By Momodou Jarju
Over two hundred and thirty-two thousand Biometric Identification Cards have been issued to Gambians since the commencement of the issuance of the document in October 2018, the Minister of Interior, Yankuba Sonko told lawmakers in Banjul on Wednesday.
Minister Sonko remark was in response to the question raised by Halifa Sallah, Serrekunda lawmaker, who asked him to quantify how many new ID Cards have been issued since registration commenced and how many would be issued at end of 2020.
In response, the minister said his ministry through the Department of Immigration has since the commencement of the registration of new ID Cards in October 2018; issued 232, 721 biometric ID Cards.
Of this figure, he said 141, 396 were issued to males and 91, 327 females.
“During this period under review, a total of 219 refusals were made and referral of 4, 475 applicants. The total number of ID Cards produced for the year 2020 from January to May, including April was 51, 986. Therefore, the average monthly production stands at 13, 000 Cards during the said period covering the 7 production centers,” he said.
He said over one hundred million dalasis (D104, 724, 450) has been generated from the D450 payments. In addition, D98, 550 is gained from the 219 refusals made, he said.
The total money, as per the total issuance as well as those refused issuance is D104, 823, 000.
Given the above statistics, Minister Sonko said it is projected that about 200, 000 ID Cards will be produced by the end of 2020. And with the new additional four centers they have identified for operation plus the expected relaxation of the Covid-19 restrictions, they are sure of reaching 200, 000 ID Cards by end of 2020.
The minister further said since the declaration of the public state of emergency and regulations on social distancing, and other measures to fight against the pandemic, the production rate has decreased.
“In fact operation ceased completely in the month of April,” he said.
He said the production of ID Cards was only done at the SEMELEX headquarters in Kanifing, before opening to other outlets in the regions, namely Banjul, Brikama, Soma and Farefenni.
He further said four new sites have been identified, namely Kaur, Kerewan, Brikama Ba and Barra.
Sonko said Kaur and Kerewan will soon be operational. He also said there are plans to identify more sites across the country. As a result of these, he said the production will significantly increase.
Sallah asked the minister in his supplementary question to indicate the problems stopping them from the universal issuance of ID Cards throughout the country.
In his response, Minister Sonko said what is preventing the universal issuance is because they are yet to have the facilities. But he said they are lobbying with landlords because they cannot build offices at the moment.
“Some of the properties that are identified are not ideal for the purpose,” he said, while adding that they are still looking for ideal facilities.
Speaking further, he said a team has already been dispatched to conduct assessment. He said Sukuta has been identified to house the equipment for one of the facilities to be able to conduct universal issuance of ID Cards.
Sainey Jawara, Member for Lower Saloum asked the minister about the percentage the Gambia Government gained from the ID Cards production, and the minister said 40% for the government and 60% for the company.