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Sunday, May 19, 2024
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The ferry situation: Who will pay the price?

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By Madi Jobarteh

With this press release, the question then becomes how do people who need ferry services run their affairs?

First example, how can that woman from Essau who travels by the ferry every day to sell cashew nuts at Traffic Lights go via Senegambia Bridge to sell her nuts on Kairaba Avenue? How can that student in Barra who goes to school in Banjul go via Senegambia bridge to go to school everyday? How can that sick old man who needs to do an X-ray at EFSTH travel via Senegambia Bridge just to get to Banjul? How can that woman from Njongon travel via Senegambia Bridge to visit her son in Serre Kunda? The scenarios are uncountable!

These ordinary people are not the paid officials of GPA and Ferries Services nor are they the elected officials responsible for the ferries. So why should they pay more by traveling via Senegambia Bridge to run their affairs in Kombo or elsewhere? Why should they suffer for the incompetence and inefficiency of people who are paid to manage ferry services to serve the public? Will Gambia Ferry Services pay their fare to travel across Senegambia Bridge?

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Meantime, any minister or the MD of Ports or the GM of Ferries Services can afford to travel via Senegambia Bridge anytime to go to Barra to attend a naming ceremony and return home on the same day because they already have big fat SUVs that are fully air conditioned with full tank of fuel paid by these ordinary poor people. Yet, that Minister or MD cannot offer these same citizens basic services for which he is well paid and showered with all sorts of incentives.

Why therefore should ordinary citizens pay more and suffer for the incompetence and inefficiency of public institutions and their officials?

The Gambia Government and its ferry services cannot claim they do not understand their function and responsibility in regard to the Banjul – Barra crossing. For the past 10 years it is obvious to all and sundry that the condition of the ferries and the entire services are poor. A responsible public institution would have done the needful to ensure that ferry services are running efficiently and safely at all times. This is because Banjul – Barra crossing is the major economic, security, social and cultural connecting point in the Gambia with significant international impact.

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After all, what does one need to operate a ferry service other than knowledge, skills and resources. Can GPA and its subsidiary GFS tell us that they lack the knowledge, skills, experience and resources to operate this service? If so, then let them resign or be sacked for new people to take over!

Public institutions and officials must not be allowed to fail in their legal and administrative obligations without any consequences. That’s impunity. That’s disaster for citizens. The grossly inefficient nature of ferry services in this country is totally unacceptable. It only shows that public institutions and officials don’t care about their work and citizens because they face no consequences for whatever they do.

This press release therefore highlights a direct violation of the rights of citizens to education, security, healthcare, life, movement and many other civil, social and economic rights. It must be condemned.

Citizens should not just protest this blatant violation of rights but should also mobilize resources to take the GPA and its subsidiary GFS to court for negligence of duty, economic crimes and violation of human rights. That’s what we should do.

The Ferry Services must compensate for the loss and damage to users of the service. If they were being effective, efficient, transparent and accountable the situation would not have dropped to a point where all the ferries would have to be withdrawn all at once. Knowing the indispensable nature of their service they should have ensured that at any time there would be a ferry. But they cannot withdraw all the ferries and then leave poor people in limbo with no viable alternative.

These ferries are not available not because they face engine failure and so they need maintenance. No. Rather these ferries are withdrawn simply and squarely because both the GPA and GFS are not being effective, efficient and professional in doing their job.

Their failure to do their job must not be accepted as a given so that citizens suffer for nothing. Someone must pay the price and it should not be that cashew seller from Njongon or that mother from Fass or that student from Barra or that sick old man from Sika. It is public officials who must pay the price.

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