Banjul they have already made their case as every National Assembly Member (NAM) as Banjul really needs attention and that every Member of the National Assembly supports that. “Of course, it is not only Banjul that needs fixing as everywhere in the country needs fixing but more so the capital city,” he added.
Hon. Sillah said the issue of Banjul needs real collaboration among different ministries as well as the National Assembly. He said the Minister of Transport, Works and Infrastructure has informed the National Assembly that the government has established a Task Force at the instance of the president of the republic for the reconstruction of the road and drainage system in Banjul and even promised that the NAMs of Banjul would be included in it, although they are yet to be formally invited.
The Banjul North NAM said Banjul is a situation where the ministries of Works, Trade and by extension the Interior can effectively collaborate to address the infrastructure challenges facing the city and create employment opportunities for the young people.
He said with the monies being provided by the European Union (EU) such as the 11 million Euro to the Youth Empowerment Project (YEP) under Trade, the 3.9 million Euro to the Interior said to be earmarked for addressing the issue ofpotential and returning migrants and young people in general as well as funding from other sources can be utilised to address youth unemployment. “The government can start civil works in building the infrastructure of Banjul where young people are not only going to be trained but engaged to earn income as alluded to by the Member for Serekunda that they do not only need training: they need engagement in order to earn income to survive,” said Hon. Sillah.
The Banjul North NAM said the young people can be provided with training courses that can last for 3 months to enable them acquire the relevant skills which they can utilise to earn income for their survival.
Hon. Sillah said Banjul needs proper planning and construction of quality roads, drainage and sewerage system and of which these trained young people could be supported to establish small enterprises that would engaged or contracted to provide these civil works. “They can be provided with equipment to make interlocking slabs for the inner city streets and gutters,” he added.“It will be creating employment and also addressing the appalling infrastructure condition of Banjul and this is what I mean by saying “Killing two birds with one stone,””
He said this is matter that needs immediate attention and that they will be engaging the ministers of these three ministries of works, trade and interior to really synergise their efforts and come up with initiatives that would fix the physical condition of Banjul and address youth employment at the same time.
Taking about reforms, the Banjul North lawmaker said this is an issue he is very passionate about, adding “I’m glad that the Attorney General and Minister of Justice is present.Ofcourse, we know there is good will as you always talk about it and there are efforts that you’ve started but what we really need now is a roadmap.”
Hon. Sillah said this ‘Roadmap’ is needed to keep the people focus and to know the reform agenda of the government. “For us we may have the ideas but we also need to be consulting with our constituents and so if we know that these are the pieces of legislation that are going to be presented before us, we would have done the necessary consultation in order to make meaningful contributions,” he said.
The Banjul North NAM said there is also another important issue concerning the plight of dock and maritime workers which need urgent attention. “These are people who have toiled for this country for so long and they are aging and some have already died while others have physical disabilities as a result of the work they have been doing but they are neglected,” he said.
Hon. Sillah for the past 9 years these dock and maritime workers have not been working or earning income as family heads. He said these people were engaged as independent stevedores in keeping with international standards. “They were working at the ports and their services were engaged on the basis of the vessels that were coming and were being paid in foreign currency,” he noted. He added that the dock workers claimed that they were not paid in foreign currencies but the Dalasi equivalent for the services they render.
“The previous government decidd to terminate their services and absorbed some of them to be part of the Gambia Ports Authority staff. I really want the ministries of trade and works to look into the plight of these maritime and dock workers in order to redress it,” said Hon. Sillah. “I can tell you that the members of their union were more than one hundred but they are now decimated by virtue of abandonment for the past nine years resulting in death, physical disabilities and debilitating illness such as blindness. So this is a real cause for concerning and I would really want these ministries to look into the issue as a matter of urgency.”
On the issue of GRTS, he noted that although coverage is being to the proceedings in the news which is very good but short he would further suggest that a special day, especially in the weekend, should be dedicated for the rebroadcasting of the proceedings of the National Assembly to enable the electorate to know what their representatives are saying or doing on their behalf.
The Banjul North NAM stressed that the issue of NAWEC is also a matter of concern, adding that NAWEC really needs fixing.
“NAWEC is really affecting lives and livelihoods as small businesses are going down because of the lack of electricity; families are finding it difficult because of lack of water. In some neighbourhoods, water comes around 3 am in the morning and by 5 am it is gone. So we need to bring our authority to bear on NAWEC so that they will really provide these essential services which are not free of charge,” he said.
Hon. Sillah said NAWEC is not giving water and electricity to the people free of charge as the consumers are paying for it. “It is an irony that this is a business in which people are paying for he services and yet the services are not being provided.
Speaking earlier on the issue of the absence of cabinet ministers not being present during adjournment debates and which National Assembly members are lamenting about, the Banjul North NAM made a suggestion that for this sitting what the Assembly Service can do is to extract from the Hansard the issues being highlighted by NAMs for onward transmission to the concerned ministers for their consideration and response at a later sitting.
However, the Speaker, Hon. Mariam Jack Denton, welcomed the suggestion but noted that there are challenges with regards to the Hansard as they are experiencing a backlog of which they are requesting for technical assistance to redress.