Sheriff Baldeh, a Gambian representative of a Russian business conglomerate, has refuted claims by Mamma Kandeh, leader of the opposition Gambia Democratic Congress that the much-talked about Banjul-Barra Bridge project recently hinted by President Barrow, was initiated by the Jammeh administration.
Mr Kandeh’s assertions made during a rally in Foni, were illustrated by the publication of a supposed MoU between The Gambia and a foreign contractor signed in 2013 for the construction of the bridge.
However Sheriff Baldeh, who walked into the offices of The Standard armed with sheaf documents to back his claim, said what Kandeh did not know that he [Baldeh] was the very first person who approached the Jammeh regime through the former Works minister, Njogou Bah, on behalf of his partner investors about the Banjul-Barra bridge.
“In fact that meeting we had in September 2011 morning, was about a railway project but somehow I broached the idea of a bridge project over the Banjul Barra stretch informing them about my investor partners who were willing to carry it out. The matter was not pursued again but when Njogou Bah became Minister of Presidential Affairs there was another meeting about it,” Mr Baldeh said.
He further explained that shortly after that meeting, “some people with diplomatic passports” overlooked him and without his knowledge flew to Russia attempting to engage his partner investors on the project.
“My partners told them they should first contact me before anything and subsequently another meeting was arranged where they told me to invite my investors to come and talk with the relevant ministries about the project. My investor partners were not impressed because for such a huge investment they felt they should talk to the president himself and not anyone junior. That was the last time anything was talked about the project,” Baldeh said.
He added that the very likely scenario is that someone may have fooled Jammeh that they could get other investors to do the project and that’s what might have led to the MoU shown online.
“I was the first person to come up with an idea of a Banjul-Barra bridge and the idea was hijacked from me by Jammeh and his officials. I have all documents pertaining to this issue,” Baldeh said.
He also said he was inspired by his friend Lie Senghore, a marine captain who told him about how they suffer navigating through tough tides from Banjul to Barra. “That was when I told my partners whether a bridge could be built here and they said it is possible and they can build it in 12 months using a design that will not affect container ship traffic. That was way back in 2011. I am not sure where President Barrow got investors from but the idea did not surely come from the Jammeh regime. Rather they stole it from me and attempted to go behind my back to convince my investor partners which failed,” Mr Baldeh claimed.