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PS BANJA GETS 2 YEARS FOR BRIBERY

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By Binta A Bah

Former Fisheries Permanent Secretary, Bamba Banja, has been sentenced to a two-year mandatory jail term for accepting D100,000 bribe from a Chinese private company in September 2018 to free their vessel detained for engaging in illicit fishing.

Banja who served in the civil service for more than four decades was found guilty on all three charges of economic crime, official corruption and public officer receiving property to show favour.

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The high court presided over by Judge B.A Bakre, also fined Banja D1,000,000 for causing economic loss to the Gambia government, in default to serve an additional two years in jail.

On the charge of official corruption, Banja is fined D100, 000, in default he would spend one year in jail. He is further fined another D50,000 on the charge of public officer receiving property to show favour and in case he defaults in paying that fine too, he would spend an extra six months in prison.

His sentencing came following the judge’s announcement that the prosecution has proved all the charges against Banja even though he had denied the allegations in his defense.

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Passing his sentencing, Justice Bakre argued that Banja who was tasked with a public responsibility, is required to uphold it with utmost integrity and loyalty.

“You were expected to act with patriotism, justice, lead by example and uphold national interest over personal interest. You did not only betray the trust reposed in you but also disappointed the people of The Gambia. Your act has not only eroded public trust in a government institution but also hampered the economy of the country. Your act should not be condoned and a signal should be sent to the public particularly public office holders to deter them from such practices and to act in the public interest at all times. I was meant to impose the maximum penalty on you, but I take your plea of leniency,” the judge said.

He continued: “Corruption has eaten so deep into our fabrics that it has now become a cankerworm. The society condones the act as if it is normal while the person who frowns against it is the one regarded as a misfit or a betrayer of personal relationship while the corrupt is praised for being smart.” He added that it is sad Banja who is a doctor of science and PS of a government institution with many years in the civil service will allow himself to be used for such a demeaning act of receiving D100,000 out of which evidence shows he will be keeping only D50,000.

“For a meagre of D50,000, he has lost a shining career. For a meagre amount of D50,000 he has dragged his doctorate degree into the mud. For D50,000 he has brought disrepute to a name he built over the years. The continent is looked upon as a dark continent based on the fact that we have totally thrown our dignity to the dogs,” Justice Bakr said before passing the sentence.

After the verdict was announced, the convict Banja could be heard telling the prosecutor outside the courtroom: “You and Dawda Jallow must be very happy.”

Meanwhile the ministry of justice has issued a statement on the case part of which reads: “We wish to make it clear that this office regards corrupt practices with utmost seriousness and, as such, today’s conviction serves as a strong and unequivocal warning to public servants who might consider engaging in similar activities. The Office of the Attorney General is currently prosecuting a number of other cases that are linked to corruption and financial malpractices, and we will not relent in our efforts to stamp out this menace”.

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