By Tabora Bojang
UTG political science lecturer Essa Njie has said President Adama Barrow has yet again failed to address the country’s many and pressing national challenges in his Thursday State of the Nation Address (SoNA).
Njie said the address only demonstrated that President Barrow is preoccupied with “politics of infrastructure” to bring him “political capital” while issues such as high cost of living, economic hardship, inflation, deportations of Gambians, overfishing by foreign vessels, corruption and general insecurity were not addressed.
“I think the president could have done better; not merely reading for us activity reports of his government. The State of the Nation Address is supposed to be more than. It should address the most pressing issues that we face currently but all he did was to come and read verbatim what was presented to him by the various ministries. He needs to be cautious, study the reports and be on top of issues to avoid the problem of even repeating things that he may have said last year. Last year, he promised to create 150,000 jobs and surprisingly he gave us on the same figures this year without updating us how many jobs he created so far. His speech left out very salient issues.
“On the issue of corruption for example, all that he said was that the Anti-Corruption Bill is in parliament. But what tangible plans does the government have to address the issue of corruption? The National Audit Office report is out and clearly presents to us daylight rampant and decentralised corruption in the Barrow administration with the Office of the President itself complicit in some of the contracts that are being dubiously negotiated and awarded. I think the president could have used SoNA as an opportunity to manifest to Gambians that his government is serious about fighting corrupt practices in ministries and departments as per the NAO recommendations,” Njie told The Standard.
He also accused the president of failing to open up on the massive revenues generated from the fisheries agreements signed with the EU, Senegal and China.
According to Njie, a recent investigation by Amnesty International in the fisheries sector exposed severe revenue losses from these agreements.
“We know that as per the Sustainable Partnership Agreement, the EU was supposed to pay 550,000 euros to the government while each vessel was supposed to pay 315,000 annually. The majority of the canoes in the Gambian exclusive economic zone which measured 200 nautical miles from the base line are all dominated by Senegal and according to the agreement renewed in 2017 both The Gambia and Senegal are allowed maximum of 250 canoes per year fishing in our waters but Senegal is always tripling these numbers. But the president only mentioned The Gambia is annually receiving D30 million from the EU but he did not give details as far as these agreements are concerned which points to a lack of transparency,” Njie charged.
On the issue of deportations of Gambians, Njie said President Barrow has not outlined any tangible and strategic plans for the effective integration of the hundreds of Gambians being deported to the country.
Njie who holds a double master’s degree in human rights and democratisation in Africa, security and leadership studies, stated that Gambians are also interested to know the government’s position on the presence of Ecomig forces.
“Recent surveys have indicated that the majority of Gambians appreciate their brothers and sisters in uniform and they want Ecomig to leave. That is something the president should have talked about.”