Gumbo Ali Touray freed at last

Friday, October 05, 2012

Former Director of International Affairs at the University of The Gambia, Dr Gumbo Ali Touray, yesterday walked out of the Banjul Magistrates’ Court a free man after presiding Magistrate Taiwo Ade Alagbe acquitted and discharged him from a charge of giving false information.

Touray, who was first arraigned before the Banjul Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday 3rd August 2011, denied accusations that he wrote a petition to the Office of the President, stating that the Vice Chancellor of the University of The Gambia, Professor Muhammed Kah, is bent on employing his relatives at the University of The Gambia, which information he knew to be false.

The case, which gathered public attention since at the onset, saw the testimonies of both current and past lecturers at the university, including Vice Chancellor Professor Muhammed O. Kah.

In delivery his judgment, Principal Magistrate Taiwo Alagbe told the court that the accused person was properly arraigned before the court in August 2011, and was charged with giving false information to a public officer.

He added that the charge sheet was read to him and he denied it, adding that the prosecution called nine (9) witnesses in support of their case, including Professor Muhammed O. Kah and some senor members of the UTG.

Magistrate Alagbe pointed out that the accused person also gave sworn evidence, and called witnesses.

He added that Bai Mattar Drammeh, a member of the UTG governing council, was also a prosecution witness, who told the court that he was part of the panel which interviewed Mr. Kojo, the director of finance at the UTG.

Mr. Drammeh, he said, also told the court that he only interviewed one person, and that was Mr. Kojo through a telephone interview, as a member of the governing council of the UTG based on the directive given to him.

“The fifth prosecution witness (PW5), Lamin Gassama, also told the court that he is a narcotics officer attached to Holgam NDEA, and that they received an executive directive for the accused person to be arrested and the matter be investigated, and the case file was compiled at the end of the investigation,” the presiding magistrate told the court.

Magistrate Alagbe further stated that Dr. Omar Jah also testified before the court that he is deputy Vice Chancellor at the UTG, and that Professor Muhammed O. Kah took over the UTG and had made tremendous improvements at the UTG.

Mariama Jom, an internal auditor at the UTG also testified, he said.

Still delivering his judgment, Magistrate Alagbe told the court that Professor Kah also gave evidence, and told the court that the accused person at one time had a contract with the university, and that his contract expired like that of any other staff at the university and the contract was not renewed, meaning it was not terminated. 

Professor Kah, he said, also told the court that the public was aware of most of his travels, because there used to be an annual report, and he must seek clearance and other supporting documents from the executive.

“Prof Kah also went on to say that when he took over the UTG, it experienced a lot of tremendous improvements,” the presiding magistrate added.

He pointed out that the accused person Gumbo Touray also gave sworn evidence, and told the court that he was appointed at the University of The Gambia by the UTG council for a 3-year contract, and his contract was subjected to renewal with at least 3 months notice.

Touray, he said, also told the court that he was among the first Gambians who started as lecturers at the UTG, noting that as a good citizen of The Gambia, he was very pleased when the UTG was established for that reason.

“I decided to come home to contribute my quota to national development,” the presiding magistrate quoted Gumbo Touray as saying.

He said Touray also told the court that in January 2011, there was a visit by the National Assembly Select Committee on Education to the UTG, where senior staff members of the UTG were invited to honestly express their opinion.

Principal Magistrate Alagbe noted that Touray told the court that during this meeting with the National Assembly select committee, he was asked to express his sincere opinions about the development of the UTG.

He said Touray told the court that after less than a month of the visit of the National Assembly Select Committee on Education, he was suspended by Professor Kah acting alone.

Investigations, the magistrate went on, had revealed that the suspension and termination of the accused person’s contract was not proper and was not in line with the UTG Act.

He added that the defence counsel, Badou S.M. Conteh, in his address to the court submitted that the accused person was not petitioning the President as the head of state of the Republic of The Gambia, but in his capacity as Chancellor of the UTG.

He said counsel further argued that his client should be acquitted and discharged, and referred the court to Augustus Prom’s financial reports on the UTG, the NDEA report and GPPA report to back up his briefs.

The trial magistrate further stated that the prosecuting officer also submitted that the accused person wrote petition to the President in his capacity as the head of state, and not in his capacity as Chancellor of the UTG.

He said the prosecutor further submitted that Professor Kah had attained his professorship through relevant institutions and, therefore, the accused person could not discredit Professor Kah’s professorship.

The prosecuting officer, he added, maintained that the appointment of Mr. Kojo, a Ghanaian national (as the UTG director of Finanace) was proper.

Still delivering the judgment, the trial magistrate indicated that the only issue that arose for determination was whether the accused person’s petition was directed to the President in his capacity as the head of the state or as Chancellor of the UTG, or whether the said information was false.

“I have totally agreed with the learned defence counsel that the accused person’s petition was addressed to the President in his capacity as the Chancellor of the UTG, not in his capacity as the head of state,’’ the Magistrate said.

He added that the defence referred the court to the NDEA report, GPPA report particularly in pages 5,6,7, and Augustus Prom’s financial report on the UTG, which the court believed.

PW7, 8 and 9 testimonies corroborated, and the court believed that a position like financial director at the UTG should not be filled through a mere telephone interview.

The Magistrate further asserted that according to Augustus Prom’s report, the contracts were awarded but there was no document or correspondence to show how contracts were awarded, and the amount involved.

He told the court that according to one of the witnesses, one of Professor Kah’s trips cost D600,000, and that Dr. Jah,  the deputy Vice-Chancellor, Jenu Manneh, registrar of the UTG, Mariama Jom, internal auditor of the UTG, and Dr. Senghore were the people who seemed to be enjoying the leadership of Professor Kah, going through their evidence delivered before the court.

Therefore, he added, the court believed that Gumbo Touray was a patriotic and good citizen of this country.

He added that Touray would have maintained his silence like other UTG staff to secure his position, but instead sacrificed his position by challenging the wrongdoing of Professor Kah at the UTG.

Magistrate Alagbe added that the actions of the Vice Chancellor, Professor Kah, was not only wrongdoing, but were ridiculous in terms of his salary compared to the monthly salary of his predecessor Professor Stigen, a Norwegian national.

Therefore, as a law enforcement officer, the Magistrate said he would strongly recommend that a panel be set up to review the credentials of Professor Kah as to whether he is fit to be the Vice Chancellor of the UTG.

He added that the appointment of Mr Kojo, a Ghanaian national, was not in line with the UTG Act in terms of condition of services, more so, when Kojo had no accounting background, but instead is an MBA holder.

Author: Bakary Samateh
Source: Picture: Gumbo Ali Touray