One of the worrisome situations that lately developed to a big issue in Barra, Niumi, North Bank Region is the dearth of youth empowerment which is now a great concern for residents of the region.
Niumi is located on the mouth of the River Gambia in the North Bank Region of The Gambia. The people of Niumi were the first people to have an encounter with Europeans in The Gambia having been the first main port of call for the European traders entering through the River Gambia.
Aba T. Hydara, head of Promoters of Artistic Creative Theatre Excellence, who is also the president of Niumi Fort Bullen Festival, affirmed that lack of empowerment among the youth of Niumi is among the problems youth are facing in Barra community.
He said the youth of Barra deserve attention as far as empowerment is concerned so that they can complement the government's development policies.
"Barra has no community hall or youth center, in the whole Lower Niumi, no single skill center, Barra youths don't own a single boat, instead they only run after the pirogue boat plying between Barra and Banjul who would give them 'manda' known as tip."
Consequently, Hydara disclosed that lack of youth empowerment is culpable to the increase and rampant child abuse in Barra. "Children of ages 12, 13, and 15 that are supposed to be in schools are frolicking boats at the riverside without any challenge from anyone just because of little 'manda' from boat owners," he said in sorrow.
According to him, it is a distracting factor that causes more school dropouts whereby some of the youth engage in selling illicit drugs while some went on 'backway' to Europe and unfortunately died at sea."
Whatever the case might be; he argued that if government fails to do something to empower the idle youths in the community, Barra will remain prone to backway syndrome. "This is because most of the backway coordinators (human traffickers) network is still very intact in the region. More so there are people behind them, ordinary set of people cannot afford a boat as it costs nothing less than D350,000.00."
He lamented that he foresaw the incident which prompted him to write a letter to the minister of Local Government and Lands in July 2019 and copied to the governor of North Bank Region (NBR), CEO Kerewan Area Council, councillor of Essau Ward and district chief of Lower Niumi. However, he said that his letter was "given a deaf ear".
In the letter, according to him, he informed that "Barra deserves better attention to empower its residents."
He added that Barra is faced with series of developmental challenges.
As a former VDC chairperson and also secretary general of Barra Youth Development Committee, he thus called on government to work with the VDC to find a solution to the issue.