By Omar Bah
The Gambia Democratic Congress Farafenni Ward councilor, Papa Tunkara has accused NPP political operatives of “secretly” registering residents with the promise to secure them national identity cards free of charge.
Pictures of people queuing to register were circulating on social media throughout yesterday.
Councilor Tunkara told The Standard that Amadou Tijan Jallow and Tijan Sey, both supporters of National People’s Party, were going from house to house under the command of oneWassa Sowe collecting people’s personal data with the promise of getting them ID Cards.
Tunkara said he cannot understand why Mr Sowe was doing that without consulting the governor, alkalo, councilor or the immigration officials in Farafenni.
He further alleged during his findings, he uncovered that Amadou Tijan Jallow and Tijan Sey were secretly registering people on behalf of President Adama Barrow.
Tunkara said the two men used the data to convince the president that the people in the area are behind him.
“They have also promised the registered residents that they would secure them ID Cards for free. I conducted my own investigations and there are pictures available to ascertain my claims,” he alleged.
“I have reported the matter to the SIS and the Immigration in Farafenni is also aware,” he added.
He said he was accompanied to Wassa Sowe’s house by an immigration officer and few others.
Tunkara said he is speaking out because he wants an end to such illegal practice.
With the 2021 presidential election just around the corner, Gambians are lining up to secure identity cards ahead of the voter registration but for one to have an ID Card you must produce a birth certificate, or an attestation from an alkalo.
When contacted to react to the allegations against him, Wassa Sowe said contrary to claims made by Councilor Tunkara, he is running a philanthropic initiative to help poor and under-privileged Gambians secure ID Cards for free.
“When Mr Tunkara approached me about the issue, I told him the initiative was going to help him as a politician and not me because I am not a politician. The initiative will just pay the fees for people who want to acquire ID Cards. The organisation gave me some forms that I should fill for those who are seeking for ID Cards. We are only registering people who have all the necessary documents but cannot afford to pay for the fees,” he said.
Sowe also denied reports that he has an illegal machine used to issue ID Cards, arguing that all he does is to register people and send back the forms to the charity.
“They have not given me a single butut and I have nothing to do with the NPP. It is disappointing that some people for whatever reason twisted this good initiative to mean otherwise,” he added.
Sowe explained he has never sent Amadou Tijan Jallow and Tijan Sey to tell people that they were working for Barrow.
Asked to disclose the name of the organisation he is working for, Sowe replied: “They asked me not to disclose the name of the orgainsation to anyone. I can only confirm to you that it is a Gambian charitable organisation.”
Contacted for comments, Amadou Tijan Jallow said he was busy and could not talk. All subsequent attempts to reach him proved unsuccessful.
Meanwhile The Standard contacted the NPP vice chairperson Farafenni Ward, Modou Lamin Jagne who flatly denied NPP’s involvement in the issue, arguing that the party has not asked anyone to register people for whatever reason.
“When I got the information that Wassa Sowe was collecting information from people, mainly women with the promise of getting them ID Cards, I took it upon myself to call NPP representatives in Farafenni Ward and even party senior executives at the bureau in Serekunda who confirmed to me they are not aware of anything of such,” he added.
The former Farafenni Ward councilor said he later, together with some NPP members, Papa Tunkara and one immigration officer visited Wassa Sowe to ascertain the allegations.
“When we arrived at Wassa’s house we found many people there queuing to get registered. The immigration officer asked him who authorised him to register people and how he intends to secure them ID Cards and Wassa replied he was tasked to do it by one philanthropic organisation he refused to name.The immigration officer later told Wassa he has to go to the immigration for interrogation,” Jagne told The Standard.
He said even one of the chief’s security officers had told them that Amadou Tijan Jallow and Tijan Sey are familiar faces who normally go around telling people they were sent by President Barrow to collect their information.
Immigration department reacts
A senior officer at the Immigration Department in Farafenni, who begged for anonymity, told this medium that they are aware of the matter and are making their findings.
He said Wassa Sowe has been invited for questioning at the Immigration.
But when contacted to substantiate the report, the Immigration spokesperson superintendent Mamanding S Dibba said he had called a certain senior officer in Farafenni who informed him that they have not received such a complaint.