By Tabora Bojang
A University of The Gambia senior lecturer who refused to pay a compulsory security levy at the Banjul airport leading to the seizure of his passport, told The Standard that he declined to pay the U$20 because he considered it an exploitation of citizens by the government.
Sait Matty Jaw’s passport was confiscated by immigration officers at the Banjul airport after he returned from Ghana on Saturday and refused to pay the levy collected by Securiport company.
Jaw who is the co-founder and executive director of the Centre for Research and Policy Development, CepRas, said his refusal to pay the compulsory fee came after reading Malagen’s latest exposé detailiing malpractices in the contract awarded to the US based company by the Barrow government in 2018.
The report revealed that the introduction of the US$20 security levy has caused a possible financial loss of at least D274 million to the state.
Explaining his encounter at the airport, Mr Jaw said: “I was in Ghana when the Malagen report was published. After reading it and looking at the alleged losses of millions of dalasis to the country, I decided I am not going to pay [the security levy] and I tweeted it the day before I flew to Banjul from Ghana. So, when I got to the airport, I followed the procedure and I was on the queue until it was my turn to go and pay, I decided not to go there and pay [the security levy]. Instead, I moved to where the Immigration line was and I stood there and I told them clearly that I was not going to pay. The first supervisor from Securiport came and asked me to pay and I insisted that I was not going to pay. Then a second supervisor came and asked why I was not going to pay. I asked him why should I pay and then I later moved to the immigration area. When I arrived, they [immigration officers] did their normal processing in a very nice manner and they took my passport and declared it not paid. So, they took [the passport] and I left the airport.”
Sait, a frequent flyer through the Banjul airport, said he has been looking for answers “for this very question of why people are paying” and that the Malagen report crystallised the answer for him.
He said he is weighing his options including resorting to legal means to reclaim his passport from the authorities.
“Let them keep the passport. I am in my country and I am free. I will look at other options and I will follow due process to ensure I get my documents back. But why must we pay for leaving or coming to our country? This is creating a lot of impact on our tourism industry. Everybody is complaining and the government does not want to listen. Why? Public service is for the public, it is not for few people to enjoy and the rest suffer. So, I wouldn’t pay and enrich people when my country is losing money and people are poor. It is not about the money; I can easily pay it. It is not fair for me in terms of principles, to pay it for exploitation. This is merely exploiting people and it is the government officials or agencies that are helping these people [Securiport] to do this.”
No one was available at Securiport offices in Bijilo for immediate comment on the matter by the time we went to press last night