THE LOOMNG RAMP REPLACEMENT AND ITS COMPOUNDING CONSEQUENCES ON THE LIVES AND TIMES OF OUR PEOPLE
Good morning Gambia and we once again salute those on the picket lines in the likes of Pa Nderry Mbai who among other gallant attributes ALWAYS PUTS GAMBIA FIRST and in the processes never giving upon the Better Gambia Agenda.
Kudos bro and those in your league too!
Written by Momodou Camara
We have heard about the chicken run and people crossing the border to hide their loots in the sub region but for most of us we have no place to run or hide. Gambia is what we see and this is where we live and we will not quit this country and it is our resolve to stay put and change it for better.
We all have seen and heard the many press releasesfrom GPA/FERRIES about taking off all ferries services between Banjul and Barra for a month and counting due to a ramp replacement works at both ends.
One might be tempted to ask where is education and training in all this? GPA/FERRIES spent over 100 Million Dalasi in the last decade on training and further education and why does it have to come to nought? With all the so called celebrated engineers at the GPA/FERRES why does it have to come to this, close the terminals and put our lives and livelihoods under arrest?
Growing in Africa, the African child will battle and continue to undergo lots of stress despite she being the most natural resources endowed continent on the face of the planet. Our people have to be subjected to abject poverty by our greedy leaders on every stratum, mislead by our pseudo technocrats, where life expectancy is below 49 years and a host of other mishaps. They do not make our schools appealing and instead they send their children away to Western schools. They do not equip our hospitals as they send their families to treatment overseas notably Gulf Region nations. The do not use the ferries as they prefer to use the airspaces and jet to Dakar. Sad for Africa and Africans and Gambians in particular.
Whosoever is advising the President is not telling him the truth and the risks to human and property is too huge if you close the terminals for a month on Gambians and residents of the Gambia. This is the first time in living memory that the terminals have to be closed for that long. The dilapidated boats which number less than 20 at Barra and poised to fill the void left by the ferries are in themselves dead traps. They are nowhere close to substitute for the ferries and will never be able to replacement them. One month is too long and too complicated and protracted to leave the mercy of your citizenry to the people of the boats. There are perceived risks, there are hidden risks and there are risks of accidents, life and properties and may Allah forbids. Amen!
THE BOATS OF BARRA
Most of these boats in this Barra hub are in weak states to ply the long journey but they might be tempted by the money to do everything possible to take a bite into the golden market opportunity created by the vacuum left by the ferries. These boats are not on regular maintenances. They lack the technical expertise to steer the boats as most captains have long gone on the back way expeditions the return legs of Mango Park. These boats also lack the trainings to handle passengers and especially the sick of the magnitude envisaged. They are already very high on tariff which most daily workers from the North Bank Region’s ends cannot afford to foot with their meager salaries. The daily tariff with the boats already sits at D140 to and fro work. This might double with the advent of this unfortunate human made castastrophe to hit the users of the Banjul Barra terminal. The discipline and conduct of these boat owners and driver are a serious concern ad seven out of ten times people get abused or are being abused by boat management staff while in their stewardship.
COVID 19 AND THE CLOSURE
What is going to happen to people who are seriously sicks anmd need to access the main hospital in EFSTH? What used to take one hours to get patients on critical medical concern to Banjul EFSTH by ambulance will now take 5 hours and counting between Essau Hospital to EFSTH.
I wish to give the following suggestions cum recommendations to ease our pain as Gambians and Non Gambians whose lives and livelihoods rest on the ferries, thus:
Let the GPA/FERRIES Managements try and operate the ferries by carrying only passengers by use the other landing wharfs at both ends to alight commuters.
Let the Gambia Government through the right ministry use the some COVID 19 FUNDS or other funds to pay off boat owners for all voyages done during the period. GPA/FERRIES Managements could also do it if Government excused themselves for lack of funds! Ownership of number of passengers and how much weight of cargo is to be loaded comes back to Government to decide through the right authorities and channels once they pay the bills of the ferry owners. Let Government or the GPA/FERRIES take ownership of the administration of the boat journeys, the loading and offloading processes. That will mitigate lots of risks and help us through this impending confusion of catastrophe. The Government did it with the rice and the same strategies could be employed to work it out with boat owners. Once Government is able to pay them off upfront the management and handing of passengers and cargos comes back to government through the right protocols notably the police, army and intelligence.
If we fail in the above two suggestions, then we must revert to bringing the boat owners into dialogue to make sure they are given some capital to carry our necessary maintenances and also help them buy water proof jackets for passengers during emergencies. That will also help peg the tariff at its normal rate and not allow them to take advantage of the situation and hike the tariffs.
In conclusion, we hope education will be and continue to be an instrument of change and not punishment for our people in Africa. If education can change elsewhere why not Africa and the GPA/FERRIES must invest more in research and development and for our brothers and sisters to take charge of the future and also take full ownership of the ferries and its maintenances and upkeep. We once again wish to engage Government to do more for our people and make sure people given jobs to execute do it for country and not other considerations. We welcome the replacement of the ramps but the management of its vacuum is not what we disapproved of. There are many other ways to do the ramp maintenances and still keep some semblance of ferry services flowing for passengers. The lower cadre and frontline ferry and terminal services staff are doing a great gob in the face of acute lack of resources, training and motivation to keep our ferries moving and they deserve a tap on the back collectively. Well done you lot! The cleaners too are also doing a great job but there is too much room for improvement. Think GPA/FERRIES MANAGEMENTS! You can better handle this situation than total closure!