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City of Banjul
Monday, September 21, 2020

The Commission of enquiry and financial accountability

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It is an interesting moment in Banjul as more shocking revelations are made almost on a daily basis from the Commission of enquiry set up by the government to probe into the financial dealings of former president Jammeh, his close associates and family members. This is an interesting moment because it seems no one is innocent yet until the commission is done with its assignment. The decision to set up such a commission is indeed welcoming but fairness and justice should be the end result after the entire findings and report.
As far as holding Jammeh to account is concern, your government should be ready to concomitantly hold to account any individual, close associate, family member or beneficiary of Jammeh’s financial rewards, found wanting of wilfully looting our resources.

However, it must be clear to the government and Gambians in general that, to have only benefited from Jammeh’s financial rewards may not certainly put the beneficiaries in any legal probe as those bank accounts were in effective operations and not under Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) at the time. One may ask regarding the contract between the bank and customer that, do the banks have any right to prevent those authorized withdrawals when valid documents for such financial transactions are presented. Unless the account or person in question is under the FIU list, it will be hard to block such a transaction. Knowing who Jammeh was when he was the legitimate president as some of the withdrawals were made in 2014, no Bank was going to use discretion because the accounts were open, especially the Task Recovery Account through the recommendation of the Accountant General and approval of the Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs.

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However, the most disturbing part of the revelations is, how could Jammeh transact those monies when he seized to be the legitimate president of the Gambia? Some may want to blame the banks for allowing such transactions, but it must be clear that those accounts were not put under FIU and Jammeh’s assets were not frozen at the time. Even though discretion could have been used, but there may not be any legal basis to prevent those transactions when the government did not take any action or decision regarding the fate of those bank accounts purportedly belonging to Jammeh. At this juncture, one would have advised the government to freeze Jammeh’s assets much earlier most probably latest 23rd January 2017 to prevent the February transactions.
Furthermore Mr. President, just as Jammeh was not alone in meting human rights violations on Gambians, so he is not alone in looting our country’s little resources. The Gambia can never forgive Jammeh and all those who aided him in stealing from poor Gambians for 22 years.

What next is the question? Looters of our resources must face the full force of the law. Jammeh must not only be tried for human rights violations, but economic crimes. We hope that the findings of this enquiry will not be filed and keep to gather dust considering the resources in use on the commission, but effective legal actions will be taken for those accused of stealing from tax payers’ money. As we await more shocking revelations, we hope that the government will finally use all available international legal instruments to extradite Jammeh to stand trial for economic crimes. It is not for the ICC to try people for economic crimes since it does not form part of its mandate, therefore, the Gambia must be ready to apply the law for Jammeh’s financial dealings based on the commission’s final report.

Yours in the service of the nation
Essa Njie

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