By Prince Obrien-Coker
Ten years ago, to date, the hopes of Gambians were raised only to be dashed last month. It is a common practice of our President to keep the people hanging on hope and on him. The notion of Vision 2020 is a clear example of his delusive promises that by the year 2020, The Gambia will be as prosperous as Singapore. This notion is widely held by those who believe in him, forgetting they were once told that The Gambia will be a “Donor-Nation” in 2014.
Below is the unabridged speech he gave to the nation on what he called a historic day. As usual it is a long one.
I hope people in the Gambia will read this speech and come to terms with whom they are dealing.
HIS EXCELLENCY PRESIDENT YAHYA A. J. J. JAMMEH’S STATEMENT
TO THE NATION ON OIL EXPLORATION
DELIVERED ON FRIDAY FEBRUARY 13, 2004
It is important that I speak to you today to lay to rest speculations that have engaged many of us following my address to the Nation on the occasion of the 2004 New Year. Some Gambians are aware of the fact that there has been a long history of oil exploration in The Gambia beginning in 1956.
In the earlier years of the exercise none of the companies exploring for oil in our country carried their exploration work beyond the initial phase except for Chevron, which drilled an unsuccessful offshore oil exploration well in 1979 called Jammah-1.
Under the auspices of the Canadian Government and funding, Petro-Canada International carried out studies in the 1980s and between 1999 and 2002 an Oil and Gas company also carried out study work and a Seismic programme whose results were very questionable, to say the least, as this Government has always believed that oil not only exists in The Gambia but exists in very large quantities. As a result their application to extend their license was rejected by Government.
We did not extend the latter’s license agreement because of their failure as well to meet their work obligations under the license and because of a request that the financial terms of their agreement with The Gambia should be changed. The changes requested would have resulted in The Gambia receiving very little benefit from any commercial oil development which, to be precise, is 5% of any commercial oil development. This was also unacceptable to Government to say the least.
Thereafter Government contracted a Western Company to review all previous work done in The Gambia and to advise us on whether our belief that the Gambia had a very good potential for oil was correct or not.
After reviewing all the work that had been done previously they were able to tell us that in their opinion the potential was very high but that a large study and three-dimensional seismic programme known in the industry as a 3D Survey should be undertaken to confirm our beliefs.
Working with this Western Company, we completed a thorough evaluation of the oil potential of 500 square kilometres out of 2,000 square kilometres of Deep Water and 3,000 kilometres of Shallow Water of our maritime or offshore territory.
I now have the humble duty to announce that the results of the study are very positive. It tells us that there exists oil in The Gambia in very large quantities especially in the study area. All the information is recorded on a compact disc.
Therefore, before the end of this year we intend to have a test or exploratory well drilled, to firm up the results of the study. This would be the beginning of a new future for The Gambia and our people.
With this first study, we have planted seeds that we believe will end in a harvest of prosperity for our people. This harvest will change the future of our country.
However, we are not contented to assess the possibility for oil in just this small part of the territory of The Gambia.
We have already started to study and evaluate the extent of oil existing in the remainder of The Gambia’s deep water and shallow water maritime and land territories. These studies will continue until we cover all the maritime and land areas of the country.
It is our belief that these studies will lead to the discovery of more oil reserves in these areas of The Gambia. Of course, many of you would have been wondering why I decided to take over the portfolio of Energy then at the Department of State for Trade, Industry and Employment. One reason was to address the chronic power supply problem in this country but the most important reason was to ensure that the oil issue is quickly dealt with.
My Government has been engaged in the search for oil since 1995 but then the portfolio under the Department of State for Trade, Industry and Employment was beset with a lot of failures, disappointments and a lot of other unpleasant activities that would have been detrimental to the country. As a result of all those activities that were not in our interest, I decided to take over the portfolio and to make sure that work is done expeditiously.
I am indeed very happy with the discovery because it has spelt the end of the dark days of The Gambia as we have always been on the list of the world’s smallest and poorest countries. With this discovery which is only one-fifth of one of the areas in the deep sea, we have the potential of turning the smallest country into the richest country on earth. As I have stated earlier, it is not only in the deep water area of The Gambia but also the shallow waters as well as on-shore where huge potential for large quantities of oil remains to be discovered. On the other hand I am worried by the present attitude of we Gambians. Even if the oil were to flow into our bedrooms, the majority of us would still remain poor as long as we do not change our attitude. It takes a patriotic citizenry to build and make a rich country. It takes honest, dedicated and Allah-fearing citizens to make a wealthy country. Secondly I am worried because the discovery of oil or its potential would lead to more laziness and complacency on the side of Gambians. As far as the Government is concerned and as far as I am concerned I will fulfil my duties and obligations to the Gambian people. I cannot force you to work; I cannot force you to be active but at the end of the day I feel sad when I see most of you living in abject poverty. In order to make life easier for me and for you, let us, for God’s sake, change our attitude towards ourselves, our neighbours, our people and our country. There is no doubt that if you do not love yourself, you cannot love your neighbour. There will be no reward for no work. Of course you cannot be rich by not working. Any day that it is discovered that you have stolen, you will lose all those ill-gotten riches. You must remember that it is only Gambians and good friends of The Gambia that can make and build this country into one of the wealthiest and smallest states on earth. Nobody can develop your country for you.
If we do not forget our differences in language called tribes, differences in political ideology and live together as Gambians as enshrined in our National Anthem, the wealth that the Almighty Allah has given us in the form of oil would unfortunately not benefit us and neither your children nor my children.
The oil is in only one area and during the 2003 July 22nd celebration, I did mention that The Gambia has the potential of strategic mineral resources. Since we are talking about oil, I will not disclose what the potential is or what minerals we are talking about. I will let you know in due course what we have in terms of strategic mineral resources.
I will not want to be the President of a country that has a great potential for agriculture but still becomes food insecure because people have abandoned their farms on account of the oil. This would be a tragic mistake since nobody will eat or drink oil. Given the size of the country, every body can be very rich and self-contained. It would be the worse and most lethal mistake a country would have ever made to abandon agriculture because of the discovery of oil. Some countries are paying for this. As a matter of fact it is not even possible for everyone to work in the oil industry. I do not want The Gambia to fall into that category. The axiom is that agriculture, education, oil and health together build a prosperous nation. You cannot be prosperous if you are in ill health. Being in good health is part of being wealthy.
This country’s future and your future lie in what you and I do to make this country a great country.
I am aware some of you may want to know the security guarantees in place given the fact that oil has been discovered in The Gambia. You will have noticed that since 1998, I’ve been preparing your psyche for this. Regarding defence and security, you can be rest assured that this is what I’ve been preparing for during the past six years. I will not tell you what we have or what we do not have but the important thing is that Gambians are assured of their defense and security.
My dear citizens, this oil will only benefit us when there is absolute peace and tranquility. Of course it would benefit us a great deal when discipline and patriotism are added. Indiscipline is a recipe for human tragedy. As far as this Government is concerned, OPERATION NO COMPROMISE will extend to all sectors of human life: zero tolerance for violence; zero tolerance for laziness; zero tolerance for corruption; zero tolerance for indiscipline and zero-tolerance for treachery. This is a peace-loving country and the majority of Gambians are peaceful but there is a small minority which is not. We will not compromise, for whatever reason, the maintenance of law and order in this country. If you are a tailor, be a tailor and be serious in what you are doing; if you are a teacher, be a teacher and concentrate on what you are doing. Whatever you do, it should be at the back of your mind that any activity that would bring instability in this country, you will pay the highest price and be the first to pay. We will not compromise on security and the peace and stability of this country for whatever ideology. There would be zero tolerance for indiscipline and disorderly conduct or violence. Let me also make it very clear that we will uphold the rule of law and the principles of a democratic society. You are free to do whatever you want to do politically as long as your actions do not encourage or incite violence, instability and insecurity for individuals or a collective body of people or for the nation. Any attempt to divide people on the basis of religion will be dealt with without mercy. Similarly any attempt to divide people on the basis of tribes will be dealt with without mercy. Any attempt to destabilise this country will demand the highest price because with oil there would be certain people whose intention would be to make sure that The Gambia does not benefit from this resource. But I can assure you that as long as I’m alive and as long as there is one Almighty Allah, this oil belongs to all Gambians who will benefit from it. Nobody on the face of this earth can prevent that from happening.
So fellow citizens, Seyfolu, Alkalolu, Commissioners, Heads of Families, Religious Leaders, Politicians, Legislators, the Judiciary, Students, Teachers, Educators, Doctors, the Armed Forces, the Security Services and any other institution, whatever you do let justice guide your actions and live by the prayer in the National Anthem in that we will strive, work and pray that all, irrespective of tribe, race or religion would live in peace, unity and freedom in this country. Any activity you are engaged in which undermines this principle, would be undermining your own existence.
I wish to congratulate you on this very important discovery and let me remind you that this is just one-fifth of the deep-sea area excluding the shallow waters of 3,000 sq kilometres and the on-shore land area. It may well be that your house is built on oil or you may be driving on oil. The most important thing is that the oil would not on its own bring wealth. We are to create the wealth ourselves by exploiting the oil. However we must do so with honesty, which means putting the interests of every individual and the country before personal interests. The one reason for fighting corruption is not due to pressure but I would like to ensure that I clean this country before the oil begins to flow. For instance, if you have a stain with some other liquid, it could be removed but an oil-stain is always very difficult to wash-off. If the flow of oil finds a situation of corruption in this country, that stain cannot be easily removed. Hence despite the discovery of oil OPERATION NO COMPROMISE will continue; the cleaning up exercise using some powerful detergent will continue before the oil comes in.
With this in mind, I would also want to assure citizens that in view of the speculation about rice shortage, I will ensure that by the grace of the Almighty Allah, there would be no rice shortage. I am aware of the activities of some people to hoard the rice in expectation of higher prices but if they know what I already know, they should sell the rice that is in store. There is no need to elaborate on this. It behoves all patriotic citizens who love this country to ensure that activities of hoarding are reported to the Police. What would the D5,000 hush-money mean to you if Gambians end up buying a bag of rice for D600 ? I will never allow that to happen. Reporting hoarding or the sale of expired commodities is part of your patriotic duty thus I want to thank all those patriotic Gambians who believe in God and as true citizens of this country have always reported these activities. By their action, they have proven that honesty can avert human catastrophe.
I want to reassure you that you have oil in The Gambia and all the details are contained in compact disc format called The Gambia Off-Shore Project. The prospect of the discovery would as from today be officially known as ALHAMDOULILAH PROSPECT replacing the alphabetical designation. It means that we give thanks to the Almighty Allah for whatever he has done for us. This is a blessed country and you can be rest assured that poverty and hunger would be a thing of the past if YOU and I and everyone in this country live by the prayer in the National Anthem; live as good citizens, good Christians and Muslims in our country.
On this great historic day I want to thank especially the Government and people of Canada for their invaluable assistance towards the realization of this project.
I also want to take this opportunity to thank the Government of the Republic of China on Taiwan, the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Government and people of Turkey and the Government and people of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania for being true friends of The Gambia and for assisting in one way or the other in the realization of this great project. I also want to thank the last two companies which my Government worked with to realize this project within a period of six months. I also want to thank you The Gambians for not being too curious to know what was happening around your backyard until this day. As from today you must be interested in your country and try to know what is going on so that nobody can surprise you even though this is a very pleasant surprise.
May the Almighty Allah bless, guard and guide our endeavours to build a new future of greater prosperity for all Gambians and for everybody who would live in this country.
I thank you all for your attention.
Courtesy of Gambia-L