By Omar Bah
President Adama Barrow has again spoke in defense of the controversial airport fee, collected by Securiport a US-based company, supposedly to provide aviation and immigration security at the Banjul International Airport.
The $20 fee collected at the airport from arriving and departing passengers have caused public outcry and outrage especially after a recent audit report on the awarding of the contract revealed ‘lack of transparency’ on the side of the government.
Confronted with the issue in a much-watched Star TV interview aired Friday night with veteran broadcaster Malik Jones, President Barrow said the decision to award the contract is a government policy designed to address security challenges at the airport, arguing that Gambia has one of the cheapest airport security fees in the sub region.
“Securiport is dealing with security which is part of assessments made at every airport and if an airport security is considered not to meet international standards some flights will not land at that airport. So, the Securiport contract is necessary because they are responsible for collecting data (entirely kept by the Gambia Immigration Department) and that is important,” he added.
Barrow added that Securiport is doing similar things in Senegal, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast and many other countries in the subregion where the fees charged are bigger than “what we charge here.”
However the president disclosed that discussions are underway with relevant stakeholders for the fees to be embedded in the air tickets.
“Hopefully, within three months’ it will be done. We believe that will reduce noise surrounding the $20 fees collected at the airport. But like I said, even in Sierra Leone, they are collecting $25 from passengers at the airport and there has not been that much noise like it is happening here,” he said.