Niumi Hands & Govt to Discuss Ferries Saga Ahead of Sunday Protest

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The grounded Kanilia ferry under maintenance

By Alieu Ceesay

As the nation’s concern over the Banjul-Barra crossing point’s inefficient and poor service delivery escalates, the youth-led association, Niumi Hands, has scheduled a mass protest for Sunday, April 21st, 2024, in Barra, underlining the urgency of the situation.

Alpha MK Lowe, President of Niumi Hands, confirmed that the government invited his association to a meeting today, Wednesday, shortly after news of their planned protest spread while speaking to TAT about the protest.

President Adama Barrow made an unannounced visit to the Shipyard, GPA Container, and Canoe terminals in Banjul on Tuesday afternoon after people raised severe concerns about the condition of the ferries and the temporary closure of the Banjul- Barra corridor.

 


President Adama Barrow visited the Shipyard, GPA Container, and Canoe terminals in Banjul on Tuesday afternoon.
Photo Credit: State House

The presidency says the visit was to get an update on ferry maintenance, given concerns about commuters’ difficulties at the ferry crossing in Banjul.

“President Barrow apologized to Ferry users and the public for the lack of services caused by the breakdown of both the Kunta Kinteh and Kanilai ferries. He described the emergency as unfortunate and blamed it on a lack of scheduled maintenance and poor planning, thus affecting national and international commuters.”

According to the association President, his association is apolitical, so their planned protest has no political connotations or affiliations but is meant to demonstrate against what he described as “dismally poor delivery of service.”

He stated they are motivated to vent their discontent publicly to end the Banjul-Barra ferry “quagmire.” He was quick to say that the problems of the ferries are not limited to Nuimi alone, but it is a national issue; hence, he called on every concerned Gambians to join their crusade and show their dissatisfaction to the authorities for improved and sustainable services.

“The Banjul-Barra corridor is strategically important and generates revenue for the state. What makes it even more important is its use for medical referrals from NBR to Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital. Not long ago, a patient on referral died aboard due to this same problem. Students and vulnerable groups like children, women, and older people ply the route daily, and the Gambia Ferry Services isn’t providing those desirable services. No single ferry is available between Banjul-Barra, bringing almost everything to a standstill,” Niumi Hands President lamented with grave concern.

Lowe maintained that they would attend the conference and listen to what the authorities say regarding their proposed meeting with the government. He said they hope the outcome of the engagement with the Gambia government will offer lasting solutions to their myriad of challenges.

He added, ” We are highly committed to conducting a peaceful protest. We have a strategy of orienting our members on the need to be civil and avoid politicizing the event through words, actions, and appearance. We are constantly raising awareness on this through messages in our various platforms, and on D-day, we will debrief the procession before the match pass kicks off.”

President Lowe expressed hope that the Inspector General of Police will permit them to exercise their constitutional rights. This would allow them to express their frustration and disapproval of the poor services provided by the Gambia Ferry Services and the Gambia Ports Authority, potentially leading to significant changes in the future.

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