May 12, 2016, 11:56 AM
In this edition, Hamat Bah expressed his deep concern about the state of our newly completed highways, which he said are being destroyed by the overloaded trucks seen on our roads.
He spoke in an exclusive interview with The Point newspaper. Hamat Bah was one of the political party leaders at the EU Day celebration last Friday at Fajara, and used that as his take-off point.
“I want to talk about the EU Day (Friday 9 May). We congratulate the European Union; it was 54 years ago when they decided that Europe should come together. It was a good idea; and I think Europe is forging ahead.
“I have travelled to many countries, and wherever you go, you see boards of projects sponsored by the EU. I think, really, they are doing a good job to help alleviate poverty in the world.
“I think their support, particularly to The Gambia, is remarkable. I learned at the EU Day ceremony, when the minister was responding to the EU Delegates speech, that they have completed 273 kilometers of road networks in The Gambia. And they are about to start another programme for feeder roads to access rice fields, markets and so forth.
“And, of course, their governance programme and many other programmes. We commend the EU for that, and I think they are doing a good job; we ask them to keep it up. We know that they have a genuine desire to support our national development programmes. And that’s commendable.
“But I have a serious issue to raise with the government, regarding the roads. I want to tell you that those roads are almost destroyed - completed 2013 almost destroyed in 2014!
“I want to give you an example. If you were to travel from Mandinaba to Giboro and Toubakouta at the border, you will see that the newly-constructed road by the EU is almost destroyed. The Soma-Basse road also a new road funded by the EU is being destroyed. The Mandinaba-Soma road built by the government with loans has started having defects, even before it is fully completed.
“The reason for this is clear. The government is completely negligent of its responsibility in making sure that government assets are protected and preserved.
“One of the most dangerous ways of destroying a road is through overloading, and we have seen how trucks are overloaded in The Gambia. They carry almost twice their load, and by moving on our roads, they destroy the roads.
According to the NRP leader, “the ministry of Trade owes it to the Gambian people to make sure when these trucks are not loaded beyond their capacity.”
The ministry of the Interior, he added, “must make that these vehicles do not pose a threat to public security. How many times have we seen them causing an accident on the highway? Recently, you had a truck which fell on its side at Busumbala village. People need to be protected; the police have every right to stop them; to say: ‘look, this is a threat to public security; you cannot carry this load’.”
He further pointed out that these overloaded trucks move slowly like a chameleon, because of their weight. “How can the ministry of the Interior allow that to happen?”
“How can the ministry of Works and the National Roads Authority allow vehicles with such heavy loads to drive on our roads and destroy them, in pursuit of selfish interests and at the expense of the Gambian people?”
He continued: “I believe that the government have failed in their responsibility, and are still failing. You go to other countries now, which have been victims of this problem; in these countries, all trucks are weighed from the point of departure to determine their load.
“And they must comply with the carrying capacity of the vehicle. Even if you have one kilogramme excess, the goods are off-loaded, and the culprits face penalties.”
Bah said this is happening in countries all over, except in The Gambia. “Here is a country where they can come with their trucks, overload them and then move on our roads and destroy them. And once our roads are destroyed, we are in trouble, because it takes many years to fix roads. Its capital intensive; involves a lot of money.”
Bah recommends that the government should enforce the use of vehicle weight scales in Barra and Banjul, for instance, which are exit points from The Gambia. “We do not invest in the weigh scales for now, as the available scales could be used, pending the availability of scales at different strategic locations in the country, especially at all points of departure.”
He said other countries do monitor the weight of their vehicles coming to The Gambia. However, vehicles leaving here and going are not weighed.
“They are destroying this country’s infrastructure! I think the government, whilst they were happy to announce the completion of these roads sponsored by the EU; we are saying they have a bigger responsibility to protect and preserve these roads.”
The NRP leader called on the ministries of Trade, the Interior and Works to show the needed concern, so that we do not give the impression that this is a country where anything goes.
“We hope they will take action to protect and preserve our infrastructure,” he added.