By Baba Sillah
Some 500, 000 Dollars was withdrawn from the Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation as a compensation deal reached between the Gambia and Ghana after Gambian security forces killed a number of Ghanaian migrants in 2005.
This was revealed by Njogou Bah, former secretary general who was called back to the Janneh Commission yesterday.
Njogou said the money was handed over to him by one Dr Basirat who was introduced to him by President Jammeh through the chief of protocol, Alagie Ousman Ceesay. “I don’t know what Basirat Niasse does but it seems she was negotiating between the two governments and apart from this compensation, I did not have any dealings or transaction with Dr Niasse,” Mr Bah said.
He said the second $500,000 he received from the corporation for onward transmission to Japan was cancelled.
On the issue of a D10 Million loan from GNPC for the rehabilitation of Prisons, Bah said he does not know whether there was any rehabilitation but acknowledged that he did receive the said sum and handed it over to the former president.
At that juncture, counsel Bensouda handed some documents to the witness and upon perusal, Bah told the Commission that the office of the secretary general does not hold an account at Access Bank but Counsel told him that even if the D10 Million was given to the office of the former president it would not have any use because the cheque was specifically meant for his own office as the then SG.
In response, Bah said there are many ways in which cheques can be cashed but the bank can help in locating as to whom the money was paid to.
At that juncture, counsel applied to tender the GNPC cheque payment of D10 Million as exhibits. While admitting the cheque, chairman, Sourahata Janneh observed that there was a GNPC cheque as well as a cheque from Access Bank Manager bearing the same amounts. He then said the bank should be summoned to come and explain. Counsel Bensouda quickly responded that the bank is already summoned on that issue.
Mr Bah informed the Commission that loans taken from SSHFC were intended to be paid through the Ministry of Finance and he did make a general follow-up of loans taken from SSHFC, noting that the corporation and GPA were once under the purview of the office of the president.
On the request of D15 Million loan for the purchase of Tobaski rams, Bah said the request was written by himself on instructions from his former boss with the promise that the loan will be paid after the sales as there were people responsible for the sales.
He however stated that he did not know whether the loan was paid as he had left the office before the three months agreement on it elapsed. He said he felt sorry for SSHFC and once told the former President that the Corporation’s book was in red and that they should be refunded but still his former boss insisted that the corporation had money and can take loans which will be refunded at anytime.
“I even requested the corporation’s statement of account to be shown to Jammeh,” he disclosed.
Regarding the loan for the state aircraft, Njogu said there was indeed a state aircraft but it was said that it consumed too much fuel which warranted for a Russian type to be identified and a loan of $148million was taken from SSHFC.
Documents relating to the purchase of the aircraft and supporting documents at that point were admitted as exhibits.
According to Njogou, the aircraft was flown from the United States to The Gambia but he did not know how much was spent for the check and maintenance of the aircraft.
He acknowledged that the aircraft does go for periodic maintenance and the loan for the aircraft was supposed to be paid by the Ministry of Finance but was not sure whether it was paid.
On the loan of €200,000 given to GRTS, Mr Bah said the management of the state broadcaster went to State House to seek assistance to enable people to watch CAF games on TV and GRTS was supposed to pay the loan from their commercial sales and there was an agreement signed between the corporation and GRTS to that effect.
Mr Bah however said he could not recall whether the loan was paid neither can he recall making any follow-up for the payment of the loan. He said it was news to him when GRTS said they never requested the loan even after entering into an agreement with SSHFC.
On the sum of $3.6 Million loan from the corporation to office of the former president for the purchase of fire tenders and ambulance, Bah said that was meant for the improvement of the airport and the request was made for that purpose.
Concerning 65 tractors bought from John Deere, Mr Bah said he was of the belief that the tractors and farming implements had to do with mechanised farming and Vision 2016 projects. He said Jammeh met the officials of John Deere and SSHFC was supposed to finance the farming implements which arrived in different segments and some of them were parked at State House while others were at MSA.
Documents relating to tractors and farming implements including correspondence were also admitted as exhibits.
Mr Bah said with regard to acquisition of tractors, fire tenders and aircraft, the office of the former president did not comply with the Gambia Public Procurement Act (GPPA) in acquiring those items because of the executive orders.
Next to reappear was Tony Ghattas, the former managing director of APAM but prior to his testimony, his attorney, Sheriff Tambadou applied to tender several documents from his client as ordered by the Commission.
The audited accounts of GADSON Company Limited from 2012-2016 and annual returns from 2015-2016 as well as audited accounts of Afristar Company Limited from 2012-2016 and annual returns from 2015-2017.
The audited accounts of Multi-shipping Agency from 2013-2016 together with annual returns of the same company from 2013-2017 were also tendered.
A letter dated 7 January, 2016 addressed to the MD, APAM from Geological Department and a letter addressed to the same MD of the same company dated 11 April 2016 were all admitted as exhibits respectively.
It has been noted that management plan mentioned in one of the letters would be produced by the witness, Tony Ghattas. He is also asked by the Commission to come up with his share transfers.
At that juncture lawyer Tambadou applied to cross-examine Tony Ghattas on the documents tendered and admitted by the Commission but chairman Sourahata said the Commission is for Jammeh and his close associates and his close associates know themselves including Mr Ghattas but Tambadou said his client never considered himself as a close associate of Jammeh. However he said the Commission Counsel has the right to cross-examine Mr Ghattas and if counsel for Ghattas is not satisfied, he can appeal.
Sitting continues today.