By Kemesseng Sanneh
Abdou M. Jeng, the customs manager at Giboroh Border Post, has accused Senegalese authorities of not respecting the Inter-State Road Transit (ISRT) and ECOWAS protocols on the free movement of goods and services, signed by Member States of the sub-region bloc.
Jeng made the accusations on Friday during the National Assembly Select Committee on trade’s 6-day tour to border posts across the country to examine the implementation of ECOWAS protocol on free movement of goods as well as the ISRT protocol.
Manager Jeng said when a vehicle enters Senegal with ISRT seal via transit, they will cut the seal and offload the goods to search them, which delays the free movement of goods.
He further told the committee that all trucks do park in Gambian territory because any night they spend in the Senegalese territory, they are asked to pay.
According to Mr. Jeng, Senegal gets 72% of their goods from Mali and Gambia, benefit only 5% from those goods. But, he said, Senegal is still blocking that 5% sometimes.
“The Senegalese authorities aren’t respecting the Ecowas protocol of free movement of goods and services and when we talk about the Ecowas protocol, they will rely on their local laws as justification for their actions,” he said.
Jeng said Gambia authorities are good when it comes to signing protocols and agreements with sister countries but in terms of implementation, the sister countries will not respect the protocol which will leave Gambia at the disadvantage.
On security and border patrol, Jeng said because they are not well armed, they don’t go far during border patrols. He said they encounter attacks by people armed with cutlasses.
On the same Friday, the Committee visited Tanji Border Post. CP Conteh, an official at the post, informed the committee that they collect revenue solely on the fish leaving the country to Senegal. He said their border post covers Denton Bridge to Kartong with a total number of six staff. This, he said, is not sufficient for them to execute their work. He also highlighted that lack of mobility to cover all the areas under their command is a challenge, saying they only have one motorbike at their post.
Mr. Sambou, customs officer, also informed the committee that the citizens are not enlightened about taxable goods and non-taxable goods. This, he said, is also a big challenge for them. He said when they caught people exporting or importing taxable goods and they ask them to pay, they would tell them that they don’t know they were supposed to pay for those goods.
Sambou said because of insufficient staff, the navy personnel are doing their job for them in Kartong and they are always in contact with them.
Meanwhile, on Thursday 11 March, 2021, the committee visited Sere Bojo Border Post accompanied by the customs manager in charge of the region, Mr. Buba Ceesay. There, a resident of the village told the committee that their village is grappling with the frequent cattle thieves, thus they pleaded to the committee for help in terms of security for the protection of their properties.
At Brikama-Ba Border Post, officials informed the committee that they witness the movement of people (which is under the Immigration Department) more than that of goods. They said they are more into revenue collection, such as tax etc. adding that the people are adhering to the payment of their taxes on time.
Billay Tunkara, a member of the select committee, quizzed the officials whether people are adhering to the ECOWAS protocol on free movement and the challenges they are grappling with.
Mr. Sanneh from the customs unit responded in the positive. He said there is a smooth working relationship between them and the people trading in the area.
Sanneh outlined some of the challenges they are facing, including insufficient mobility and equipment. He said they need equipment for their protection from armed attack they encounter during their border patrols. He said sometimes, the Senegalese authorities aren’t cooperative.
At Soma Border Post, the Chairperson of the committee, Muhammed Maharena, informed the officers the purpose of their visit, which is to know whether Ecowas protocol is being implemented and also find out the challenges officers in border posts are confronting with in the execution of their functions.
Sainey Kinteh, the post head, said their primary task is revenue collection, which he said they are facing challenges, due to the low awareness of the people on the payment of tax. However, he said they are educating the citizens through radio programmes.
On the security aspect, Mr. Kinteh said they are confronted with armed attack due to the border’s closeness to the Casamance region of Senegal and the custom officers aren’t armed in order to protect themselves.
Kinteh also highlighted the staff welfare problems they are facing. He said Soma is the only border post in the entire Lower River Region (LRR) and all officers are posted there, saying the staff quarters cannot house all of them so others have to rent outside.
Maharena asked whether the transportion of goods and truck escort is flowing smoothly, Mr. Kinteh answered in the positive.
Committee member, Tunkara asked whether they do encounter delays in the movement of goods and services. Mr. Kinteh responded in the positive too. But he was quick to add that they always solve the matter with their sister forces.
He also informed the committee that goods from The Gambia to Senegal are mostly transported smoothly, while goods from Gambia to Guinea face difficulty with the Senegalese authorities.
Kinteh informed the committee that they are exposed to any form of attack because they deal with money without arms for self-defence.