By Mamadou Dem
Mr. Abdou Colley, former Finance and Trade Minister, yesterday told the Janneh Commission that he did not have the power to stop the exclusivity contract granted to Euro Africa Group by the former Government. Colley made this statement yesterday Monday July 16th, when he appeared for the first time before the Commission. He testified that he is currently working as a freelance consultant but prior to that, he started working as an economist in 1997 and in 2004, he was working with Gambia Divestiture. He however told Commissioners that he has been rotating between the Ministries of Finance and Trade.
At this juncture, he was shown a statement on the exclusivity granted to some Companies, to go through, which he did and responded that he had seen it before. He went through some of the correspondence and confirmed that he wrote the said letters.
With regard to fuel supplied by Euro Africa Group, he told the Commission that he was not in favor of the exclusivity granted to Euro Africa Group; that the former Government appointed an agent for the exclusivity facility but that Euro Africa Group was not paying the IPP facility.
A letter dated 8th May 2013, was read to him and he said the former Government wanted to withdraw the facility, and that according to the letter, they were threatening the former Government. He said as the former minister, he did not have the power to stop the exclusivity contract because the office of the former president granted Euro Africa Group with the facility. “If I had the power, I would have stopped it,” he told the Commission.
According to him, when he was appointed as minister, the exclusivity was already in place; that they had an idea to allow GNPC to import fuel; GNPC did their initial supply but there was a query from Euro Africa Group. He however said GNPC’s initial supply had a better quality than that of Euro Africa Group.
Earlier, Cherno Marena, Solicitor General at the Ministry of Justice, reappeared before the Commission and testified under cross-examination by Victoria Andrews, attorney for Messers Muhammed Bazzi and Fadi Mazegi.
He was asked whether he had seen the license issued to Carnegie Mining Company, and in response, he said he had seen it; that he did not know whether the Ministry gave advice before the license was issued. When asked by Counsel Andrews that he was not in the position to know that the Commonwealth advised against the termination of the said license, he replied that he did not know. It was put to him that there was a stockpile before Carnegie took over, but he responded that he did not know; that he did not see the list of items after Carnegie took over; that he only saw the arbitration file.
At this juncture, Counsel Andrews requested for the production of the Carnegie file since the witness said it is with the Commission. Marena was further asked when the arbitration was instituted against Government, and he stated that he did not know; that a liquidator was assigned to find out the asset left by the mining Company.
At this juncture, Counsel Bensouda told the Commission that the liquidator Augustus Prom, gave evidence on the assets left by Carnegie. Counsel Andrews then stated that she would like to see the evidence of Mr. Prom.
Further cross-examining the witness, Counsel Andrews asked him whether he knows a Company called Conapro, and he responded that it is a Lebanese Company that supplied fuel in the country. Again, she asked whether his Ministry sought for legal opinion from the office of the former president in relation to Carnegie Mining Company, he responded in the negative.
Marena told the Commission that Carnegie’s contract was terminated before the performance started. Counsel Andrews then asked the witness when legal opinion was requested by his Ministry, the former president had to approve it, but Marena responded that it is his Ministry that approves.
Next to testify under cross-examination was Marie Saine Firdaus, former Attorney General and Minister of Justice. She was asked whether she saw the license in relation to Carnegie Mining Company, and she replied that the last time she saw it was when they had a meeting at the office of the secretary general.
She was further quizzed as to whether she was aware of the advice against the termination of the license, and she responded in the negative. She told the Commission that an inventory was done as to what was found on site, and that she saw it; that she could not recall whether there was a list of equipment.
Counsel Andrews reminded her that she had indicated that she was called at the office of the former president and she found certain investors together with Muhammed Bazzi.
She replied that she said so, and was only invited to be a witness but was not given a copy of the minutes of the meeting; that the license issued to Carnegie and Gamico, may be similar; that Ms. Farage attended the meeting at the office of the secretary general, when it was put to her by Counsel Andrews that Farage did not attend the said meeting.
Firdaus maintained that Ms. Farage was present at the meeting as a lawyer for Muhammed Bazzi. She further told the Commission that as Attorney General, they had the power to prosecute any matter; that she was called in connection to the Carnegie case to prosecute; that before prosecution, there should be an investigation, and based on the investigation, they filed a case.
She finally testified that she could not recall what she said at a meeting at the office of the former president in 2012.
Buba Sanyang, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Lands, was also cross-examined by Counsel Andrews. She asked him whether his Ministry has a policy to allocate lands, and he answered in the positive. He told the Commission that they allocated land to a Sea Food Factory at Sanyang. He was asked whether they directly allocate land to hotels, and he responded that this is the responsibility of the Gambia Tourism Board.
According to him, there is an application fee of D50, 000 for the allocation of land; that Government can allocate state lands.
Sitting continues today.