By Alagie Manneh
Serekunda Market Committee has warned that it will soon disregard regulation governing markets as it is “killing” businesses, unless the government provides some remedy or allow operations to return to normal.
When new amendments to the State of Emergency Powers Regulations governing open markets and shopping areas were announced last month, it called on all persons trading in food products in Gambian markets to open for business between 6am and 1pm each day, and for all those trading in non-food products to open between 2pm and 6pm daily.
But these measures are showing devastating consequences for the country’s biggest market, according to the market’s PRO.
At least 4000 business operators and vendors attended an emergency meeting called by the market’s committee to discuss issues underpinning the market as Covid-19 persists and what can be done to make sure their businesses stay alive.
“We agreed that we should be allowed to open from 6am to 6pm every day, at least until Koriteh passes,” PRO Sulayman Dampha told The Standard shortly after the meeting.
“We are appealing to the NAMs for the state of emergency to stay but for markets to open for business. If they fail to do that, there is going to be a problem here. People will not obey these laws and we may even end up occupying the market and not go home at all,” he warned.
Mr Dampha said businesses are still counting the cost of the regulation as it ravages livelihoods and the economy. “It is not clear if we will ever recover from these damages done to our businesses. When the first emergency was announced, we were made to sit for 15 days. Imagine the losses, yet we have been paying our taxes and other duties. The MPs are welcome to continue their state of emergency but markets need to be opened.”
Dampha singled out tailors as the worst-hit by these measures since they are the busiest whenever festive activities near.
“The tailors have been crying here, honestly, their businesses are completely brought down. Meat sellers, vegetable sellers, shoe sellers, cloth sellers… the situation is unbearable. But we have resolved to not continue like this. This ends now,” he said.
Serekunda market employs thousands of Gambians and non-Gambians alike, but most shops remain closed during a site visit by The Standard last evening.