By Mamadou Dem
Commodore Madani Senghore of the Gambia Armed Forces and Commander of the Gambia Navy, has told the “Janneh Commission” that fishing was never part of their mandate but were supposed to regulate Marine resources and the activities of the fishermen, but not to compete with them at sea.
Commodore Senghore was summoned to explain the acquisition of fishing boats by the former President Yahya Jammeh, at a tune of D10, 000,000.00 and how he became involve in the transactions.
Commodore Senghore said he has served in the Navy for 29 years but was dismissed in February 2016 and reinstated in March, 2017; that he also served in Sierra Leone as Deputy Head of Mission.
According to him, the former president instructed him to negotiate for the building of fourteen boats which he said are at a standstill; that out of the six that were built, three were with the State Guard while the other three were handed over to Ousman Jatta alias Rambo, of Bakau. He said three boats are currently parked at Tanji and secured by naval personnel while one is being secured in Banjul by the same class of officers; that in May 2014, when the former president embarked on a nationwide tour, they came across one boat which attracted the president and he ordered ‘‘me’’ to find out the builder, which ‘‘I’’ did. He added that one Alhaji Jass Sam was the builder of the boat whom he invited to his office; that he forwarded the information to the former president, after asking him the prices as instructed and later received an email from the Ministry of Defence regarding the building of the boats.
Commodore Senghore further explained that there was a directive from the former president for lawyer Ida Drameh to be involved in the drafting of a contract agreement for building of the boats; that after everything was finalized, the agreement was signed on the 6th of June, 2014. According to the Navy Chief, the contract was signed by himself, Yusupha Dibba, Permanent Secretary Ministry of Defence on behalf of the Gambia Government.
He disclosed that the cost of the first two boats was D350, 000.00 each, while the second one was D375, 000.00 each while the third consignment was D400,000.00 each. “I am not aware of the source of the funds as I only received instructions to collect monies from the Ministry of Defence and hand it over to the contractor. I also received instructions to handover three boats to Rambo Jatta in Bakau,” the witness said.
At that juncture, Commission Counsel Amie Bensouda inquired from him whether Mr. Jatta was ever a military officer. He responded in the negative and added that Rambo never served in the Armed Forces but was told that he is a youth leader and supporter of the APRC party. The witness explained that he was further tasked to find out the equipment for the boats after the completion of the construction and took quotations for the provision of engines and fishing nets, which he acquired both in the Gambia and Senegal.
Responding to Counsel as to whether fishing was part of their mandate as navy officers, he responded in the negative noting that their function is to regulate Marine Resources and the activities of fishermen but not to compete with them in the sea. He revealed that there was a management comprising senior military men, to monitor the revenue of the boats and their maintenance, in order to ensure that there was transparency and accountability; that 26 naval men were assigned to the boats for fishing noting that the boats were operating at a loss.
According to him, after his dismissal, Commodore Sillah Kujabi took over as Naval Chief who also handed over to General Ansouman Tamba; that since then, he did not make a follow-up regarding the equipment and the boats. On the proposed 14 boats, he said the sum of D1.9 Million dalasi was the initial payment issued to the contractor and the total cost of the boats was D3, 220,000.
Documents relating to the constructions of the boats and correspondence from the Ministry of Defence and State House, were admitted as exhibits.
Earlier, Mr. Ebrima Sallah, the Managing Director of Trust Bank Gambia Limited, was summoned to produce statements of accounts from the Taiwanese Embassy Account as well as transactions documents relating to the same account, Kanilai International Festival and the Tribute to Michel Jackson Account.
According him, the said accounts were opened on the 8th February, 2006 and there was an inflow of $1,000,000 Dollars and the last transaction on the account was on the 17th of January 2013, in the sum of $1,999,899.79; that the account is now at Zero. He added that the account was a transit account as funds went in and out and the account was operated for almost 7 years during which, dollars from the account were transferred or deposited into the former president’s personal account, PEGEP.
He said on the 16th of February 2006, there was an inflow of $100,000.00 to the Jammeh Foundation for Peace Account while on the 22nd of February 2006, another $100,000.00 was deposited into the same account; that on the 18th of April 2006, D700,000.00 was deposited into the PEGEP account while on the 20th of April the same year, there was another inflow of $500,000.
According to him the sum of $1,780,000.00 was paid to Gambia National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) and on the 1st of August 2006, 2, 210,000 Dollars while on the 7thSeptember, 2007 there was an inflow of $300,000.00 and on the 29th of November 2006, there was another $300,000.00 while on the 29th November 2007, $100,000.00 was transferred to Yahya Jamme’s account; on the 17th January 2008, almost $2,000,000.00 was paid into Jammeh’s account.
Mr. Sallah further disclosed several other payments made from the Taiwanese Embassy Account to the account of the former president and HIV treatments. Transactions and statements of accounts were tendered as exhibits.
Responding to questions from Commissioner Bai Mass Saine, the witness said the account holder never explained the purpose of the account; that he wouldn’t know that their bank was used by the former president to transfer funds destined for the public at his own discretion. He said despite the account being a transit account, it was profitable to the bank; hence there were charges on every transaction.
Next to testify was Mr. Ousman Jatta alias “Rambo.” He gave a synopsis of portfolios he held under the former regime which included Youth Mobiliser for the APRC. He was also summoned in connection with the fishing boats he received.
According to him, he was given fishing boats on two occasions by both General Badjie and Commodore Senghore. “I have no written communication from Gen. Badjie regarding the boats,” he said.
The boats he said, were provided to create youth employment which was based on a fifty -fifty basis; that he usually reports to Gen Badjie; that he had no idea that the boats were purchased from public funds nor does he submit any report to Gen. Badjie.
Hearing continues today.