The National Assembly Standing Committee on Defense and Security led by the chairman Seedy Njie continues for the second day as they tour security institutions and installations nationwide. Day 2 of the tour took them to Faraja barracks, the Anti-crime unit, the Police intervention Unit and Yundum.
Committee members first visited the Fajara barracks where they were received by the commander of the camp who welcome them to the conference room. The Chairman of the Committee informed officials of the camp of the purpose of their visit as part of their oversight functions and engagement with authorities in other to have first-hand information on the status of the camp, the challenges and recommendations.
The first stop was Fajara came where the commander of the Camp gave a summary of the barracks which is the oldest military establishment in the country. He said the barracks served as a training depot and barracks for the West African frontier force and delta chain in the 1990s. It was named the Gambia field force in 1965 after independence. It was again renamed the 3rd infantry battalion of the Gambia National Army after the military takeover in 1994.
As the only military training centre, Officials decried the lack of funding (budget) of the camp and the shortage of well-equipt facilities and equipment for the training of the soldiers.
Commander Manneh informed the committee that The Gambia Armed Forces Training School is the sole and only training establishment in this country as far as defence systems approach training in the Gambia as the Armed Forces are concerned. Manneh also indicates that they have challenges with budget allocation, the welfare of the soldiers, and their daily meals. What has been their budget since 1994 is what is being maintained still while conditions and situations have changed.
He raised the issue of firewood as their source of energy for cooking and had to travel miles to Foni which consumes 80 litres of fuel to get it. He also talked about peacekeeping, saying it is an avenue where soldiers upgrade their salary base which otherwise could not afford them housing. Peacekeeping, therefore, is complementary to the salary scale. For a country to qualify, there are UN standards with regard to facility and equipment which must be acquired and as of now, we do not have them.
“The term and Conditions of the soldiers aren’t in line with the reality of the present situation of the army and it needs amendment,” Manneh highlights.
He stressed the need to improve the condition of buildings in the camps, saying it was built long before they were born and structures are dilapidated forcing soldiers to resort to renting which they cannot afford to continue doing due to high rental charges.
Next in line was the Drug Law Enforcement. The Director General of the drug law enforcement agency points out accommodation as a challenge since their headquarters is in the midst of civilians who see them as enemies and was nearly burnt down during the impasse. Mobility was also another challenge highlighted. The Director General ask for an increase in budgetary allocation to recruit more staff as the use of drugs and trafficking is on the rise.
“Our budget is 12 million of which 8 million goes to Salaries and 4 million to fuel with 52 vehicles and motorcycles,” he said.
He asked the committee to help with the staff motivation as the fight against drugs is too risky, adding that the last recruitment was in 2017 and new recruitment is coming soon but to achieve that the budget allocation needs to be adjusted.
At the Police Intervention Unit (PIU)
Almamy Gibba steps in for the Chairman indicating that the visit is in line with the 1997 Constitution as an oversight function to have clear information about the activity, status and condition of the institution to address the issue in the budget allocation since Parliament approves the Budget.
Commissioner Batch Jallow welcomes the committee at the institution and indicates that the PIU is the department of the protection of the country and the PIU officers are found in almost all the institutions in the country. Examples of these are:
State House, ordeals to the Judges, Ministers and other engagements. He also indicates that they do provide intervention in any situation of reinforcement such as the prison department, VIP guards, and Cash escorts. Due to this workload, they are handicapped within the camp.
The budget was also underlined as an issue which he says is D100,000 for the entire PIU. Mobility is also a challenge.
“When the streets are not secure the homes can be secured,” he said.
He told the committee members that they didn’t have arms and ammunition and revealed that the arms they are using are borrowed from the Army. He warned that a lack of equipment can be a security threat.
Commissioner Jallow said security forces have to be equipped because they have to be prepared when Ecomig forces depart. He reminds committee members of the issue of demonstrations ranging from the three years Jotna, to five years, and other demonstrations. He said there were no civilian casualties except injuries sustained.
Babou Jeng said training officers have always been a challenge. Training is usually held under trees. He explained that officers are supplied with one pair of uniforms, D150 as house rent, D1,500 transport fares and D500 dalasis allowance for the instructors.
“Almost all recruited officers provide themselves with pair of shoes and only one uniform is given by authorities”.
In the Anti-crime department, the officials inform the committee that, the institution is established to reduce crime because after the change in 2016 people started to abuse democracy. The commander said they patrol in three different shifts; Morning, Night and criminal hideouts. He said the general public also gives information about crime within their areas. He also informed committee members that a medical certificate is a challenge as they are being asked to pay for it.
The committee toured the cells where they find two minors detained with an adult. When asked why officials revealed there is only one cell for detention. The Committee proceeded to the store where they keep the exhibit and we found a motorcycle, television, Gasoil gallons, motor battery, cutlasses etc.
At Kartong, Darsilimeh, Kafuta Camp almost the challenges are the same ranging from lack of proper camp, poor accommodation, no lighting system, low fuel of 300 litres for the whole month, the low salary of 6,000 without any allowance, lack of medication, no retirement package, lack of proper toilet facilities, camp not fenced and lack of vehicles for patrol of the border.
Kartong and Darsilameh complained invasion of the Senegal military the without due regard to the protocols.
“They’ll enter the county with arms without any information or communication, which is against the protocols, if such is not addressed it can lead to conflict,”.
When the committee inquired about the issue of weapons, the capital said after the political impasse their weapons are all taken from them leaving them almost empty hands.
“We are blind men with a stick to move, we must be served with the necessary tools to do the needful”
They asked the Government to work to identify the border to determine which part is the Gambia-Senegal.
The fire stations of Serekunda and Brikama are in a bad condition of lack of vehicles, logistics issues, and accommodations to poor structure and low salary structures.
On his part, the committee Chairman and members assured officials of all the visited areas of the Committee’s readiness to address the issues raised and promise to look for a lasting solution. The tour of the defence and security Committee National Assembly will continue to all the security installations in the provincial Gambia starting from Barra on Monday.