By Omar Bah
Concerned residents of Kololi and Kotu have appealed to the government, to as a matter of urgency address the rampant abuse of drugs and increasing crime rate in the area. The residents also urged government to, as an urgent measure, provide them with 24-hour security patrol.
Last week, the residents in collaboration with Future in Our Hands (FIOH) invited the police, anti-crime and immigration to a meeting to discuss the rising crime rate and rampant drug abuse within the vicinity of Kololi-Tavern. They blamed the rising crime and drug abuse on the government’s failure to regulate night clubs and the absence of regular security patrol in the area.
The unhappy residents also blamed a night club in the neighbourhood for harbouring drug dealers and criminals and urged the government to immediately close it, arguing that the club was only licensed to operate as a bar and not a night club.
“We are worried about our safety and that of our children. We have reached a point that some people are now scared of going to the mosque for morning prayers because of these criminals,” Alagie Sanneh, a representative of FIOH, told journalists.
He said drugs are rampant and young boys and girls who abuse these drugs end up being violent.
“Imagine, ladies attacking men with weapons. This is unbecoming of the Gambia we all love and cherish,” Sanneh added.
“There is no regulation – night clubs will be playing loud music the whole night until 6am. This is unacceptable by all standards,” he said.
Apple Tree, Future In Our Hands, West African Insurance Institute and other learning institutions within the vicinity are mostly affected.
The Principal of Apple Tree, Adeyemi Soretine, said his school has experienced a series of attacks including breakings and on some occasions bandits will enter the school and forcefully take bangles from students and escape with them.
The National Assembly Member for Bakau, Assan Touray, who represented the Serekunda West NAM at the meeting, said the government and its stakeholders should look into the root causes of drug abuse and rising crime rate in the country.
The founder and programme manager of Future In Our Hands, Kristina Lundahl said: “If young people have nothing to do and there are no jobs for them, no sporting areas or natural places, they tend to go for drugs or other dubious activities. So, the natural place in Kololi is at the night clubs and the drug selling stations.”
The Swedish national expressed concern over the kind of expensive vehicles young Gambians drive.
“The kind of fancy cars these young people drive are mind-boggling. I have three children in Sweden and one of them is having a PhD in Computer Science, the other holds a Masters’ degree in road construction and mining while the third has a Masters’ degree in medical science but none of them can afford these cars you see here. You can only afford those cars through selling drugs and interestingly those who are selling these drugs are not even taking them; they are just destroying children of this country,” she argued.
She said her NGO is losing a lot of donors who usually visit the country to donate because of the behaviour of the drug-ridden youths.
For his part, a lecturer at the Gambia Tourism Institute, Francis Mendy said government should look for means to address the indiscriminate dumping of waste and persistent noise coming from these night clubs.
The Kotu anti-crime commander, RSM Corr expressed frustration over the vilification of good police officers like him, saying it is playing a huge role in the country’s recent security challenges.
“We have a big problem in this country – every serious officer doing his best to deal with these criminals will be vilified by the very public he/she is protecting. When I was first posted here, I was very strict but people will go to the NHRC or social media to report our activities because we were blocking their illegal activities,” he said.
For his part, the Kololi alkalo, Bai Abdoulie Jobe urged the government to close the nightclub in question and provide security for the residents.