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President Jammeh Explains Delay in Oil Exploration

Mar 31, 2008, 7:20 AM | Article By: By Baboucarr Senghore & Abba Gibba

President Alhaji Dr. Yahya Jammeh has for the first time ever explained that the delay in the exploration of oil reserves discovered in The Gambia since February 2004 is due to the fact that his administration is at pains to ensure that all resources discovered in the country are used to benefit Gambians more than anybody else.

The President, who was speaking last Friday in the recent state opening of the National Assembly for the second legislative year 2008, said that a rush had ensued the announcement of the discovery of oil in the country. "I will tell you why we rejected most of them. Some wanted us to give them licences and whatever is purchased. and of course exclusivity for 35 years. Only 5% of whatever is produced will come to The Gambia and they take 95%. I told them that is unacceptable," he explained.

According to the Gambian leader, The Gambia is unlike other African countries and who so ever is interested must accept what Gambians want and what is to their best interest.

He was however quick to add that the drilling of the first well for the exploration in the offshore Blocks A1 and A4, licensed to a Canadian company, would commence in 2009.

"My government is also in serious negotiations with other prospective companies for exploration and development activities on the remaining Blocks in the offshore, ultra deep, near shore, and onshore areas," he added.

President Jammeh went on to reveal that in order to regulate the conduct of downstream petroleum activities covering the crucial aspects of storage, marketing, and transportation of petroleum products and services, government was putting up finishing touches to the drafting of a downstream petroleum sector legislation.

Turning to the issue of Electricity, Energy, and Water Utilities, President Jammeh announced his government's initiation of relevant interventions aimed at addressing the constraints affecting electricity transmission and distribution on our networks, and the expansion of generation capacity. "During the course of this year, an additional 6.5 MW Machine in Kotu, a 10 MW generating set for the Brikama power plant, and two other machines with a combined generation capacity of 13 MW are expected to be commissioned," he noted.

In addition to these, the Gambian leader elucidated, necessary resources are also being mobilised to implement the next phase of the Rural Electrification Programme, as well as important energy projects using renewable sources such as solar, wind and waves technologies.

"These technologies will allow us in the not-too-distant future to light up every village and hamlet in The Gambia in line with my vision of transforming The Gambia into a city state," he said.

On Finance and Economic Affairs, President Jammeh said his government's economic policy for now and for the future would continue to be shaped by efforts geared towards substantially reducing poverty and attaining the MDGs.

"On the issue of debt, my government will continue to promote a strategy of careful management of the country's external debt to finance PRSP II priorities, without compromising debt sustainability," he posited, adding that a key challenge is to maintain a sustainable external and domestic debt position through careful borrowing and prudent fiscal policy.

Commenting on Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology, the Gambian leader asserted that a major pre-occupation of the department now is the development of a policy framework for the sub-sectors of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology.

"In line with my government's desire to promote science-based education and training of young Gambians, new scholarship programmes have been negotiated with friendly countries such as Venezuela, Cuba, Taiwan, Malaysia and others in fields like medicine, computer science, engineering, petroleum, geology, etc." he said.

Also dilating on the issue of agriculture, the Gambian leader maintained that thenceforth, agriculture would no longer be a seasonal activity based on the short seasonal rains, but one that would be an all-year activity and taking full advantage of the new technologies available.

"My Government will exploit the potentials provided by the river and underground water resources as well as water harvesting to ensure that irrigation agriculture becomes a way of life. Agro-processing will receive the priority it deserves," he asserted.

The full details of the President's address will be serialised in our subsequent issues.

Meanwhile this paper has gathered from reliable sources that President Jammeh, accompanied by a high powered delegation, is expected to leave Banjul today for a working visit to France.