By Mamadou Dem
Malick Njock Jagne, an Aviation Safety Inspector yesterday revealed that the Gambia Government has recommended for sale, three aircrafts purchased by the former regime, given that they are too old and not airworthy. Mr. Jagne made this disclosure during the tour of the airport by the ‘Janneh’ Commission to inspect the State Aircrafts that were bought by the former regime. According to Jagne, an interested party from Kenya visited the Gambia Civil Aviation in connection with one of the Aircraft.
The Commission upon visiting the airport inspected the three state aircrafts, Green Industry, Westwood and Minerals Company of the Gambia, as part of their mandate to inquire into the financial dealings of the former president and his close associates. The delegation headed by the chairman of the Commission, Sourahata Janneh, were received by officials of the Gambia Civil Aviation Authority. They inspected all the three state aircrafts with the assistance of Mr. Jagne.
The first aircraft that was inspected by the delegation was the C5 RTG which was used by the former president, but is currently parked for servicing and maintenance, to make it airworthy.
Responding to questions from Commissioners, Mr. Jagne disclosed that the lifespan of an aircraft depends on the maintenance it gets; that aircrafts can serve as long as 40 years. However, he said they have terminated the services of the Russian crew that used to handle the aircraft but have an engineer who is taking care of them.
He said this particular aircraft seized operation since March 2017 and needs to be taken back to Russia for maintenance. He said they normally take the aircraft to Uzbekistan for maintenance.
While inspecting inside the aircraft, it was observed that they were in disorder to which Commission Counsel Amie Bensouda, suggested for the GCA to address. Mr. Jagne in response stated that they need someone who is licensed to clean inside the aircraft and put everything in order.
On the Boeing 727 aircraft, the Aviation Inspector, informed Commissioners that the said aircraft was built in 1971 and was acquired by the Gambia in October, 2012; that it was the last 727 built by Boeing who has recommended that it is not airworthy. He said the aircraft seized operation during the political impasse when it transported the former first lady from the United States of America.
The other aircraft inspected by members of the Commission was Illusion 62, manufactured in 1966 and used by the Saudi Prince. This was purchased together with the Boeing 727 by the former Gambia Government but was never used; that the air tractors beside the aircraft also known as 802, was purchased from the United States and was manufactured by Air Tractors Incorporation; that they are normally used for firefighting but at the moment, they are not operational.
According to him, there were some engineers who were trained to maintain the air tractors but part of this arrangement, was to get them fly; that they need to be competent in order to maintain them because you need to fly three takeoffs and landings every ninety days; that since the aircrafts were for Government, they did not have any indication what it was used for.
From there, the delegation proceeded to Minerals Company of The Gambia where they were received by Augustus Prom, the receiver of all assets run by the former president. After given a background on the Company, Prom Junior explained that it had an expert manager from France and its function was to test gold dust in the country and all the raw materials were supposed to be outsourced within the sub-region for processing. According to him, the investors were not confident that there was indeed some gold in the country as they weren’t satisfied with their initial tests in Basse; that the Company was setup in 2014 and the building was done by GAIPA; that together with the cost of the equipment, it amounted to $500,000.
He concluded that the company intended to deal with a variety of materials, because fertilizer was also discovered in the processing room.
Earlier, Captain Momodou Jallow of the Gambia Armed Forces informed the delegation that when Green Industry was banned in 2014, there was an inventory and the former president instructed both the Police and the Army, to use the materials such as dye perms and uniforms respectively; that since then, the stock was kept in stores within the building and he was in custody of the keys. Westwood workshop was the final place visited by the Commission.