Written by Pa Nderry M’Bai
Two containers filled with expired mayonnaise was shipped into this country under the pretext that it was a transit shipment destined for Senegal just to evade taxes, later landed in a Kanifing Warehouse, Jarga Faal, the Vice President of The Gambia General Transport Union told Freedom Newspaper in an exclusive interview on Monday. The expired mayonnaise shipment, according to Mr. Faal, belongs to an Indian business tycoon Nando. “We detected the two containers containing the expired mayonnaise. We reported the matter to The Gambian authorities. The importer Nando, an Indian businessman, claimed that the shipment was destined for Senegal, only for it to be dumped at a warehouse in Kanifing. We followed the trucks that were carrying the containers. To our surprise, they were dropped at a Kanifing warehouse. Businesses here have been cheating the system by falsely claiming that their shipments are destined for Guinea Bissua, Mali and Senegal, because once they declare at the ports that these are transit shipments, they are accorded tax waivers. Many a time they would be lying just to evade taxes. It is a coordinated scam that involves customs, ports, and other government agencies,” Faal alleged.
According to Faal, Nando’s expired mayonnaise shipment consignment was reported to Gambia’s Food safety Department three months ago, but he is not aware of Nando’s company’s being fined.
“The shipment arrived here three months ago. Our men at the ports discovered the expired mayonnaise. The last time I checked, the matter was being investigated by the Food Safety Department. The expired mayonnaise was dumped at the Kanifing warehouse. This country has been reduced as a hub to aid importers tax cheaters. Expired foods are imported here, and culprits are hardly prosecuted. Cases are settled privately,” he added.
Faal has called on the government to be sensitive to the health plight of Gambians. He warns that such expired foods could cause devastation in society.
“If that expired mayonnaise is release into the market, if consumed, it could kill people. I am not aware of its destruction. You can contact the Food Safety, they will tell you about the impounded shipment,” he said.
Faal says The Gambian state has been denied millions of dalasis of tax revenue–thanks to the corrupt government operatives at the ports.
“Sometimes they would claim that a particular shipment is destined for Senegal, or Guinea Bissau. They will transport the shipment outside Gambian borders, only to make a U-turn to return the shipment into the country. That’s how they evade taxes,” he added.
There was no contact information available for the Food Safety Director General Momodou Bah at the time of going to press.
According to Faal, there was also this Mauritanian businessman, who had imported the local China green tea, known as “attaya”, and he claimed that the shipment was destined for Senegal, only for it to be diverted into a warehouse at Burn road Banjul.
“We followed that shipment, only to discover that the importer was lying. The attaya shipment was dumped at a warehouse at Burn road. When the warehouse was raided, an additional consignment of attaya was found there. When we enquired about that case, the Director General of Customs told us that the Mauritanian businessman has been fined,” Faal explained.
Faal says Gambian drivers have been discriminated against in their own country, accusing the Trade Ministry of providing special treatment to foreign truckers.
“ We were told by the Trade Minister Seedy Keita that it is impossible for foreign truckers to join the que at the ports. He claimed that such a thing is not happening anywhere in the world. Our drivers have been taken out of business. Truckers from Guinea Bissau, Mali and Senegal are dominating the transnational transportation,” he added.
“The Trade Ministry has been very hostile to us. The minister’s response had led to the planned sit-down strike. We couldn’t put up with his irresponsible statements. It is unfair for the government to allow foreign truckers to hijack our ports. I know that they have some financial interest in this. There are corrupt officials benefiting from this organized tax evasion scheme. Could you believe that two of the truckers who came here as poor migrants, now owned over 16 trucks. They are being backed and supported by own Gambian brothers in the government at the expense of Gambian born drivers,” he added.
There was no listed contact phone number for Nando for us to reach him for comment.