13 October 2017

Gambia: Former Secretary General, PS Agriculture & Former Protocol to Zaineb Jammeh At Commission

Mr. Ousman Jammeh, former Secretary General and Minister of Energy and Petroleum and Mrs. Ada Gaye, former Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture, who was also the former protocol to the former First Lady, Zainab Jammeh, yesterday appeared at the Janneh Commission of Enquiry.

Mr. Jammeh testified that while he was serving as Secretary General, Carnegie Mineral's license was terminated because the former president believed that the Company was not paying revenuefrom the mining activities among other reasons.

According to him, they always tried to persuade him (Jammeh), but it was difficult to change his mind set; that at some point, he believed the decisions taken by the former president regarding the processing and exportation of the minerals, were exploited by the Company.

Mr. Jammeh claimed that he relayed the concern of the former president to the officials of the Company after having a meeting with them on the issue; that the former president also at a certain point, informed him that if the Company will not exploit the minerals of the country, then they can come back and continue with the mining as they were generating billions of dalasi from the mining.

On the letter, he authored and addressed to the managing director of SSHFC regarding the loan of $1.5Million, he said out of the total sum, $500,000 was deposited to Trust Bank in relation to the project of Gambia Animal Feed and Rice Project, with the belief that the project will add value to rice production in the country.

According to him, the presentation done by the Qatari official was so impressive that Jammeh invited them to come and invest in the country, noting that they wanted to have partners and the former president said some of the public enterprise should venture into the project.

A letter dated 6 October 2011, in relation to the opening of the account for the project, was admitted as exhibit. However, Mr. Jammeh said the account was opened prior to his appointment as Secretary General and he decided to change the signatories based on instruction of the former president.

Mr. Jammeh claimed he was not happy when Alagie Ousman Ceesay introduced those who were supposed to replace the initial signatories to the account.

Letters addressed to the managing director SSHFC from the office of the former president relating to the said project, were admitted as exhibits.

Mr. Jammeh still on the issue of Carnegie Minerals Company, recalled that when he bounced back as Secretary General in 2011, he found that the Company had sued the former Government and there were discussions in London to that effect. He however recalled, that he told the then Solicitor General, Pa Harry Jammeh, that he would not be a witness on the basis that what was said and what actually transpired were completely apart; that the then Justice Minister, Marie Saine- Firdaus, represented the former Government in the discussions in London.

Mr. Jammeh however told the Commission that he was never contacted about Euro Africa Group's engagement in the payment of the legal fees, on behalf of the former Government. "It was not done administratively. The former President might had contacted him directly but I am not aware," said the witness. He added that the Qatari investors were introduced to them by Ansumana Jammeh, former Ambassador to Qatar, as investors from Qatar, but they later discovered that they were Lebanese Nationals with Canadian Passports.

On the issue of over $600,000.00 payment to Amadou Samba from SSHFC for the purchase of a water Tank for Kanilai Family Farms, Jammeh said those are some of the challenges faced at the office of the then president and due to circumstances, it was difficult for him to refuse honouring instructions given by the former president.

"These were directives from the former president and I could not just say no. But I have no knowledge about what transpired after I made the statement (request)." He said he deliberately failed to make that request on a letter head because he knew that Jammeh's request was not in order and the Constitution made it clear that the emblem of Government is supposed to be respected and honoured and should not be used anyhow.

According to him, the former president was persuaded by close associates like Amadou Samba, that he can always get money from SSHFC as Mr. Samba was the Chairman of the Board of Directors at the time and SSHFC also gave the impression that funds were available. He said he advised Jammeh on SSHFC funds but the former President always insist that he was the President.

On the loan of $7.9 Million given to NAWEC from SSHFC, the witness said this is one of the cases which is not wrong for sister enterprises to assist each other in the socio-economic development of the country, when the need arises and they were supposed to work on the modalities of payment. But when it was put to him by Counsel Amie Bensouda that the amount of loan given to NAWEC was huge and there should be mechanism put in place, he responded that the Corporation should have come out and explain that there was no fund in writing, to the Secretary General; that Messers Amadou Samba and Bazzi were the close associates of Jammeh who do not need appointment to meet the former president as well as another person whom he could not remember by name, but was managing the Gambia International Airline (GIA).

He finally testified that as Secretary General he was not involved in the acquisition of assets for the former president but later became aware that the Abuko Abattoir was part of his assets.

Mrs. Ada Gaye, former Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture who was summoned in connection with the John Deere tractors, testified that this was part of the mechanisation of farming initiated by the former president and not the Ministry. She said she did not know how John Deere officials were invited but they were tasked to work with their delegation.

The former PS said upon return of the delegation, they sent a Profoma Invoice for the payment of the tractors, but there was no budget allocated for tractors and decided to send the invoice to the office of the former president and it was funded by SSHFC. The tractors according to her, were delivered at the office of the former president but she was not present when they were delivered.

Mrs. Fatou Njie, Deputy Head of Mission in Abuja for 2 years who also worked at the office of the First Lady as protocol officer, said she did not know whether handling cash was part of her responsibilities but that sometimes, they were assigned to do so due to the fact she was not given a job description.

However, she said among her responsibilities was to arrange travels, State Banquets and other officially related activities; that she was assigned to withdraw the total sums of D61 Million from the State Aircraft Account at Central Bank of the Gambia, but could not remember whether the directive was from the former First lady or the former President.

According to her, after receiving the money, she handed over the money to a guard at the former president's residence; that she used to send money for Zaineb Jammeh sometimes in USA and Morocco, but could remember on how many occasions.

She disclosed that the sum of $469,961.96 withdrawn from the Jammeh Foundation Account, was sent to one Al Edriss Lala Mariam, a Personal Assistant to the former First Lady, through a Telex Transfer at the Trust Bank; that this was sent to Morocco.

At that point, documents relating to the telex transfer and list of trips of the former first lady including Chartered Flights, were admitted as exhibits.

The witness finally revealed that most of the trips they embarked on, were private trips and she is usually engaged for the arrangement of flights and hotels while payment was done by the former president. She said in all these travels through commercial flights, she will make reservation and if it is a State Aircraft, she will directly deal with GIA and Civil Aviation Authorities; that for Chartered Flights, Zaineb will give her contact details, which she will arrange and payment will be facilitated.

Sittings continue on Monday, 16th October 2017.

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