(JollofNews) – Gambia’s President Adama Barrow has suffered a backlash after he accepted gifts from a Senegalese property developer while on a state visit to neighbouring Senegal.
Mr Barrow was Friday gifted two luxurious properties worth 240 million CFA by Mar Thiam, CEO of Getran, with the aim of strengthening relations between Senegal and the Gambia.
The gifts sparked the ire of Madi Jobarteh, a renowned activist, who described the it as a “matter of serious concern that directly threatens our democracy.”
“The fact that the businessman said his gift is to show appreciate for his business gains in the Gambia potentially compromises the integrity of the president,” Mr Jobarteh said.
He added: “This is because such a gift has automatically become license for which the businessman could potentially obtain more contracts in the Gambia beyond and above what he deserves. For that matter, this gift must be rejected and returned to the owner. If the gift cannot be returned, then it must be transferred to state ownership.
In the first place, Section 222 which establishes the Code of Conduct for Public Officers in our Constitution states in sub-section 11 that: “A public officer shall not ask for or accept any property or benefits of any kind for himself or herself or any other person on account of anything done or omitted to be done by him or her in the course of his or her duties. The receipt of any gift or benefit from or on behalf of a commercial firm, business enterprise or a person having or negotiating a contract with the government shall be deemed to be in contravention of this paragraph unless the contrary is established.”
“Hence as per this paragraph, this gift is from a businessman who had once done business in the Gambia. Such business transaction may not have been a government contract, but the fact that the man gave this gift to the head of state, could potentially compromise the state when this businessman comes back again in future to seek any contracts. Thus for the purpose of probity and constitutionality, Barrow should return the gift.”
The gifts also infuriated many on social media.
Aliey Njie wrote on Facebook: “Since the president was travelling in his official capacity the gift should have been rejected on ethical grounds or be transferred in the name of the Republic of The Gambia and use as official resident for embassy staff. We can’t replace a brutal and corrupt dictatorship with a gentle one.”
Andrew Pjalo wrote: “No gifts period! Those Czarist and African tendencies should be relegated to the past whether well intended or for other veiled objects and purposes! Offering gifts to national leaders sets a dangerous precedents as was the case with the former PPP leadership where trucks loaded with free gifts of livestock followed leaders, on countrywide tours, back to Banjul. That amounted to pay for play then and still does today!! Or better still, donate the proceeds to a worthy charity for eternity.”
Pa Willi wrote: It looks like “The Pay to play” scheme could still be inexistence in the new transparent government. I think the gift to a president of a nation on a state visit should belong to the nation. Just saying; what do I know?
Natty Dread wrote: “ For the purpose of transparency that should be a national gift rather than personal, and I think President Barrow and his advisers should know better. Who give 240 million CFA for nothing? Scratch my back and i will in turn scratch yours days are over.”
For Buba Sanyang, while it is very normal for presidents to accepts gifts, “they must be registered and catalogue in the states inventory. Personal gifts are often small value items. But even that must me declared and recorded. President Barrow cannot claim those properties as personal gifts because his visit to Senegal is in the name of Gambians and also no private individual will give a foreign head of state such expensive gift without expecting some favour in return. I will be very surprised if Mr Thiam would make such gifts to Macky Sall. The National Assembly should demand that Barrow handover the properties to the state on his return to Banjul. Call me cynical but this seems to me like Mr Thiam is trying to win support for his company to be award the contract for the construction of the Bridge linking Farafenni and Soma. If he is given the contract other companies should challenge it.”
Honest Gambians Saidily wrote: “Is it wise for President Barrow to have accepted gift of two properties from a Senegalese entrepreneur in the person of Mr Thiam? Why would he offer our President such handsome gifts worth CFA 240m? I hope journalists back home would question our president why he accepted this offer on his first official visit abroad? In my view this is wrong given the fact that nine out of ten this is how business tycoons lure powers that be into corruption. I rest my case.”