Serious concerns have been raised among many Gambians recently about the Securiport System owned by the US Government, which was sometime in 2020 installed at the Banjul International Airport located in Yundum, West Coast Region.
One of the latest public concerns came following the sacking of Mr. Ebrima L. Dampha, Human Resources Officer at the Gambia Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) on 4th January 2022. He was dismissed by the Board of Directors of GCAA for allegedly “violating the Provisions of SSR (0713) which state that no employee should contribute to any publication of any material that reasonably can be regarded as relating to the functions and activities of the GCAA“.
His dismissal letter further stated: “The same Provision states that no employee without the expressed permission of the Director General will express an opinion for publication on any matter affecting the organization or work of the GCAA“.
Investigations made by LamToro News revealed that Mr. Dampha who is currently studying in the UK (On Study Leave), who was in the Gambia on holiday, was on his way back to the UK when he had some issues with officials at the airport regarding the payment of the said 20-dollar fee for the said Securiport System. Upon arrival in the UK, he made a post on his Facebook page and gave his opinion on the said matter. However, this publication did not go down well with the authorities of the GCAA, which resulted in his immediate sacking.
Our investigations revealed that this (Securiport) system enables the US-Government to know the number and identities of passengers passing through the Banjul International Airport on a daily basis.
It will also help them to detect the movement of certain suspected criminals who are allegedly involved in committing heinous crimes, terrorism-related activities, and any other serious crimes of interest to the US-Government.
However, LamToro News has made an in-depth investigation on the security and economic threat that this system could possibly pose to The Gambia.
First, it is established that the Securiport project is owned by the US-Government. It is a mechanism being installed at Gambia‘s international airport with its main server being installed in the US. This system is meant to detect any passenger who is part of those black-listed as part of the suspected people who have allegedly committed or are suspected of having committed any heinous crime, terrorism, or other serious crimes of interest to the US government. When suspected passengers who are on the US blacklist have their passports scanned, a signal will be sent to the main server of this system in the US directly and immediately.
LamToro News has also gathered from an anonymous source that;
“An agreement has been signed between the Gambia Government and the US Government to have this system installed at the Banjul International Airport for a period of 10 years, during which, a fee of 20 dollars will be paid (per passenger) to the US Government directly. It is also agreed that at the end of the 10-year period, the system will be owned by the Gambia government.“
“However, the security units such as Interpol, Immigration and US Government have access to the main server but only the US government is controlling it.“
Regarding the Securiport system, key positions at the Gambia’s Airport are not controlled by Gambian Information Technology experts. They are controlled by foreigners. A Ghanaian is heading the IT unit and he is being paid in foreign currency. A Gambian IT expert in the UK called Lamin Drammeh has applied for the position of head of IT at the airport in this project but was rejected,“ said one of our sources.
Security and economic threat
This system is becoming a serious economic threat to The Gambia. The payment will continue for 10 years and is compulsory for every passenger going in and coming out of the Gambia’s international airport.
Although the Gambia needs to be proactive in its security sector, this project is purposely meant for the interest of the US-Government. In short, the system is being installed at the airport for their special interest.
The best method to do this would have been to include the 20-dollar fee in the airline ticket package for passengers.
One could also say that the US is spying on the Gambia Government by merely getting access to the GCAA database. The effects of this system could trigger serious economic threats and could be further described as psychological sabotage against the Gambia government. The reason is, that under the classification of threats, the most serious and difficult threat to national security is a psychological threat. This cannot be detected or seen until it is exposed or damage is done.
In other words, the effects of this system on the Gambia could as well be described as an act of espionage. This is because the US government is getting access to the database of the GCCA and are seeing passengers embarking and disembarking at the airport.
Moreover, it is important to understand that there are two components of espionage; Legal networking activity and Illegal networking activity.
Going by the said agreement between the Gambia government and the US, the current system in place is a Legal Networking activity because Gambia Government is aware of it. It is an act of spying on a country using a different agenda. Whereas, illegal networking activity is a situation where one lives in a particular country and operates a particular business as a cover but has a different agenda underground.
Therefore, it is important for the Gambia government to take this matter seriously and review the agreement to suit its interest and the people of the Gambia.
Equally, the Gambia’s Parliamentarians should investigate and discuss such important matters and hold our government accountable.
Efforts to reach GCAA Administration proved futile. The Public Relations Officer of the GCAA, Lamin Dibba was called several times but he refused to pick up his phone. When he received a text message about our concerns, he read the message but refused to reply.