‘I was not acting in my capacity as SG in introducing Mariama Sillah to SSHFC’

Thursday, July 02, 2015

The former Secretary General and Minister for Presidential Affairs, Momodou Sabally, yesterday told the court he was not acting in his capacity as SG when he introduced Mariama Sillah to the Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation (SSHFC).

Sabally made this statement during his defence testimony, under cross-examination before Justice Amadi of the Special Criminal Court in Banjul.

“How did you present the issue to the MD SSHFC?” DPP asked.

“I did it by phone,” he said.

“Is it in line with your purview as SG?” DPP further asked.

“I was not acting in my capacity as SG,” Sabally replied.

“So in what capacity were you acting?”

“In my capacity as a concerned young Gambian interested in youth development.” 

“Why didn’t you allow Manga to introduce Mariama Sillah to MD SSHFC?” DPP challenged.

“Manga presented her to me so I could help, because I had a relationship with Graham dating back to my days as budget director and I did not know of any relationship between Manga and Graham.”

“Can you recall where and when the matter of Mariama Sillah emanated from?”

“Last year in the office of the SG at State House.”

“You made mention of one Lamin Manga as the person that brought up the issue. What is your relationship with him?”

“He is my friend and as the DG of GRTS, he used to receive official instructions from me and used to report back to me accordingly.”

“What is your relationship with Mariama Sillah?”

“She was an acquaintance as introduced to me by Lamin Manga.”

“Did you know the relationship between Manga and Mariama?”

“Objection my lord, DPP is assuming that there is a relationship between Manga and Sillah,” said senior counsel Gaye.

The judge overruled the objection.

“I don’t know,” Sabally answered.

“How close were you to Edward Graham?”

“We had a professional relationship.”

“Why did you take it upon yourself to introduce Mariama Sillah to MD SSHFC?”

“The project she presented to me - that is youth career development programme - was relevant to national development and the institution that Graham heads is also for national development.”

“Do you have any ministry for youth affairs?”

“Yes.”

“Why didn’t you put forward Mariama Sillah’s request through the ministry of youth or the minister of youth?”

“I thought the ministry did not have the capacity to meet her needs or assist towards the project.”

“You don’t want to tell the President the truth of the matter regarding the vehicles?”

“I disagree with that statement because I had already told my boss the truth that the vehicles were presented as a donation.”

“But you have not told the President that the purported donation was associated or linked with a business deal, as it was presented to you by Ndoye.”

“The vehicles were presented as gifts to the President without any conditions attached, and they were accepted as such.”

“If what you are saying is the truth, why did you not care to ask for the title deeds?”

“The office I was running was a very busy office; as such most of my responsibilities were delegated, as part of the evidence here. The keys to the vehicles were presented to Lt Colonel Ansumana Tamba and I expected Ndoye to have left with Tamba anything relating to the vehicles,” he said.

“Did you delegate Lt Col. Tamba to collect the title deeds of the vehicles from Ndoye?” 

“Yes, I delegated Tamba to receive the keys and everything related to the vehicles including title deeds,” Sabally said.

“Could it be that going by your busy schedule, you didn’t have time to attend to Ndoye when he presented the exhibits to you?”

“These exhibits were never presented to me,” Sabally told the court.

“You told this court that PW1 came to you with an envelope from Ndoye and you asked him to go with it until later.”

“An envelope was presented to me by PW1 and I declined to receive it, because I had many documents on my desk and I feared losing it.”

“Are you saying that you declined to take the envelope due to your busy schedules?”

“No, I am not saying that. This was a weekend and the records clerks were not in office and, for reasons of safety and procedure, I always received documents through the records office,” he said.

“I am putting it to you that you knew what PW1 was bringing to you in that envelope, as it was brought to you earlier by Ndoye; but because you had made up your mind to scuttle the sales transaction and you didn’t want to hear about the sales,” DPP said.

“There is no way that I could know what was in that envelope, and I disagree because the word sales was never mentioned to me, and I did not recall Ndoye bringing an envelope to me.” 

“I am putting it to you that you knew that the cars were meant for sale from the beginning of the transaction.”

“No, the cars were meant for donation from the beginning.”

“The whole idea of the purported donation was nothing but misrepresentation by you.”

“No, the cars were meant for donation, and that is the truth.”

Author: Halimatou Ceesay