By Musa Bah

The fact that ID cards have not been issued in over a year in the Gambia is a problem that sheds bad light on the government of the Gambia. Firstly, it represents a sort of a hangover from the very high dosage of ineptitude and corruption that was forced down our throats by the previous government. The fact that the contracts that were signed by the government with Semlex were certainly not good for the country suggests that someone simply wanted to benefit from such contracts at the detriment of the nation.

Then, this same government – because they had been made to believe that Pristine Company was better for the country (and perhaps someone would have benefitted hugely) – made them sign another one with them (Pristine). This led to a court case being filed against Government of the Gambia for breach of contract.

The contract signed with Pristine Company stated, among other things, that it will last for five years. During these five years, they were supposed to train personnel from the Gambia Immigration Department so that at the end of the period, those officers will take over from them. Apparently, they were not training anyone and in fact, our Immigration officers were not allowed anywhere near the printing facility. This shows that both Pristine Company and the Immigration Department failed to serve the interest of the Gambian people.

Pristine Company cannot – should not – sign a contract that they will train Gambians and then refuse to do so. The Immigration Department also failed inasmuch as they would have known after a year or two that their officers were not getting the training. They should have raised the alarms early in the game. But, they didn’t, or so it seems. Someone has got to answer for this.

Now, the new Government is stuck in between Semlex who have a valid contract, they say; and Pristine Company, who reportedly have our data and are unwilling to release it to be used by someone else. This is ridiculous! Meanwhile, Gambians are going around with no ID Cards. This is a woeful failure on the part of our governments – both past and present.

It was learnt during the investigation for this writeup that there are people within the Immigration Department who have the expertise to produce this ID Card much like how the Gambia Police Force are issuing the Drivers’ License on their own. Besides, if a foreign company produces these national documents, it means they have all our information at their disposal and who knows what can happen to it (or the country) in this age of hackers, black and white? It is high time we started depending on our little expertise and resources rather than always looking outwards for our needs.

How can a whole government be unable to issue national documents for a whole year or more? When we vote a government into office, it is with the understanding that they will do any, and all thing necessary to ensure that they give us the best goods and services. The issuing of National ID Cards has very serious security implications and should be handled with extreme care, caution and due diligence.

Government must step up and find a way of solving this problem once and for all, for all.