By Baba Sillah
Ousman Jammeh, former secretary general; Fatou Njie, former protocol to former first lady Zineb Jammeh; and Ada Gaye, former agric permanent secretary, yesterday appeared before the Janneh Commission in the ongoing probe of financial dealings of the former president and associates.
Mr Jammeh said while he was secretary general, the licence of Carnegie Mineral Company was terminated because President Jammeh said the company was not paying the revenue from the mining activities, among other reasons.
He said he relayed the concern of the president to the Carnegie officials during a meeting and at a certain point, the president told him that if the company will not “exploit” the minerals of the country, then it could return and continue with the mining as it was generating billions of dalasis.
Mr Jammeh said when he returned as secretary general in 2011, he found that Carnegie had sued the government but that he was never contacted by Euro Africa Group to pay the legal fees on behalf of government.
On the letter he authored and addressed to the managing director of SSHFC regarding the loan of US$1.5 million, he said out of the total sum, $500,000 was deposited at the Trust Bank for the animal feed and rice project in the belief that the project would add value to rice production in the country.
According to him some “Qatari” investors made a presentation which so impressed the president that he mulled the possibility of partnering with them in the project. He said these investors who were introduced by Ansumana Jammeh while he was ambassador to Qatar, were later discovered to be Lebanese nationals with Canadian passports.
On the issue of payment to Mr Amadou Samba from SSHFC funds for the purchase of a water tank for Kanilai Family Farms, he said it was difficult for him to refuse honouring instructions given by the former president. “These were directives from the president and I could not just say no but I have no knowledge about what transpired after I made the [request],” Mr Jammeh said. He said he advised about SSHFC funds but Jammeh would always retort that he was the president.
Asked by Commission Counsel Amie Bensouda who were the close associates of Jammeh, he identified Mr Samba, Muhammed Bazzi and another person whose name he said he could not remember but who was managing Gambia International Airline and that they did not need appointment to meet President Jammeh.
Next to appear before the commission was Fatou Njie, deputy head of The Gambia mission in Abuja who worked for 16 years at the Office of the First Lady as protocol officer.
She confirmed having withdrawn a total D61 million from the State Aircraft Account at Central Bank of The Gambia but could not remember whether the directives for the withdrawals were from the First Lady or the President.
According to her, upon receiving the money, she would hand it over to a guard at the president’s residence. She said she used to send money to Zineb Jammeh in the US and Morocco but could remember on how many occasions.
However, she said US $469,961.96 was once withdrawn from the Jammeh Foundation Account and sent to one El Edriss Lala Mariam, a personal assistant to the former First Lady in Morocco through a telex transfer from Trust Bank.
Documents relating to the telex transfer and list of trips of the former first lady including chartered flights were admitted as exhibits.
Meanwhile, Ada Gaye answered questions relating to the John Deere tractors. Sitting continues next week.