By Tabora Bojang
After a contentious deliberation, the National Assembly on Friday considered and approved a $47 million loan and grant agreement between the government of the Gambia and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (Ifad).
The debate was so intense that some NAMs momentarily walked out.
The Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs Mambury Njie, who tabled the agreement in an emergency ordinary session before lawmakers urged the assembly to support the agreement.
He said the project if approved would focus on “creating accessible markets, improve the participation of women and rural youth farmers, establish and strengthen women groups, cooperative societies, youth-led small businesses and female entrepreneurs in vegetable and rice production.”
The Member for Serrekunda, Halifa Sallah argued that it is not enough just for the Assembly to consider an agreement appropriate and then approve it because over D4.5 billion agricultural projects have been rolled out in the country which shared the same objectives and asHalifa tabled a motion calling for the suspension of the debate to the national assembly extra ordinary sessions in March to allow the committee on agriculture to include all stakeholders to get a fair view of the state of affairs of the agreements accordingly.
The Member for Kantora, Billay Tunkara got up to counter the motion but was rejected by Speaker Mariam Jack-Denton who said that his reference on the Assembly Standing Orders talks about a bill and not a motion.
A noisy deliberation ensued when Speaker Denton called for a vote, arguing that since there is no counter motion the House will hold a first procession of vote by voice.
During a disruptive voting process where the Nos claim victory, several chants of points of order were made, while some alleged ambiguity in the process.
In a perceived protest, at least 5 members including Madi Ceesay of Serrekunda West, Sanna Jawara of Upper Fulladu West, Matarr Jeng of Lower Niumi, Alhagie Sowe Jimara and Kaddy Camara of Foni Bondali who later returned, left the Assembly after the heated voting process.
The Member for Latrikunda, Saikou Marong, supported the agreement even if it is “100 percent loan.”
He said during the last budget sessions, all members have agreed that the allocation for agriculture was not pleasing and called for more interventions in the sector which he said is in line with the Ifad Gambia agreement.
“It is true that this project will not touch my constituency but as far as it concerns national development, I will fully support it,” he said.
Samba Jallow, Member for Niamina Dankunku who is also the Minority Leader said 80 percent of the project will support women empowerment, improve horticultural productivity and curb climate change.