Monday, June 24, 2019

Barrow to hand over Gambia Port to Nigeria?

It now appears that China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) is attracting a surprising and unlikely competition from the SIFAX Group, a Nigerian company that describes itself as a conglomerate with diverse investments, in its bid to take over the GPA port facilities. 

The Chinese take over bid of the port facilities involving an investment package of $177 million ran into a snag last year when it did not meet the donor-imposed 50% grant threshold for projects that will be finance during the transition period. 

The Chinese bid enjoyed the support of the Office of The President and forcefully stirred by the Minister of Works against the wishes of the Ministry of Finance and the Board of Directors of the GPA who appeared to have been left out of the negotiations, including the consultation process. 

The ensuing fall-out resulted in the unceremonious transfer of the former GPA Managing Director, Tambadou, to the moribund Gambia Public Procurement Agency (GPPA) that is routinely bypassed in major procurement decisions of the transition government of  president Adama Barrow.

Although unclear why the sudden bromance between Barrow administration and the SIFAX Group of Nigeria despite the parallel project preparation activities underway with the African Development Bank playing the lead-lender role, what is evident is the aggressive drumbeat emanating from State House, led by Permanent Secretary, Yankuba Saidy, who heads the Investment Desk. 

Mr. Saidy's role has raised a few eyebrows because, aside from driving the SIFAX Group train through hostile territory, he is alleged to have acted as a paid consultant to the Nigerian company that prepared the proposal to take 75% of the port facilities, thus posing a monumental conflict of interest challenge to a point man to some of the most influential members of the Barrow administration.   

Mr. Saidy has been demanding the Gambia Ports Authority management to come up with what he refers to as "Counter Proposal to SIFAX Group" by the deadline of 30th May, 2019.  The GPA was also expected to propose a draft contract by the same date.  The slippage in not meeting the deadline "without showing any cause" has not been viewed kindly by State House.  Of course, the delay had to do with the myriad of extremely issues of national importance.

The cautious approach adopted by the Gambia Ports Authority has clearly frustrated Mr. Saidy who has accused the MD of GPA of "foot dragging", a term coined by the Yaya Jammeh's Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council that was interpreted as an infringement of the junta's decrees.  Many a Gambian have gone to Mile II prisons or dismissed or both.
- This is a developing story