BY KEBBA MAMBURAY
Ansumana Marena, alias ‘Julakay’, appeared before the Faraba Banta Commission on Saturday 14th July 2018, to testify. The Commission was set up by the President to probe into the unfortunate incident on that fateful day of June 18th 2018, when live bullets was sprayed on unarmed demonstrators, leaving three people dead and scores seriously injured. According to Marena who testified in Mandinka, he has been in the business of sand mining for one and a half to two decades now; that after securing a license from the Geology Department in 2007, one Jerreh Sanyang, the then acting Director of that department told him that a place will be identified, where he will carry out his activity of mining sand; that the issuance of his license had to get the blessing of NEA approval, who should inspect and tell him where to mine sand.
Marena said Jerreh Sanyang and one Nancy from the NEA, chose for him to do his work in Faraba, because mining was taking place in both Gunjur and kartong at that time; that after the survey, he was issued license with conditions attached; that among the conditions was the mechanization of his work, provision of access road to the site and royalty payment to Government. Marena testified that the period he would have spent mining sand at the time, would not have exceeded 6-7 months because his term for mining expires in one year, but was told to reapply or renew his license, after the term expires. Marena said this was during the former regime; that with the coming of the new dispensation, he returned to the Geology department to resume what he started during the former regime and met one Bakary fadera, who was the Secretary General at that time. Marena said Bakary advised him to reapply because he is someone who has the experience; that this was how he decided to go in for it, in order to repay the 11 Million dalasi loan he took from the Banks.
Still testifying, Marena said he went to the Geology Department where he was taken to Brikama and Faraba Banta to survey the area, by Abdoulie M. Cham, the Managing Director of that Department; that out of all the places Cham took him, he (Julakay) observed that there was a problem with accessibility to the sand quarry of Faraba Banta; that he decided to choose Faraba Banta but was advised by the Department of Geology, that he should seek the consent and permission of the villagers first, before any activity of mining starts. Marena said he met the Alkalo of Faraba who summoned a meeting held in the presence of Lamin Star Bojang, the former Minister of Lands, the Council of Elders of Faraba Banta and some VDC members including Babucarr Jallow, his administration manager; that at the meeting, Jung Conteh, the Chairperson of the Council of Elders, urged the villages to pray for his success in the sand mining business; that one Alagie Sanyang, laid some conditions which include the rehabilitation of the village road, building a market for the women and to take the responsibility of buying cash power for the village Bore hole, as well as to relocate and fence their football field. Marena testified that he never promised them; but that after consulting with his team, he agreed; that the Council of Elders also put down some conditions for the development of the village mosque; that again he did not make any promises but said he will do it for the sake of Allah. Marena said the following Saturday, he gave D35, 000.00 to the Alkalo, for the development of the village mosque.
Meanwhile Abdoulie M. Cham, the Managing Director of Geology Department testifies that Julakay Company wrote to the office of the president lodging a complaint that he was arbitrarily deprived from mining at the “Kachumeh” mining site. However the Commission Chairperson requested for the director to produce the initial license documentation of ‘Julakay’ Company. Cham told members of the Commission, that he cannot find them because they were delivered to the Geology department since 2007.
Among the documents brought by the Director were approvals and cancellation documents. He however promised to look for the rest of the documents and produce them before his next appearance at the Commission.
Continuing his testimony, Cham said Julakay was issued license on July 10th 2017; that the issuance of license is accompanied by the management of plans which includes access road to the mining site, preparation of the site and office for staff of the mining Company; that management plans are part of the governing operations of the quarry attached to the license, and that all operations, terms and conditions of the license should be fulfilled first before operation can commence. Cham testified that any condition placed before a license is issued, is negotiable; that because they give a draft management plan to the mining Company, for comments; that a mining license can be issued alongside final management plans which he said is in accordance with Section 115 of mining and quarry Act 2005 and the Ministry’s regulations for operation. Cham added that management plans are made by the Geology department to monitor and evaluate the mining operations; that this document is signed by him. Cham testified that he was the one who approved the management plan of ‘Julakay’ Company’s license but that the management plan was subject to negotiation.
Cham told Commissioners that they discussed royalty charges with Julakay at D110 per cubic meter; that Julakay wanted D60 per cubic meter which he said was not acceptable by the State.
When asked what he further discussed with ‘Julakay’, Cham said said he cannot remember; that after the issuance of license, the road down to the mining site was identified by Julakay, in consultation with the Geology Department and the some of the VDC members, because he (Julakay) was banned from using the road that passes through the village, to the mining site.
In the course of events, Cham testified that Julakay was asked by the VDC, to construct the road away from the village football field which he (Julakay) accepted; but the he (Julakay) complained that some elements of the VDC were obstructing his work. Cham said this led to a meeting held on the 9th of March 2018, following complaints from the VDC of Faraba Banta, and that the meeting included the Ministry of Lands and Local Government and stakeholders like the Geology department, Lands and Surveys, Physical housing and planning, NEA and the local authorities like the Alkalo and VDC.
Cham testified that the outcome of the meeting centered on the VDC of Faraba not to use or cause any physical obstruction which could hinder the mining operations of ‘Julakay’ Company; that any complain they have regarding the mining operations of the Company, they can bring to the attention of the IGP.