By Mamadou Dem
Mrs. Fatou Mass Jobe-Njie, a former Minister of Tourism in the former Jammeh administration, and erstwhile Executive Director of Save the Children Foundation of the former first lady, yesterday told the ‘Janneh’ Commission that out of $300,000 generated for Save the Children foundation, only $25,000 was spent on a child.
Mrs Njie revealed this to the Commission when she reappeared in connection to the said foundation accounts.
She testified that the foundation was constituted in November 2014, and was set up as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO); that she signed documents for the Secretary and all correspondences which were dispatched by her office should be seen by the Secretary General.
According to her, the former First Lady was the chairperson of the foundation; that she took over as Executive Director from the Permanent Secretary at the office of the former First Lady, who was also handling the affairs of the foundation.
When asked by Counsel Bensouda on the connection of the foundation with the office of the former president, she responded that there was no connection between the foundation and the office of the former president. She however told the Commission that the foundation was operated at State House where she had her office.
Mrs. Njie testified that this was the practice she inherited from the Permanent Secretary, office of the former First Lady and she was part of the Executive Board; that there was an act of the Constitution that established the foundation. She said the foundation had a purpose and there was nothing put in place to achieve its objective; that she does not know whether the foundation was registered or not. She further stated that the board was informed about the activities of the foundation and the First Lady together with the former Vice President Isatou Njie-Saidy, were signatories to the account. She informed the Commission that she does not know whether the Constitution was amended, further stating that the foundation was a private organisation to complement the efforts of the former government. Mrs Njie stated that the said foundation had two bank accounts which were at Trust Bank and Guaranty Trust Bank respectively; that the Trust Bank account was opened on the 11th May 2015, during her time.
She told the Commission that she was using the letterhead of the office of the former president as the Executive Director; that she did not need to see the Secretary General to make payments. “The accounts were funded through donations,” she testified. She disclosed that she was guided by a five-year strategic development plan; that there was no guideline as to who can give out money to the foundation. It was put to her by Counsel Bensouda that public enterprise donated to the organisation and asked her to name them.
In response, Mrs Njie said AMRC, GRA, PURA and Gam Petroleum donated monies to the foundation, further stating that they used to write to these institutions to make pledges when they had gala dinners. She said they made D10, 000,000 from fund raising activities out of which they donated the sum of D7, 700,000; that all funds that were deposited at the GT Bank were from donations and the dollar account was credited with $20,000; that the sum of $10,000 was donated during the breakfast meeting.
According to her, the First Lady of Turkey donated the sum of $75,000 at a breakfast meeting and the sum of $130,000 was transferred to a Moroccan Company for leasing of equipment for the event. She however agreed with Counsel that there were subsequent transfers made to the same Company in Morocco which she said was all in line with the event.
She said the total sum of money paid out for the event was $400,000; that she did not do any due diligence and what she saw was an invoice requesting for payment but she could not pay further, as there were no funds; that she only paid the sum of $130,000 and $60,000 respectively.
Further buttressing on the leasing of the equipment, she disclosed that she paid 48,174 Dinar which was equivalent to $80,000; that they made two different payments amounting to $38,000 and $42,000 respectively; that she did not prepare any financial statement for the foundation. She confirmed applying for land on behalf of the foundation at the Gambia Tourism Board, which she said was granted; that the land issue came about after a meeting was held and the purpose was to build a shopping complex on it.
Mrs. Njie said the Gambia Tourism Board was not forced to give out the land which they applied for because it was not a directive from the former president and she had returned the lease to them in December 2017. She said they were advised by a Tunisian architect to apply for land to enable them generate enough income for the implementation of their activities. The witness further confirmed that over $800,000 was paid to Online Verbal Video.
At this juncture, Counsel Bensouda asked her if she would be able to provide the Commission with the total income of the foundation to which she responded in the affirmative. However, it was observed by Counsel that out of $300,000 generated by the foundation, only $25,000 was spent in the name of a child. On whether the foundation was registered, she said she would not know, as she was not in town; that their accounts were not audited.
Mrs Njie testified that the first inaugural meeting of the board was held on the 16th July 2015, which she attended; that she used to send reports to the board via email and that the signature in the Constitution was not hers but rather someone signed on her behalf. She said she only saw her name when the Constitution was given to her. Documents produced by the witness including her acceptance letter for the position of Executive Director of the foundation, were tendered and admitted as exhibits.
Next to testify was Mariama Ceesay-Mboob, Principal Registrar of the High Court, who was summoned to produce two High Court case files involving the late Baba Jobe and Ansoumana Jammeh respectively. According to her, on the 11th of October 2003, a case was brought against the late Baba Jobe, Babucarr Kanteh and the Youth Development Enterprise; that this was a criminal case. She said she had two affidavits of service and warrant to forfeit property to the Sheriff of the High Court. She told the Commission that she also had the judge’s proceedings. She revealed to the Commission that the late Mr. Jobe was convicted in 2005 and was also liable to pay Gambia Ports Authority (GPA) the sum of D24,000,000 or in default, his properties would be forfeited to the state.
At this juncture, Commission Counsel Amie Bensouda, asked her to find out whether there was an appeal in this case. In the case of Ansoumana Jammeh, she testified that it was a criminal matter which involved the state versus Ansoumana Jammeh, Sanna Bah and Assan Badjie; that she had the proceedings and judgement and that they were sentenced to a fine.
According to her, it was also ordered by the judge for the forfeiture of his property located at Bijilo, Coastal Layout and a vehicle purchased for over D1, 000,000 and he was further ordered to pay to the state, the sum of D24, 000,000 within a period of 36 months starting from the date of judgement.
Mrs. Mboob was told by the Commission to find out whether there was execution in Ansoumana Jammeh’s case. She finally told the Commission that CONAPRO was also introduced in the country by Mr. Jammeh and it was through them that the Animal Feed factory was established. Documents relating to the two files were tendered and admitted as evidence.
Mr. Bull Dibba, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Interior, appeared in connection to a citizenship programme and told the Commission that he heard about the said programme; that it was a capital investment programme. He said he became aware of the programme in May 2017, through a private citizen; that he received an email from the private citizen with an attachment of a Hong Kong Visa hand book and a capital investment; that he also received a form signed by the former Director General of Immigration, presided over by Pa Mboob on behalf of the director; that there was no indication as to who published the said hand book.
According to him, the hand book was about the application for entrance programs and so on; that he later forwarded the said email to the former Interior Minister, Mai Ahmad Fatty, because he thought the email was more of an intelligence matter; that he informed the director of the National Intelligence Agency renamed SIS, to make findings about the sender and to interrogate him; that he did not get any feedback from the director of the intelligence outfit but was later told by the immigration department that the process has been ongoing since Jawara’s time. Mr. Dibba testified that he prepared a closed file which showed that an agreement was made between mainland China and the Ministry of Interior for ID programs. Documents produced by the witness in connection to the citizenship programme were tendered and admitted in evidence.
Hearing continues today.