By Baba Sillah
The Naval chief, Commodore Madani Senghore yesterday appeared before the Janneh Commission to explain the condition and the acquisition of fishing boats owned by the former President Yahya Jammeh costing millions of Dalasis.
Senghore explained his 29-year career as a military officer, his dismissal and redeployment to Foreign Service as deputy head of Gambian mission in Sierra Leone.
The naval chief said Jammeh instructed him to negotiate for the building of fourteen boats. However he said out of the six boats that were built, three were with the State Guard while the other three were handed over to Ousman Jatta of Bakau alias Rambo.
He said three boats are currently parked at Tanji and secured by naval personnel while one is being secured in Banjul by the said officers.
He said in May 2014, when the former president embarked on a nationwide tour, they came across boats which attracted the president who ordered him to find out the builder of the boats.
He added that one Alhaji Jass Sam was the builder whom he invited to his office and after asking him the prices, he forwarded it to the president as instructed and later he received an email from the Ministry of Defence regarding the construction of boats.
Commodore Senghore further explained that there was a directive from the former president for lawyer Ida Drameh to be involved in the drafting of a contract agreement for the building of the boats and after everything was finalized, the agreement was signed on 6 June, 2014. According to the naval chief, the contract was signed by himself, Yusupha Dibba former PS Ministry of Defence on behalf of the government.
He disclosed that the cost of the first two boats was D350, 000 each, while the second one was D375, 000 each while the third consignment was D400, 000 each. “I am not aware of the source of the fund as I only received instructions to collect monies from the Ministry of Defence and hand over to the contractor. I also received instructions to handover three boats to Rambo Jatta in Bakau,” he explained.
Responding to counsel as to whether fishing was part of their mandates as navy officers, he responded in the negative noting that, their function is to regulate the marine resources and the activities of the fishermen but not to compete with them.
He revealed that there was a management comprising senior military men to monitor the revenue of the boats and maintenance in order to ensure that there was transparency and accountability.
He said 26 naval men were assigned to the boat for fishing but the boats were running at a loss.
According to him, after his dismissal Commodore Sillah Kujabi took over as the naval chief who also handed over to General Ansumana Tamba and since then, he did not make a follow-up regarding the equipment and the boats.
On the proposed 14 boats, Commodore Senghore said the sum of D1.9 million dalasi was the initial payment issued to the contractor and the total cost of the boats was D3, 220,000.
Earlier Mr Ebrima Sallah, managing director of Trust Bank who was summoned to produce statements of accounts from the Taiwanese Embassy as well as transactions documents relating to the same account and Kanilai International Festival, Tribute to Michel Jackson Account also reappeared before the commission.
According to him, the said account was opened on 8 February, 2006 and there was an inflow of $1,000,000 and the last transaction on the account was on 17 January, 2013 in the sum of $1,999,899.79 but the account is at zero.
He said on 16 February, 2006, there was an inflow of $100,000 to Jammeh Foundation for Peace Account while on 22 February 2006, another $100,000 was deposited into the same account. On 18 April, 2006, he said the sum of D700, 000 was deposited into PEGEP account while on 20 April the same year, there was another inflow of $500,000.
Mr Sallah also said the sum of $1,780,000 was paid to Gambia National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) and on 1 August, 2006, the sum of 2, 210,000 was also paid while on 7 September, 2007 there was an inflow of $300,000. And on 29 November, 2006 there was another payment of $300,000 while on 29 November, 2007 the sum of $100,000 was transferred to Yahya Jammeh’s account and 17 January 2008, almost $2,000,000 was paid into Jammeh’s account.