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Minister Bah Reveals President Barrow’s Talks with Senegal’s President on Cement Imports

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Hon. Hamat NK. Bah, the Minister of Lands, Regional Governments, and Religious Affairs

By Buba Gagigo

Hamat NK. Bah, the Minister of Lands, Regional Governments, and Religious Affairs, has shed light on President Adama Barrow’s communication with Senegal’s new President regarding the obstruction of Gambian products entering Senegal.

Responding to inquiries about the increased tax on local cement importation, Minister Bah addressed the misinformation surrounding the issue.

“The government of the Gambia has the responsibility to develop this country, and in doing so, we have a responsibility to raise funds by all legal means. One of them is either tax or duties and levies and charges within the law. We realized that we were losing a lot of money in the border post. How many of these trucks coming to this country are paying duty correctly? Who are the owners of these trucks? The minister asked.

He further revealed that their investigation revealed that 95 percent of local importers are non-Gambians.

“They don’t live here; this government needs the revenue to complete our duties. We are saying we have three cement factories, Salam, GACEM, and Jah Oil. Yes, they are rebagging; even in the United States they are rebagging all their cement, go and check on the records. Some of them are buying where America is buying to go and rebag for environmental reasons. You now have these people bringing this cement to the country to supply our country at every level, and they have hundreds of thousands of Gambians employed in that work and feeding their families,” Minister Bah said.

He emphasized The Gambia’s sovereignty, asserting the government’s right to levy taxes for various reasons.

“One is to stop using the Gambia as a dumping ground; two, the CFA is climbing to a level that will be unsustainable for Gambian businesses. You know, most of our livestock comes from the border. Today, Tobaski Rams are extremely expensive because when they dump the cement here, they go to buy that dalasi to use it on CFA to buy it to go back and come and dump putting extreme pressure on the dalasi. When they buy that CFA to go and buy rams, you and I and many others find it difficult to make ends meet, and many of the products related to them that we’re importing from Senegal become extremely expensive,” he said. 

He stated that their secondary rationale revolves around the potential closure of Gambian factories due to cement imports from Senegal. 

“Where will those Gambians work? Where will they go? Thirdly, when you bring, you must pay duties. How are you managing your duties? We don’t want to say all, are not stupid; we know what to do. When you come to our port, you pay,” he said. Minister Bah disclosed that during President Diomaye Faye’s visit to the Gambia, the issue of cement imports was raised with President Barrow. According to Minister Bah, President Diomaye expressed concerns about Senegalese cement not being permitted to enter the Gambia.

“He said Senegalese cement is not allowed to come here. The president (Barrow) said Mr President we have Gambian companies in this country producing cement, and one of them (SALAM) owns a company in Dakar. Gambia only adds tax on one item, i did not block any of your products. Anyone who wants to come is free to come to the Gambia. We have 38 products banned from entering your country. Salam had a contract to supply cement in Senegal; he was kept for 20 days lingering at the border and sent away back to the country,” he stated

Minister Bah urged Gambians to prioritize national interests and not heed those seeking personal gains by undermining the country. He mentioned instances where Gambian water companies faced similar challenges in Senegal due to protectionism. Minister Bah quoted President Barrow affirming his commitment to serving the Gambian people’s interests.

“I want Gambians to listen. We own our country; don’t listen to the enemies of this country for their selfish interests. Some of our water companies had contracts to supply water in Senegal, but they were sent away because they wanted to protect their industries. Now you want to dump your cement and not allow us to put anything into your country, and then people will start castigating this government? Adama Barrow made it very clear he is serving the supreme interest of the Gambian people,” he said.

He described President Diomaye as a notably ‘reasonable’ and ‘understanding’ leader. Consequently, he promptly urged Adama Barrow to initiate negotiations with both Trade ministers to address the matter.

“And president Diomaye said, Look, when I was campaigning, I condemned them stopping Gambian trucks bringing Cashew from Guinea-Bissau passing through Casamance,” he said.

Trade Minister Baboucarr Ousmaila Joof and Senegal’s Minister of Industry and Commerce, Dr. Serigne Gueye Diop, convened in Diamniadio, Senegal, last month, with another meeting scheduled for this month.  

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