Good morning colleagues, welcome to our media briefing after a break. The briefing will now be every two weeks. The purpose was part of the reforms in the Communication Unit at the Office of the President. Allow me to start with an introduction of our new team members: sitting on my right is Nfally Fadera, Senior Communication Officer; Sanna Camara, Media Officer; Samba Bah, News Editor; Zainab Faal, Social Media Assistant; and Junkung Jawneh, Audiovisual Editor.
Monitoring the National Development Plan
President Barrow had sectoral briefing from the various ministries to as part of the monitoring of the role of his office. It was realized that a lot is being done towards aligning the sectoral policies with the National development plan 2018-2021.
The Office of the President and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs has set up a Committee to monitor the implementation of the National Development Plan. Following the International donors Conference for The Gambia, a monitoring committee has been tasked to map out and follow up on the areas covered by the pledges in Brussels. It is noted the President Barrow’s flagship programmes include Energy and Infrastructure, Health, Agriculture, Education and Youth Empowerment and Tourism.
The President is informed about a proposal for the restructuring of the health sector. The Ministry is working with partners for the re-structuring to take into account the capacity building and institutional arrangements needs of the sector.
The President has been briefed about the energy situation. He has been informed that NAWEC’s current capacity is a total 90 Megawatts. The main challenge is the transmission and distribution of electricity. The government is working with the Chinese to modernise the Transmission and Distribution systems.
The President has been updated on the progress of work to transform The Gambia Technical training Institute into a University, and also about the government’s policy, being championed by MOHERST, to focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematic – STEM as a means of empowering the human resource base of the country.
Transport and Works
President Barrow was informed about the Banjul port expansion project with concessionary loan from the Chinese government through China Exim Bank to undertake a feasibility study on the port expansion. He was also briefed a Ministerial Council with the Chinese, which comprised of the Ministry of finance, Energy, Infrastructure and Foreign Affairs in preparation for the – Forum for China Africa Cooperation -FOCAC 2018.
As the rainy season is about to start, President Barrow is being updated on the state of preparedness for the 2018/2019 rainy season. Fertilizer and groundnut seeds are secured and available for farmers in the country.
The President has been informed about an old fertilizer stock that has been allegedly sold by the Ministry of Agriculture. An investigation has been conducted and the report has been submitted to the Ministry of Justice for legal advice. The President awaits the legal advice from the Ministry.
President Barrow has been updated about the cashew trading across the border with Senegal. The Ministry of Trade has met with their counterparts in Senegal to ease the tension for the traders to cross border for re-export trade. The consultation between with Senegal has served to avoid frustrations at the borders.
In a meeting held with the Major Importers of rice and basic commodities, the President called on the importers to make sure that the tax cuts, particularly the 10% reduction on import duties, installed by the government are reflected in the retail prices for the wellbeing of all Gambians.
The tourism industry has seen considerable increased in flights and efforts of marketing The Gambia as a tourist destination in both the traditional European and new markets like Russia. Additionally, destination managers have been posted to strategic destinations such as Saudi Arabia.
Tanene Land Dispute (Seedou Barrow vs a Community of Manjakos)
The Tanene land dispute is resolved permanently according to reports coming from the Ministry of Lands and Regional Government.
It was a land dispute between Seedou Barrow (native of Gunjur) and the community of Tanene in Kombo South. The land dispute escalated to a level where the Vice President had to intervene in a bid to put a permanent and lasting solution.
An Inter-ministerial Committee comprising the following;
Ministry of Interior – to represent the security component
Ministry of Lands and Regional Government – the mandated ministry
Ministry of Fisheries – who early on intervened in the matter by instructing a former Governor of West Coast Region countering an earlier notice given by Ministry of Lands
The Committee met to discuss the issue intensely and unanimously came to a common understanding and agreement that Seedou Barrow is the bonafide owner of the land.
An appeal was therefore made to Seedou Barrow to allow part of the plot (i.e. 20m by 30m) to be continued to be used by the Tanene community as grave yard, and in return, the government would compensate him, accordingly.
Dispute between Golden Lead Company and the Community of Gunjur
The President has been briefed on the Golden Lead issue. He has been informed that a site visit was conducted by a team comprising the National Environment Agency (NEA) and the Ministry of Fisheries to assess the claims by some members of the community of Gunjur that the mangroves and marine lives are threatened.
Initially, it was noted that Golden Lead Company did not have a treatment plant, and that the industrial waste discharge into the mangroves, and subsequently into the ocean, was causing damage to the ecosystem (i.e. mangroves and marine lives).
NEA had taken the company to court but an out court settlement was reached when the company expressed commitment to address the issues that needed redress.
The NEA made sure Golden Lead Company to undertake a scientific test on the waste water and ensure a treatment plant is available. The results of the test indicated that the water was safe for disposal into the ocean. Golden Lead Company then applied for a discharge permit and the application request was granted in April 2018. The Golden Lead Company is now utilizing a technology that treats the waste water from the factory before discharging into the ocean.
The fish mill - Nasim Company Ltd - in Sanyang was given an operational permit in 2016. NEA did an Environment Impact Assesment and realized that the company did not have a treatment plant as agreed. NEA during their routine inspection and realized that the company was operating without a waste treatment plan. Consequently, a Stop Notice was serve to them to stop operating until they have the required technology to continue. Kartong also has a similar problem of a fish mill company operating without adhering to the stipulated regulations.
NEA permits, both Operational and discharge permits, are approved based on fulfilling the EIA recommendations. The reason we are facing these challenges is because the permits were given by the former regime without emphasizing the existing guidelines. Therefore, the Barrow government is trying to correct the wrongs of the former regime.
President Barrow continues to consult with different sectors, including potential investors and government envoys. The consultations are based on improving The Gambia’s diplomatic relations with international partners, advocating for investment, as well as promoting good governance.
President Barrow is preparing for a “Dialogue with the Citizens” tour of the country as mandated by the Constitution.
I now welcome your questions, please identify yourself and the media house your represent.