The Gambia doesn't have the money to host the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) 2019 summit, the OIC Secretariat revealed to journalists yesterday May 22, 2019, at the Petroleum House in Brusubi.
Recent media reports stated that the country will no longer host the event.
The Gambia was to host the summit this year in November. The Gambia was in April 2016 given the host right of the organisation's flagship event held every three years.
But the Chief Executive Officer, Lamin Sanneh, said due to the absence of money and following a series of consultation with relevant authorities, they were asked to mobilise resources to build the infrastructure to host the summit in 2022, when the next summit is scheduled to take place.
"And there is nothing wrong and I don't think we will regret it. I have no regrets being here or to say yes, we are not ready. We love this country and we will do our best for this country. We will not be rushed to hosting a summit that would taint the image of this country," he said.
Sanneh said infrastructure is the main cause of the delay plus they need to engage with people in certain consultation with regards to road demolition to get the facts which take time. He said this aims to rebrand Gambia to entice tourists to be habitual visitors in the country.
"And looking at the data we had at the time there was no way we could complete the road projects... on time for the November Summit," he said.
Commenting on the effects the demolition would cause to the tenants along the road sides, Mr. Sanneh said they commissioned an exercise to get the facts and determine who to compensate, whose report of the requirements they already got.
"Some would be affected, some would not be affected but I believe 90% would not be affected with the new 20 metres we are looking at right now, so the NRA (National Road Authority) technicians came here, we had a series of meetings to review the plan that we had from the beginning to now, they said how are we going to resolve this issue going forward to address some of the concerns," he said.
He said development comes with some level of cost which we have to accept as a country, however, he said they would do their best to make sure that they minimize the impact.
"Road construction is not only to build a road. You also have to put at least 3 metres for electricity, 3 metres for water and then may be 7 metres for Gamtel for the cable," he said.
According to local media reports, The Gambia requested that Saudi fulfil part of the financial pledge it made earlier to help her prepare for the summit, as part of the deal to allow Saudi to host the world's biggest Islamic conference. When quizzed about the development, Sanneh emphatically responded in the negative saying he is always involved in any decision taken or done about the OIC.
He added that though the foreign minister is one of the board members, he has no mandate or authority to strike a deal on behalf of a legal entity that he is not a 'citizen.'
"The procedure of the OIC is clearly stated that if a host country is not able to host for whatever reason, and no other country within the same geography. The provision in the charter says the summit will be hosted by the general secretariat's host country," he said.
Mr. Sanneh said the decision for The Gambia to host was given to Africa and 22 countries from the African bloc gave it to Gambia and to change that, they have to go back to that bloc and have their engagement and discussion within themselves then that bloc would go to the OIC and present the Africa case.
He said whatever they are doing is not in isolation, saying the whole of Africa is behind Gambia in ensuring the success of the summit, indicating that the OIC Secretariat visited the country five times.
Speaking further, Sanneh said their challenges are mainly local, the main ones include road construction, which gave them headache and they are trying to resolve the issue. Secondly, he said the airport landing point is another challenge and they are trying to decide on how to construct it and three, the accommodation for the participants.
He said anybody who is along the road and is affected will be dealt with properly and the government would take its stance and would do what is right.
He further said the cost of operation for the secretariat per annum was about $600,000 including all activities done in the name of OIC. According to him, the funding they have received so far on projects includes road construction which amounts to $100 million, $10.5 million for the airport VIP Lounge, $10 million for the electricity, and $22.5 million for the water.
Sanneh indicated that once the final design is completed, they would start the demolition of road and other related works and pointed out that the Gambia Government is not spending anything to the secretariat.
Meanwhile, in relation to the expansion of the Airport Junction-Sting Corner road, the Road Reserve Committee, a multi-sectorial committee observed that some properties have encroached into the 40m Road Reserve buffer along the airport junction traffic lights. As a result, the Gambia OIC Secretariat sponsored a property assessment exercise conducted by the Departments of Physical Planning and Lands and Surveys.
The Secretariat has also finalized the prequalification process for the contractors for the following projects: 22km Road Expansion- (Airport junction to Sting Corner), 50km Secondary Roads, 400 room 5 Star Hotel and VVIP lounge at the Airport.
Sanneh said the Saudi Development Fund will support in the implementation of the following: 100km Road, VVIP Lounge at the Banjul International Airport, enhanced water production, transmission and distribution within the OIC concentrated areas, and enhanced electricity transmission and distribution within the OIC concentrated areas.
However, separate negotiations continue with the Saudi Investment Authority for the funding of the 5-Star Hotel.