Cameroon Tribune (Yaoundé)

Cameroon: Hearing of Lebialem Road Case Witnesses Begins

Hearing of the case between the State of Cameroon against Marcus Ndumbe Mbessa, Charles Etah Njoh and the enterprise "Njoh and Sons Distribution" began yesterday February 25 at the Special Criminal Court. The first prosecution witness, former Senior Divisional Officer (SDO) for Lebialem Division in the South West Region, François Amougou testified that the second and third accused; Charles Etah Njoh and the enterprise "Njoh and Sons Distribution", charged with the rehabilitation of a road network between Bechati and Wabane in the Lebialem Division did only 36 per cent of the work and later surprised him with the declaration that his documents were being blocked hence, he had not been paid.

The head of the college of Judges, Mr Justice Abednego Bea Kala delayed hearing yesterday morning because of the need for an interpreter from French to the English language since witness, François Amougou expressed the desire to speak in the French language. The court totally agreed with the need for an interpreter especially as the proceedings of the case are done in the English Language. Suggestions were made and the chief of the translation unit at the Ministry of Justice, Charles Tanyi Enow, who was present at the court, immediately took an oath to faithfully interpret any testimony or translate any document in front of him in the course of proceedings.

Work Stops After Part Payment

During examination, the prosecution witness said in his capacity as the then SDO for the Lebialem Division as well as the Delegate Contracting Authority charged with signing contracts, the construction of a road network between Bechati and Wabane was attributed to Charles Etah Njoh who is the Executive Director for the enterprise "Njoh and Sons Distribution". After several meetings with a committee charged with attributing contracts in the area, the Delegate of Public Works who is the first accused, in his capacity as the Control Engineer, was charged with supervising the work while giving weekly reports to the committee on the progress made in the work.

The witness said after a month, the Control Engineer informed the committee that a bulldozer had opened-up the road under construction. As such the first phase of the work had been done. After a field visit to the construction site, François Amougou said some work had effectively taken place at the road site. At that point, it is said Charles Etah Njoh requested for 30 per cent payment of his money which was paid without any difficulty through the regional department of Ministry of Finance in Buea, South-West Region.

The former SDO said when Charles Etah Njoh received the money; he never came back to Menji to continue work which was just at the completion of its first phase with the second and third phases yet to be done. Two weeks after the first payment to Charles Etah Njoh, the construction site was empty and even the bulldozer had left the site.

The witness said although the deadline for executing the contract was extended on two occasions, Charles Etah Njoh and the enterprise "Njoh and Sons Distribution" did not succeed to complete the work until the budget year ended and the contract cancelled by the competent authority. By press time, defence lawyers had taken on the witness for cross examination.

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