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Jah Oil denies favoured by gov’t in $50M loan

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By Omar Bah

The CEO of Jah Oil and Companies, Hamidou Jah, has denied claims that his company was favoured by the government to secure a $50 million loan.

Lawmakers on Wednesday grilled Finance Minister Seedy Keita on the circumstances surrounding the loan which was contracted between Gambia and BADEA to support Gambian businesses engaged in food   importation and other essential goods.

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Minister Keita disclosed that Jah Oil was the beneficiary and the process was handled by the Ministry of Trade.

Hon Sainey Jawara of Lower Saloum told the minister that he had evidence that companies which met the criteria of D48M seed money were not given access to apply. Another NAM,  Alagie Mbow of Upper Saloum asked why was part of the loan not given to the public corporation, the former GGC. Minister Keita said it was not divided because of the risk that government would be forced to pay in case of defaults.

When the news of the loan was reported yesterday many people alleged that Jah Oil must have been favored by the government.

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Reacting to this development in an audio shared with The Standard, Hamidou Jah denied that his company has been favoured. He went on: “It was in October 2022 that government made a proposal for Gambian businesses to appeal for the loan and we were invited to the ministry of trade and a number of businesses including Jah Oil attended. During the meeting we were informed about all the requirements needed to be able to qualify for the tender and we were also told the loan is coming from a certain institution but it would be facilitated by the Gambia Government as intermediary between the financial institution and the business owners.”

Mr Jah further explained that they were told about all the conditions but because of those conditions none of the other businesses showed interest. “That is how Jah Oil decided to show interest and keep making follow-ups and at the end it was approved but before the money was released, they asked us to pay a loan access fee of $70,000 and provide guarantee. These conditions were nonnegotiable and that is why the majority of the businesses retracted,” Mr Jah said.

He continued: “I can tell that some of the businesses in fact wanted the government to assist them with the $70,000 fee but the government refused insisting that the money is meant for the private sector and because of that they cannot intervene. There are even some businesses that approached me to have a joint partnership with them to secure the loan but I refused. We took it because we believe it is a good opportunity to grow our business. We took the risk also to ensure that the money is not returned to avoid the possibility of Gambia losing future opportunities like this”.

 Mr Jah said he wants to assure Gambians that Jah Oil is committed to the wellbeing of Gambia and its people. “We will never enter into anything that is not in the interest of this country. This is why over the years, some Gambians have tried to conspire to paralyse our fuel business but I refused to bother about it because I know what we do and the commitment we have to make things for Gambians.”

“If the government had the opportunity to manipulate that deal, they would have done it for themselves. I always follow the right way in whatever business I am doing, whether government or partners. Just imagine that all fuel stations are taking their fuel from one tanker, how is it possible that Jah Oil’s fuel that is destroying engines?” he concluded.

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