Gainako received this report of Banjul North’s National Assembly Member, Honourable Ousman Sillah for the period covering April to July 2017. The report is reproduced below.
In a bid to ensure a democratic, transparent and accountable representation, I had promised the electorate of Banjul North during the National Assembly elections campaign that, if elected into office, I will be consulting them on a regular basis in order to hear their concerns and to report what is being done on their behalf at the law making, oversight, representative and advocacy levels. This means that I should be interacting with the people at the constituency level to discuss matters affecting their lives and livelihoods that may require my attention and intervention as their representative. These regular community meetings which I intend to be organising on a quarterly basis i.e. every three months, if time permits, will enable me the opportunity to communicate directly to the electorate what I have been saying and doing in and out of the parliament to get their appraisal and to also take note of their concerns that need to be addressed.
Since my election as the National Assembly Member (NAM) for Banjul North Constituency on 6 April 2017 to date, I have been striving to the best of my ability to live up to my promise and to be a true servant of the people of The Gambia in promoting and defending what serves their interest. I have been guided all throughout in my engagements and pronouncements by the dictates of conscience and national interest.
This new National Assembly is the fifth assembly of the second republic which came into being in 1997. Following its inauguration, the National Assembly in the last three months had been engaged in the second ordinary session of the 2017 legislative year and during which time it was busy dealing with matters brought before it by the executive. In the exercise of its legislative and oversight functions, it has engaged in debates, raised questions and received answers from members of the cabinet, enacted laws and approved loan and grant agreements emanating from the executive. The Assembly approved five loan and three grant agreements brought before it by the Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Mr. Amadou Sanneh.
The National Assembly enacted the Amendment of Appropriation Act No. 1 of 2017 which is a revision of part of the budget approved in December 2016 by the former National Assembly in the previous APRC dispensation. The revised approved budget for the 2017 financial year amounts to D12, 100, 592, 030 (Twelve Billion, One Hundred Million, Five Hundred and Ninety Two Thousand and Thirty Dalasi). This represents a reduction of D400 million. However, there is an increase in the servicing and repayment of loans. This was presented by the Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs.
It has enacted the Constitution of the Republic of The Gambia 1997 (Amendment) Act, 2017 which removed the upper age limit for election to the office of president and extends the age at which a judge of the Supreme Court should vacate office from 65 to 75 years. These two pieces of legislation were brought by the Attorney General and Minster of Justice, Mr. Muhammed Ba Tambadou.
It has approved the remuneration of D300, 000 for three months for each of the three commissioners appointed to serve in the commission of Inquiry into the financial activities of public enterprises, bodies and offices as regards their dealings with the former President Yahya Jammeh. This was also brought by the Attorney General and Minster of Justice.
As law makers, the Assembly also considered and enacted the Tertiary and Higher Education (Amendment) Act, 2017 presented by the Minister of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology, Mr. Badara Joof.
Contributions to Questions and Debates
I gave due notice for five oral questions to different cabinet ministers, which is the maximum that any National Assembly Member can ask during a legislative session. However, I was only able to ask three questions of which I had received oral answers from the concerned cabinet ministers.
The first question was directed to the Minister of Works, Transport, Construction and Infrastructure, Mr. Bai Lamin Jobe, asking whether he is aware of the appalling road and drainage conditions in Banjul and, if yes, whether there are any plans to work with the Banjul City Council to ameliorate this terrible condition of the capital city. The Minister, in response, confirmed that he is aware, adding that “Banjul is one of the main priorities of the new government and that this is being championed by the president himself through his ministry.” He further added that his ministry has initiated a Task Force, with BCC in the lead, and including a wide range of other stakeholders who are tasked with finalizing a terms of reference (TOR) and coming up with a concept design (including architectural) of the city. He also announced that the three National Assembly Members of Banjul will be included in this Task Force.
The works minister revealed that the National Roads Authority (NRA) has initiated the acquisition of funding in collaboration with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs to carry out a feasibility studies on the Banjul Roads, Drainage and Sewerage systems. He said, in the interim, the NRA in collaboration with BCC are in the process of cleaning identified major drains in the city, adding that BCC should double its efforts and endeavor to constantly maintain the conditions of the drains through periodic cleansing.
My second parliamentary question was directed to the Minister of the Interior, Mr. Mai Ahmed Fatty, asking whether the government is considering the relocation of the Mile Two Central Prison from its present site which is very close to the Banjul waste dumpsite that compromises the health of the inmates with the toxic fumes that come from the burning of waste. Responding, the Interior Minister informed the assembly that government has planned to relocate the prison at mile two to a more habitable place and that it is expecting funding to build a new facility but cannot say how soon this will materialize.
The third oral question was for the Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Madam Saffie Lowe, asking whether the ministry has any plans to initiate a waste management strategy that would result in the separation and recycling of solid waste which is being dumped at the wetlands adjacent to the prison at mile two. The Minister responded that the portfolio of Cleansing Services has ceased to be under her ministry since 1985 when it was transferred to the councils under the ministry of local government. She, however, acknowledged that environmental health and safety is an important determinant of health outcomes and remains a major challenge to the ministry and partners. She concluded that it is the National Environment Agency (NEA) that leads the initiative for the development and implementation of a national waste management strategy.
I also contributed to the two adjournment debates raising pertinent issues such as the proper management or relocation of the Banjul dumpsite, removal of the prison from the uninhabitable site it is presently located, youth empowerment and employment, among others.
I have contributed to the debate on the State of the Nation Address delivered by President Adama Barrow recently, arguing that it did not outline any governance framework regarding the road map for constitutional reforms which the coalition government promised the Gambian electorate before the 2016 presidential election which removed the former government. I talked about a wide range of issues concerning women and youth empowerment, accessible and affordable health care, support to farmers, boosting the economy through value addition to primary products, extending the franchise to Gambians in the diaspora, creating an enabling environment for Gambians both at home and in the diaspora to invest in the economy to create employment, entitlements of reinstated civil servants, etc.
Regarding the oversight functions, I was selected as the Chairperson of the National Assembly Select Committee on Health, Women (Gender), Children, Disaster, Humanitarian Relief and Refugees. I am also a member of the Foreign Affairs Standing Committee and the Select Committee on Trade, NEPAD as well as the Parliamentary Union of the Organisation of Islamic Conference.
On the 8 and 9 May 2017, I attended a Regional Conference in Bamako, Mali, on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) organised by the International Committee of Parliamentarians for the Abandonment of FGM/C in partnership with the Association of European Parliamentarians with Africa (AWEPA). The conference also witnessed the first congress of the organisation during which I was elected as the Treasurer and being the only male in a five member executive.
Recently, I represented the Gambia in a three day high level regional meeting of Members of Parliament of ECOWAS, Mauritania and Chad for Adequate Health Financing, Demographic Dividend and Population and Development Policies in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso from the 20 – 22 July 2017.
In addition to my legislative and oversight responsibilities, I endeavour to fulfill my representative functions by introducing independent initiatives aimed at empowering the people and addressing some concerns of the members of the community that are not being attended to by duty bearers.
I am very much concern with the situation of young people in the country who are being rendered unproductive due to the lack of education, skills and employment. This is what had motivated me to consult the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education (MoBSE) in order to obtain its full support and cooperation toward the realisation of the initiative for the establishment of a Centre to provide vocational skills for the unemployed, unskilled, potential and returning migrants, school drop outs and vulnerable groups. We have already inaugurated the Task Force at a ceremony officiated by the Minister of Basic and Secondary Education (MoBSE) which comprises a wide range of stakeholders with experience and expertise in skills development and training as well as persons who are concerned with youth, employment and community related issues. With the support of the ministry, a baseline survey has just been concluded and now on the verge of analysis and report finalization to identify or determine the skill areas to be introduced. I want to acknowledge the full support being given to the initiative by the ministry, including the Minister, Mrs. Claudiana Cole, and Permanent Secretary, Mr. Muhamed Jallow, to ensure its materialisation.
In a bid to complement efforts aimed at improving the performance of students in the core subjects of English, Mathematics and the Sciences, I have initiated a Summer School Support Programme to serve as pilot in the upper basic and secondary schools in Banjul and the success of which would determine its continuation. This Summer School Support Programme seeks to supplement the work of teachers by providing preparatory and remedial classes to students graduating to grades 9, 10 and 11 at some upper basic and secondary schools in Banjul. The targeted schools include Gambia Senior Secondary School, St. Augustine’s Senior Secondary School, St. Augustine’s Upper Basic School, Garba Jahumpa Upper Basic and Senior Secondary School and Rev. J. C. Faye Upper and Senior Secondary School.
I have managed to establish a Ward Committee for Box Bar Ward which has not met since its formal inauguration in early May. However, the committees for Campama and Crab Island are on the verge of being established. These committees are formed to support the work of the NAM and would be collaborating closely with the Ward Committees that are supposed to be set up by the councilors in accordance with the Local Government Act.
In order to effectively engage with the electorate, I have opened an office where people can come to discuss the concerns they want to bring to my attention and for me to pursue. It is also a meeting venue for us to discuss and plan constituency activities. The office which is situated at 40 Gloucester Street engages a volunteer and is open from Mondays to Fridays between 9 am to 4 pm.
As an election campaign promise, I am in the process of opening a Constituency Trust Fund with one of the commercial banks with funds coming from my salary and other legitimate sources.
When the Banjul City Council (BCC) made arrangements with the Kanifing Municipal Council (KMC) to allow waste from the Kombos to be dumped in Banjul which generated outcry as a real cause for concern from the residents of Banjul, I and the other National Assembly Members from Banjul, namely Honourables Muhamed Ndow and Fatoumata Njai, took up the issue with the former to ensure that the practice is stopped. We were also working closely on this issue with the Team Tahawal Banjul, a civil society group, which was equally concern given the precarious nature of the Banjul dumpsite which is a threat to the health of people residing in Banjul and environs, the prison inmates, the sanatorium people and the ecology in the wetlands.
Although, the cleaning of city streets and gutters is the responsibility of the Banjul City Council which is empowered to collect tax for the purpose, but requests from the members of the community regarding environmental sanitation cannot be completely ignored if this is not being addressed. This is the reason why I do support communities that embark in environmental cleansing exercises or ‘set setal’ from time to time.
For People’s Empowerment,
National Reconciliation and Unity,
Transparent and Accountable Representation
Long Live The Sovereign People of The Gambia