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 Manneh says OIC summit was missed opportunity
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Posted - 15 May 2024 :  13:15:05  Show Profile Send Momodou a Private Message  Reply with Quote
UDP’s Manneh says OIC summit was missed opportunity
The Standard: MAY 14, 2024

By Omar Bah

Lamin Manneh, the deputy secretary external affairs of the main opposition UDP, has described the just concluded Banjul OIC Summit as a failure and an embarrassment to The Gambia.

Manneh told The Standard in an exclusive interview that had it been properly planned, the summit could have favourably placed the country on the global stage, and within the OIC family, in particular.

Manneh explained that only a complacent assessment and acceptance of mediocrity would lead us to conclude that the mere fact that small Gambia was able to host the world’s second largest gathering of states is a feat in itself. “However, if we are demanding proper leadership and single-minded determination that we are capable of achieving greatness, then we cannot but conclude that the summit was a failure and an embarrassment,” he said.

The country, he added, was offered a golden opportunity and “we failed to take advantage of it to positively project The Gambia into the global limelight.”

Manneh further argued: “A country, which, after six years of preparations, could not build 50 kilometres of secondary roads, a 22-kilometre highway, a five-star hotel and enhance its water and electricity supply to its capital city and environs, when all the requisite funding was available, can hardly boast of organising a successful summit. To compound the failure, out of 57 heads of state only seven, including the Gambian president attended the summit”.

He argued that most of the heads of state stayed away most probably because the advance parties and other monitors concluded that the country was not ready to host the summit, owing to the poor quality and inadequately executed and incomplete road works; lack of appropriate hotel accommodation; unreliable power supply and internet connectivity and security concerns.

“Indeed, in addition to the image-building and branding potential offered by the Summit, the country could have realised a series of deliverables, including: critical hard and soft infrastructural development, capacity building, diplomatic positioning of the country and networking, showcasing the country and its numerous investment potentials; and selling Destination Gambia in the hospitality and conference world,” he stated.

These failures, he alleged, are the result of lack of leadership at the helm of the state as well as in the different ministries and agencies involved in the preparation of the summit.

“Likewise, the new OIC Secretariat, Banjul, which took over after the mass resignation of Lamin Sanneh (the first OIC CEO) and his team, did not demonstrate the requisite authority and drive to steer the related infrastructure works and other preparations to a successful conclusion,” he stressed.

Under infrastructure development, Manneh added, the Ministry of Infrastructure and the new OIC Secretariat, failed to fully and adequately realise the construction of the 50-kilometre OIC secondary roads, in respect of which, the Saudi Fund granted a $50-million loan, payable over 30 years, with a five-year grace period and a one percent administrative levy.

“The construction of the 22-kilometre Bertil Harding Highway is far from completion, after the Ministry of Infrastructure claimed to have spent USD 79.8 million on the road. That is an average of USD 3.5 million per kilometre as opposed to the international standard of USD 1 million per kilometre of highway, thus making the Bertil Harding Highway one of the most overpriced highways in the world. According to the Minister, by the time the construction of the road is completed, his Ministry would have spent USD 150 million, i.e. an average of a whopping USD 6.81 million per kilometre, probably a world record.

“In the same vein, the planned construction of the five-star hotel, never started after the laying of the first stone almost two years ago. The construction contract was awarded to a certain Mr. Thiam, following an opaque bidding process. Yet the Saudi government had offered to grant-finance the construction through the Saudi Investment Authority. This generous offer was complemented by an additional Saudi offer of 110 high-end vehicles to enable the country transport the VIP delegates to the Summit. The Saudis withdrew these two offers when the first OIC CEO and his team resigned, following unacceptable pressures from the Executive,” he alleged.

He further alleged that the country also lost the proposed $25-million grant-funding of the satellite-based ground and maritime border surveillance system offered by the Kingdom of Morocco.

“Similarly, a $22.5 million Greater Banjul Water Project, comprising the sinking of a new borehole and the construction of a treatment plant in Sanyang, and a $10 million Electricity Transmission and Distribution Project, are yet to be fully implemented. The initial OIC Secretariat secured grant funding for both these projects from the Saudi government in addition to another $50-million grant was negotiated by Messrs. Ousainu Darboe and Lamin Sanneh with the Azerbaijan government to finance the enhancement of Kairaba Avenue, Marina Parade, Independence Drive, Wellington Street, ECOWAS Avenue, Leman and Hagan streets as well as the construction of a by-pass ring road from Jeshwang to Yundum Airport. That grant was also cancelled following a diplomatic mishap by Foreign Minister Tangara,” Manneh alleged.

He continued: “These different infrastructure projects could have afforded the country significant capacity-building and skills-transfer opportunities. These required the adoption of local-content legislation by the National Assembly. Unfortunately, that wasn’t done either. The GRTS, Nawec, Gamtel and certain hotel staff could have benefitted from skills enhancement training as well.”

He said the president and the foreign minister should have been very active on the diplomatic front to position The Gambia and secure the presence of most heads of state and government at the Banjul summit.

“President Barrow’s apparent lack of confidence in himself makes him shy away from his peers and that did not help showcase the country’s potential to host a successful OIC summit. The investment, tourism, and conference-organisation potential of the smiling coast weren’t flaunted either. In a nutshell, the cases of lost opportunities and cost overruns under this OIC summit are monumental. Now, we can only hope that the unfinished road construction and other development works will be followed through and rapidly concluded without adding to their already exorbitant costs. We also hope that the Minister of Infrastructure and the OIC Secretariat will show the country how much they spent on the hard and soft infrastructure developed for the Summit,” he added.

He added: “Finally, we hope that President Barrow will manage his chairmanship of the OIC, over the next three years, better than he managed the country’s preparations in the run up to the hosting of the recently concluded 15th Summit of the OIC. The Gambians are also watching to see how the newly acquired, very expensive and unnecessary high-end cars will be managed by this government. We hope that they will not be distributed among the top brass of the government or sold off to them, at give-away prices. We are watching but we are not holding our breath.”

A clear conscience fears no accusation - proverb from Sierra Leone
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