EYEAFRICA TV: Banjul, The Gambia: The Ministry of Fisheries, Waters Resources and National Assembly Matters has no option than to start all-over after a fierce fire consumed its decades old colonial building along the Marina Parade in Banjul on Monday.
The ministry has lost all its data, and working tools in exchange for safety in human lives as a result of the fire, the cause of which is yet to be established.
“We first got everybody evacuated from the building,” says Minister James Furmus Peter Gomez, but “all our confidential files, all our laptops, all our desktops, everything [is gone].”
The fire, which emanated from a ‘restroom’ on the spot of technical meeting between the Fisheries Minister and his Deputy Permanent Secretary for Technical matters was “unexpected,” although the minds of workers were fresh on a less severe electric spark on the same building some a year ago.
Since the country’s independence in 1965, official operations continue on buildings by the British Colonial government on the pavement measuring few metres off the Atlantic Ocean.
These structures witnessed the creation of the Ministries of Fisheries, Justice, Defence, National Assembly and to the end of the pavement, the country’s Statehouse within the capital city.
However, no upgrading in what so ever way is been a significant duty of the occupants to mitigate this kind of disaster.
Minister Gomez described the incident as a wakeup call that government must no longer operate without a technological backup, let alone putting comfort on any of the ancient buildings. “The unfortunate thing is that we don’t have that backup system here and that is what we need to do now,” he said, adding that he is hopeful that “the fire is a blessing in disguise” from where the counting will begin.
This means everything the office has been doing, even before the advent of the government of President Adama Barrow in 2016, specifically, “confidential files, and data of every company that has ever done business with [the Ministry of] Fisheries and Water Resources” has perished.
Permanent Secretary, Dr Bamba Banja acknowledged that the incident is a result of work “without regular maintenance on electricity, and or availability of safety measures” over the years.
But due to increased demand for space, the ministry has recently been engaged in “upgrading in terms of the design layout to accommodate more offices”, a development which brought along some additional but minor maintenance. “Overall, the wiring system is not desirable”, he said.
Having his official ‘backup’ laptop gone in the inferno, Dr Banja hoped that the ministry could begin the restoration of files by banking on “the department of fisheries and our technical institutions like the national navy [who] may have got copies of some of our documents like the agreements, the protocols”.
Meanwhile, staff of the Ministry are left with option to seek temporal accommodation within the rubbles of their headquarters building, and hopefully have some of its apparatus under sister ministries in Banjul.
The restoration of the physical structures is anticipated to cost huge commitment and money from tax payers and government at a time when budget projection for the year ahead signals deficit by two billion dalasi.