By Own Correspondent – The Gambia Tourism Authority (GTA) has clarified its position on the closure Monday of the craft markets in Senegambia and Bakau, saying the move was based on an agreement between the GTA and the craft market vendors.
The move, described as “unjustifiable” by the vendors, is said to have erupted after an argument between the craft market vendors and the GTA over the issue of payment of annual rental fee by vendors, who claimed that the closure was done without any official notice issued.
When the news broke out on Monday, this paper visited the Senegambia craft market, where women vendors were found sitting and expressing disbelief over the closure of their stalls, claiming that their shops were closed for no just reason.
Gibril Sanyang, auditor of the Federation of Gambian Craft Market Vendors, said the problem started when the GTA ordered them to pay rental fees of D2400 without producing any supporting document for the measure.
“We are paying operational license fees of D1150 annually without any problem, and each vendor both at the Bakau and Senegambia craft markets was issued with a form to fill for the said operational license fee. However, for this rental fee, the GTA is refusing to give us a form to fill, for accountability and transparency purposes. This is why we refused to pay the rental fees,” Sanyang told this reporter.
According to him, the market vendors have no problem in paying the rental fee, adding that without any document to show for it, they will not pay the said amount to the GTA.
Other members of the federation who spoke to our reporter included Seedy Sanneh, the treasurer, Bai Joof, an adviser and Mattar Sowe, a member.
Justifying the move for the closure, Mrs Binta Jobe, Director General of the GTA yesterday told The Point that the closure was based on a verbal agreement between the GTA and the market vendors.
According to her, there was a verbal agreement made by the craft market vendors that on the 10th of every month, they will pay a rental fee. However, to the GTA’s surprise, the vendors refused to adhere to the verbal agreement.
“Now, instead of paying the fees, they are demanding a document from GTA so that they can effect payment,” she said, adding that the vendors agreed to pay the fees during three meetings they had with the GTA.
She further stated that most of those in the tourism sector have complied with the payment except craft market vendors.
“We are doing a lot of service for them, key among which are the collection of their market garbage, cleaning of the craft market premises and even paying their license because they are our partners in development,” Jobe further stated, while promising the problem will be resolved.