Tuesday, November 12, 2019

At The ‘Janneh’ Commission: Maba Jobe, Alhagie Conteh Testify


By Awa B. Bah

Maba Jobe, the former Gambian Higher Commissioner to Nigeria and resident of Kotu, was on Monday 30th May 2018, summoned to appear before the ‘Janneh’ Commission of enquiry, regarding the Crude Oil that was lifted from Nigeria by the former Government of Yaya Jammeh.

Testifying before the Commission, Mr. Jobe said he has worked for the public service for six and half years before he resigned in 2002; that he was with the Gendarmerie before he joined the army and was moved to the diplomatic service after this service with the Military; that he was accredited to twelve countries in his stead as Gambian Diplomat and spent most of his time outside Nigeria.

Continuing his testimony, Mr. Jobe said he did not know anything about the lifting of Crude Oil from Nigeria by the former Government. At this Juncture, Mr. Jobe was shown a file by Commission Counsel Amie Bensuda on the arrangement of the lifting of Crude Oil from Nigeria to the Gambia, when he was the High Commissioner in that country and was asked to explain what he knew about the lifting of Crude Oil and how this started. According to Jobe, he was left in the dark; that he took up his post in April 1997 when the negotiations were already done and this was handled by the office of the former president; that the High Commission was never involved.

According to file records there were two instances when the Gambia lifted Crude Oil from Nigeria: However, Jobe declined to comment saying he knew nothing about the arrangements; that it was the first time he was seeing the letter. It was put to him by Counsel Bensouda, that there were missions from the Gambia to Nigeria during his period as the High Commissioner and these were led by Dominique Mendy and Baboucarr Bless Jagne. In response, Jobe said he was informed that a delegation was coming and should facilitate their arrival and movement in Nigeria. It was put to him that his response did not show anything about the lifting of fuel from Nigeria. Jobe said delegations from the former Government visited the Nigerian Petroleum Company NNPC and would arrange for transport to pick them up from the airport; that they will also confirm to him, their meeting with the NNPC. On the involvement of Samuel Sarr in these missions, Jobe said that he was surprised to see him because Samuel had no capacity in the former Government and was not even a private businessman dealing in Crude Oil. 

However, it was put to him by the Commission Counsel that before the arrival of the envoys, letters were written by the former Government to their counterpart in Nigeria, the NNPC and the Gambia High Commission.

Jobe said that the way Crude Oil was lifted from Nigeria to the Gambia was common knowledge; that when a concession is given, Gambia appoints a private firm to lift oil on its behalf. It was put to him that he knew about the lifting of Crude Oil because he was interested.

Jobe responded further that it was unfair for him to be kept in the dark by the former president when he was the High Commissioner of the Gambia in that country. The letters and the file containing the Crude Oil transaction documents, were tendered and admitted as exhibits.

Next to testify was the former Managing Director of NAWEC, Alhagie E.F Conteh. Mr. Conteh who is a resident of Faji kunda, was also summoned to testify in connection to NAWEC contracts. According to him, he has worked for NAWEC for more than twenty years and is currently engaged as a businessman with ‘Dabanani’ Electrical Company. Conteh gave a brief synopsis of his background and said he rose through the ranks to become the Managing Director of NAWEC but was demoted in 2001 and redeployed to the transmission and distribution unit as manager until 2002, when he was again appointed Managing Director.

According to Conteh, NAWEC was doing a good job for the Gambia; that they were buying fuel, spare parts, and maintaining services at low cost until the time Muhammed Bazzi appeared on the scene. According to Conteh, Generator number six was commissioned in 1990 and that it is still the best functioning generator NAWEC ever had; that they got the generator through a grant from the Taiwanese Government; that in 1999, three attempts were made to purchase generators from Italian engineers who came to the Gambia on business; that the former president summoned him to sign the contract but he declined, because he noticed the generators were old; that buying them would not be in the interest of the Gambia; that he was later summoned in Kanilai where the former president said he will be his witness; that he told the former president that the testing documents from the manufacturer should be produced for him to sign which the president agreed to and also gave him time to go through the contract document. Conteh said the contract documents had a six-million-dollar agreement and that the machines were not supposed to be delivered until payment was done or there was a Bank guarantee; that the then Governor of the Central Bank was contacted who advised them to decline the contract. ‘‘When I refused to endorse to the contract, the president sacked me as the Managing Director of NAWEC and redeployed me to the transmission and distribution unit as manager,’’ he said.

Conteh said it was the new Managing Director Mr. Jallow, who signed the contract; that Bazzi started to interfere in NAWEC when they were about to implement a joint venture with the Taiwanese, to improve on the electricity and generating capacity; that Bazzi, Amadou samba and Baba Jobe once visited his office with contract documents, claiming that it was from the former president for him to sign; that he offered them three conditions before he would sign the document and they left; that this was the time Bazzi came back to offer him D1.5 Million for him to sign the contract document that Bazzi is the cause of NAWEC’s predicament and was there for his selfish interest; that Bazzi showed the former president how to steal from NAWEC tax payers’ money; that Bazzi has been exaggerating prices of fuel for NAWEC.

Contract documents and other important papers relating to NAWEC contracts were tendered, but not admitted as exhibits by Commission Chairman Surahata Janneh because the key elements needed among the documents, were missing.

Sitting continues today.

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