Former OIC Gambia Head Lamin Sanneh breaks Silence, Discusses OIC projects

Lamin Sanneh OIC Gambia former Boss

Lamin Sanneh, the former chief executive officer of OIC Banjul secretariat, sat down with Alkamba Times for a rare interview, discussing the OIC funding and initial plans for hosting a successful event and the benefits The Gambia would have reaped, among other topics.

Sanneh, a respected international Investment Banker, explained how The Gambia could have benefitted from the post-OIC Summit. Wealthy Arab nations, such as Saudi Arabia, provided millions of dollars to support the country’s preparations.
He was appointed the first CEO to lead the resource mobilization for the Summit, initially scheduled for December 2022.

The funding, which totaled millions of dollars, was obtained through loans from the Saudi government, seeking to support various projects and initiatives as part of its efforts to the Gambia.

He said the Government of the Gambia has no stake in the financial contributions to the summit budget because member countries assist in financing it through loans and unrestricted grants.

Sanneh explained that original plans for the summit were divided into five sectors, including a $10 million US dollar airport VIP Lounge and $50 Million US dollars for the construction of 50 KM roads.

He explained that the Saudi loans would be repaid over 30 years, with a five-year grace period. 

“The sixty million US Dollars is a loan given by the Saudi government with no interest payment,” he said about two of these projects, adding that these monies were already secured after the National Assembly approved the loan agreement with the Saudis.

Sanneh told Alkamba that if he had been the head of the OIC by the time of the Summit, he would have pursued the loan-supporting countries because they had executed the original plans to make the Gambia the center of international conferences and tourism.

He said they secured 22.2 million dollars plus another 10 million for water distribution and electricity through NAWEC. These monies, he said, were grants from the Saudis.

Another OIC Banjul project plan was to procure summit vehicles, which he said the Saudis agreed to provide 110 new car fleets.

“We had a lot of support from Turkiye, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia,” he said, adding that the Saudis gave three million dollars for the operational cost of the Secretariat.

Regarding the Conference center built by the Chinese through China Aid, Sanneh said the Secretariat gave the government 22 million dalasis as counterfunding for the conference, which the Chinese built as a loan to the Gambia.

According to Sanneh, new hotels should have been built as part of the initial plans for the Summit, which would have benefitted the country and allowed many investments in return.

When quizzed about the Summit’s success, the former OIC boss said it would be challenging to consider it a success without these projects.

He said it is misleading to say the government of the Gambia funds these projects, adding that some are funded on grants without conditions.

According to him, member countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), comprising Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates,  Qatar, and Indonesia, and contributed financially to support hosting the 15th OIC summit in Gambia.

The former Gambia OIC Secretariat Chief Executive was responsible for coordinating and mobilizing resources and implementing projects for the OIC Summit in Gambia. He dismissed claims that he was paid while serving in that role as false.

He clarified that he came to OIC on departmental secondment to help in resource mobilization, and his previous employers paid for his 18 months’ salary.

“Select the right team, you will get the desired results’, Sanneh said, describing the setting of the Secretariat and branding of the Gambia as one of his successes at the OIC Banjul office.

Meanwhile, Nyang Njie, a former branding and communications director for OIC who resigned simultaneously with Lamin Sanneh, also broke his silence on a lengthy social media post two days after the Summit ended.

“Since I left the OIC Secretariat, I refused to speak or meddle in the preparations of the Summit as it would have given a negative connotation to a national effort that needed all the efforts and support of the citizenry. The curtains have been drawn and the OIC summit has come to past and there are few deliverables expected from hosting such a mega event.

The first critical delivery before embarking on the infrastructure works was the enactment of local content legislation. This law would have empowered indigenous contractors to partner with international firms, thereby building capacity for future public infrastructure works,” Nyang said.

“The second deliverable was to establish a Sovereign wealth fund to manage the assets (Hotel, Conference Center, and Lounge) realized for hoisting the Summit. The third deliverable was to partner with a big hotel chain such as Radisson, Marriott or Hilton to sell destination Gambia as a MICE (Meeting, International Conference and Entertainment) using the conference center, Hotel, Airport and cars and our hospitable weather as leverage.

I am not sure if this will be realized going forward because the hotel has not been built. Talks were ongoing to have a hotel called Bin Salman Hotel named after the Saudi King, whereby the Gambia will provide the land and the Royal family through the assistance of the Saudi Development Fund and Saudi Investment Fund. I will not say that all is lost but we have a missed opportunity as most of the funds were mobilized in the early days of the project. TRT of Turkey also pledged to assist GRTS through TICAD, but these pledges needed aggressive follow-ups to see fruition.” Mr Njie noted.

The 15th OIC summit wrapped up over the weekend after a grand opening ing on May 4th that convened the heads of state and representatives from the bloc of 57 member states stretching across Africa and Asia.

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Sainey M.K. Marenah
Mr. Sainey M.K. Marenah is a Prominent Gambian journalist, founding editor The Alkamba Times and formerly head of communications at the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) and Communications and PR Consultant for The Gambia Pilot Program, under Gamworks. Mr. Marenah served as the Social media Strategist and Editor at Gambia Radio and Television Services. He is also the Banjul Correspondent for Voice of America Radio. Sainey is a human rights and developmental journalist who has carved a strong niche particularly in new media environments in the Gambian media industry. Mr. Marenah began his career as a junior reporter with the Point Newspaper in the Gambia in 2008 and rose through the ranks to become Chief correspondent before moving to The Standard Newspaper also in Banjul as Editorial Assistant and head of News. He is a household name in the Gambia’s media industry having covered some of the most important stories in the former and current government. These include the high profile treason cases including the Trial of Former military chiefs in Banjul in 2009 to 2012. Following his arrest and imprisonment by the former regime of President, Yahya Jammeh in 2014, Marenah moved to Dakar Senegal where he continues to practice Journalism freelancing for various local and international Media organization’s including the BBC, Al-Jazeera, VOA, and ZDF TV in Germany among others. He is the co-Founder of the Banjul Based Media Center for Research and Development; an institution specialized in research and development undertakings. As a journalist and Communication Expert, focused on supporting the Gambia's transitional process, Mr Marenah continues to play a pivotal role in shaping a viable media and communications platform that engages necessary tools and action to increase civic participation and awareness of the needs of transitional governance to strengthen the current move towards democratization. Mr. Marenah has traveled extensively as a professional journalist in both Europe, Africa and United States and attended several local and international media trainings.


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