Police deny cement importers permit to march

Jun 14, 2024, 1:09 PM

The Gambia Police Force have denied Cement Importers and Traders Association a permit to march.

In a press release obtained by The Point, the proposed march planned to be held yesterday (Thursday June 13th), was denied in view of the fast approaching ‘Tobaski’.

However, when members of the association were called at the Police Headquarters in Banjul on Wednesday, the Police high command informed members that they should change their date for the proposed march in view of the fast approaching ‘Tobaski’, as “Police will not be able to provide adequate security” for the proposed event.

The association was then advised to re-apply and change the date and the Police will look into the issue.

Meanwhile, members of the association alleged that this was the second time they had applied for a permit for a peaceful protest, which the police had denied.    

BACKGROUND of the Press Release

The Trade Ministry and Jah Oil continue their misinformation campaign to justify the 500% increase to D180 on “bag” cement imports, while large-scale importers like Jah Oil are allowed to import cement freely from distant European markets and Senegalese factories, from which small-scale importers are banned.

This poorly planned and corrupt policy has led to devastating effects, as cement prices have skyrocketed to D500 in Barra and Basse and nearly D440 in the Kombos.

Amidst these difficult times for most businessmen and even consumers, the release added that the Jah Oil monopoly they seek to protect had already ran out of cement and “is now sourcing from the very factories in Senegal” that small-scale importers have been barred from accessing.

The provinces have suffered the most as large-scale importers neglect these markets and this had led to a panic within the administration, resulting in a one-time release of trucks at the border as a stopgap for the cement scarcity.

To disguise their cronyism, the Trade Ministry “claims that Salam encountered difficulties” exporting their already imported cement into Senegal.

The government would have you believe this issue was the catalyst for a policy they have been colluding on for months. This false pretext is the rationale for banning “all” cement imports from Senegal, an ECOWAS state, while favoring imports from Turkey, Spain, and Portugal.

‘This narrative has evolved over time. Initially, they argued they wanted to protect local manufacturers, which was debunked as all the cement is imported since The Gambia lacks the natural resources to manufacture cement. They then claimed to be protecting local employment, but it was proven that small-scale importers employ four times more people than large-scale importers and pay more taxes, as they do not benefit from tax exemptions like the large-scale importers.’

They even blamed small importers for the rise in the CFA, which was disproven since NAWEC is the largest consumer of the CFA and the CFA continued to rise even after small-scale importers were prevented from operating. Now, the Ministry asserts that the ban on Senegalese cement is a retaliatory trade tactic. However, the true objective is becoming clear: the ban only applies to bagged cement, while powder cement, which only large-scale importers bring in, is still allowed from Senegal and exempt from the D180 import duties.

This blatant favoritism, the release added, gives Jah Oil special privileges while banning all other operators.

‘If the goal was to ban all Senegalese cement, why is there an exception for Jah Oil to both import from Senegal and avoid paying any import duties?’

‘All attempts to dialogue with the Barrow administration in good faith have resulted in no meaningful outcome. The administration seeks to enforce a moratorium on bagged cement imports from Senegal for six weeks, while allowing powder cement and Jah Oil to continue operations with no consideration for the thousands of industry employees affected, especially during a time when they need to support their families for Tobaski. Even worse, the consumer impact is disregarded as the Trade Ministry is willing to see consumers suffer from staggering price increases and cement scarcity, despite construction being the greatest contributor to our GDP and destination for foreign remittances. When asked about the consumer impact, their response is simply that consumers must sacrifice. How can this be the policy of a government for the people?’

At every level, the government’s tactic is to delay us while Jah Oil scrambles to secure more capacity, all in an attempt to create a monopoly for Hamidou Jah, making him the sole importer of cement and a state-protected monopoly.

‘This is further evidenced by the administration delaying our constitutional right to obtain a permit to demonstrate. When was the country sold to Hamidou Jah?’

Press release