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Saturday, October 16, 2021

Waa Juwara is ‘innocent’ – Lawyer

Lawyer Lamin Mboge who was cross-examining Saikou Sanyang, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Lands and Regional Administration, stated: “I am putting it to you that the third accused [Juwara] is an innocence person in this matter because this file was recommended before he assumed office.” 

Replying to the lawyer’s statement, Mr Sanyang said, “I cannot decide the accused person’s innocent or guilt under the circumstance.” However, the state witness admitted that Mr Juwara was not in office as minister of Lands at the time the compensation file of Mr Conateh was being processed.

Mr Juwara, Hamidou Jallow, principal lands and evaluation officer, and one Tamsir Onassis Konteh are standing trial on eight counts of conspiracy to commit felony, obtaining money by false pretence, negligence of official duties, disobedience to lawful order, making false document, uttering false documents and abuse of office, all contrary to the Laws of The Gambia.

Mr Juwara is accused of committing a willful negligent act that caused plots of land to be allocated as compensation to Mr Conateh with knowledge that the said plots were already allocated to Kanilai Family Farms and Mr Basirou Sambou.

Tamsir Onassis Conateh is accused of making a document purported to be land title documents issued by the alkalo of Tanji village in order to claim compensation in respect of plots acquired for Tanji Residential Layout. Hamidou Jallow is accused of obtaining D300,000 from one Edward Sambou for a plot of land at Tanji Residential Layout with the knowledge that the said plots were allocated to him under questionable circumstances. They pleaded not guilty.

During cross-examination, lawyer Mboge asked Mr Sanyang: “You would agree the third accused [Juwara] did not cause the allocation of plot No C8-C9 to the first accused person [Mr Conateh] as compensation?” Mr Sanyang answered “Yes.”. He also agreed with the lawyer that the directors of Lands and Survey and Physical Planning are the technical advisers to the minister. When asked if he was aware that the claim of compensation by Mr Conateh started on 20th November 1992, Mr Sanyang replied, “I cannot remember”.

“From your vast experience at the Lands ministry, you will agree with me that the power of Minister for Local Government and Lands are regulated by the State Lands Act of 1991,” Mboge further pressed. But the witness responded: “I beg to disagree.”

Mr Sanyang stated that Mr Juwara had ‘some powers’, however, he admitted that the Act gave Mr Juwara the power to approve recommendations made by his two technical advisers. When told that Mr Juwara had no powers to reverse decisions made prior to his appointment, Mr Sanyang responded, “I don’t know the answer to that question.” But when asked if he had the powers to reverse the decisions of his predecessor, he said, “It is relative in the sense that there are certain decisions that may require revisiting and in that process cancellation.”

“That implies decisions that were wrongfully made and executed?” Mboge further quizzed. He replied “Not necessarily.”

During cross-examination by Sheriff Tambadou counsel for Conateh, the witness said he was not invited to a conference or briefing by the state prosecutor before he attended court that morning. The matter was then adjourned to August 20 for continuation of cross-examination.

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