By Alagie Manneh
The Government of The Gambia has been told to stop its ‘cloudy and opaque’ oil deal negotiations and allow transparency.
Commentator and economic analyst Nyang Njie admonished that the Barrow administration would be foolish to think that Gambians don’t have their “eyes and ears” on the deal, telling them, “we are very much so interested in this oil”.
The Gambia is endowed with oil and the government is said to have already approved an assignment by FAR Gambia Ltd of a 40% interest in petroleum licences for offshore Blocks A2 and A5 to a subsidiary of Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas), FAR said in a press release recently.
Speaking to The Standard yesterday, Mr Njie said it beguiles him why government chooses to remain tightlipped on such an important issue.
“We want a quick Freedom of Information Act so that we know who negotiates on our behalf, what they’re negotiating, and how much the people are having,” Njie said.
He said the oil is the nation’s natural endowment and as such, “people have a right to it and a right to know.”
He went on: “FAR Oil and Petronas have put up a press statement that they are negotiating with government, but the government never came to you and I, the principal owners of that oil, to tell us they were in negotiation with these two companies. That is scary. I think that should be a thing of the past. “
He said the government will do well to follow best practices of companies they are working with.
“If those people can come out and put up a statement, what is stopping the government to tell me this is what they have done?” he queried.
“They either do it right, or they do it wrong. These are long-term agreements and if subsequent generations of Gambians are to benefit out of this, we should get the best deals possible. To get the best deals, we should open up the process, allow transparency and sometimes public review. Let them not think Gambians don’t have their eyes and ears on this oil. We are watching.”
The activist also reminded Barrow’s government to be wary of people power, saying if people are not getting what they expect, they use the power vested in them to make changes. “The Gambia is endowed with oil, we want transparency in the negotiations and transactions.”