Alagi Saidy-Barrow: Airport Fees In The Gambia 

Alagie Saidy-Barrow

So when you land at the Banjul International Airport, you are forced to pay a 1000 Dalasi “security fee” before you are allowed to leave the airport with your passport.

You are forced to pay the same amount if you want to fly out of The Gambia. They call it Civil Aviation and Immigration Security Systems Levy and the people collecting the money only accept cash payments of only certain currencies.

They give you some generic type receipt that anyone with ambition can manufacture. Try asking any employee of GCAA where this money goes or how it’s accounted for and you’ll get no answers. If you ask anyone who is somehow benefiting from this scheme, they feign anger!

The Gambia government signed a contract with an American company called Securiport LLC, a company that employs a range of tools and systems that collect and analyze our data and identity to “ensure” our security and safety! What they do with what they collect on us, I certainly have no idea! I doubt even GCAA or our government knows but ignorance is bliss they say! We will gladly sell each other for tokens in this country!

Of course it’s only ordinary people like myself that are made to pay this so-called security fee.

The privileged among us, those with power, and those closest to power, are often welcomed at the foot of the aircraft by MoFA vans and quickly ushered away so they don’t have to deal with sweaty ordinary Gambians. They are not ordinary people like us even though they are supposedly our servants! There’s a reason many of us want government jobs too!

But what I find ridiculous and spineless is that Gambians, as usual, simply just accept to pay these fees for our “security” without knowing where the money is going or how it’s accounted for. Yaya Jammeh also killed people by labeling them witches for our safety and security. We simply acquiesced and played dead.

“If they were not witches, nothing would have happened to them” one of the very people going around labeling people and forcing them to drink concoctions told me. You will hardly find a more obedient people than those of us immured within this colonial space we call Gambia. We take Yallah baahna or Allah behteh yatta to a ridiculous and confounding level.

The last time I complained about paying this Airport fee, the people behind me at the airport were complaining that I was delaying them! One reason why Yaya Jammeh and his administration were able to abuse us for twenty-two years is our spinelessness!

So a young man who works at GCAA shared a Facebook post complaining about this “security” fee questioning the dubious way the fees are collected and the lack of accountability. And lo and behold, the leadership of the GCAA decided this promising young man must be silenced. They decided to fire him because he dared ask for accountability!

Essentially, no matter what corruption you see where you work, you must find ways to partake in it or give it a Nelsonian Eye is the message that the GCAA is sending out. Go on Ebrima Dampha’s page and see for yourself if what he wrote warrants a firing.

The unfortunate part is, as usual, we will continue to mind our business and let the young man fight his own battle. This is a moment for the anti-corruption crusaders to stand up and demand accountability for the cash collected from us at the airport! Sue GCAA and make them tell us how these fees are helping to “secure” us.

Journalists worth their salt have an opportunity to ask for information on this contract with Securiport and what they are doing with our data. Test the freedom of information the government supposedly supports.

Where are the lawyers that care about corruption? This is a case lawyers should be begging to be part of if they care about accountability at all. Or am I being too hopeful in us?

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