Information Minister to Probe into Circumstances Surrounding the Erection of Towers at Bakau Health Facility

Ebrima Sillah, the Minister of Information and Communication Infrastructure

By: Kebba AF Touray

The Gambia’s Information Minister Ebrima Sillah, has on Wednesday 24th March 2021, assured lawmakers that his Ministry will investigate the circumstances surrounding the erection of two towers in the premises of Bakau Health Center.

Minister Sillah said this during questions and answer session with legislators at the National Assembly.

The Member for Bakau Hassan Touray, asked the Minister about the modalities and arrangements on the network antennas erected in the Bakau Health facility premises.

Information Minister Sillah in his reply stated that the staff of the Ministry visited the Health facility to ascertain the nature of the communication infrastructure deployed at the said premise; that he has confirmed the existence of two towers within the facility’s premises, which according to the staff, belong to Africell and Qcell; that as provided in the Information Act of 2019 as amended, his Ministry in consultation with PURA is responsible for issuance of licenses to operators in the ICT industry. But he said his Ministry and PURA do not in any way determine the area or premises the operator uses to deploy its infrastructure in order to provide services to their customers.

He said notwithstanding this, it is important to note that, as far as acquiring properties and premises for the deployment of ICT Infrastructure by licensed operators is concerned, the land is acquired through factors such as identifying a private property and a matter of negotiation and agreement between the operator and the owner of the premises etc.

“Since MoICI is never involved in the process of acquiring properties for the deployment of infrastructure for private operators, and that the said towers are erected at the said premises of the Ministry of Health. I would like to suggest that the relevant authority be engaged for further clarification on this issue,” he said.

Bakau lawmaker further asked the minister to inform the assembly whether there is any compensation package for the erection of the said towers in the health facility’s premises.

Minister Sillah said: “If the operator actually engaged the land owner on the erection of a tower in his or her particular land, what happens is that the land can be leased, bought and rent, depending on the agreement formula for which compensation is given. But in this particular one, I don’t actually know what the agreement is.”

Momodou Ceesay, Member for Janjangbureh, asked the Information Minister whether he can instruct the regulators to go and probe into the matter, since the ministry is responsible for issuance of license to operators.

Minister Sillah replied that his ministry will undoubtedly do the investigation, adding that they have already commenced probing into the matter.

Halifa Sallah, the Member for Serrekunda, told the Minister that it is prudent to raise the matter in Cabinet and get answers from the concerned Cabinet Minister to get the substance of what actually happened, rather than prolonging the whole chain of questioning into the issues.

Minister Sillah in his reply to Mr. Sallah said “I will definitely do that. In fact, this information reached us just recently and Cabinet is not sitting soon. But I will definitely do that to help us determine what the arrangements are, as per the issue”.