It was intimidation under Jammeh: Aki Bayo

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Momodou Aki Bayo, the former minister of Regional Administration, Lands and Traditional Rulers has yesterday testified before Janneh Commission that under Jammeh’s rule, there was a climate of fear, intimidation, torture and disappearances and most officials under his administration had a story to tell.

However, he said despite all those difficult circumstances he tried everything possible not to make anyone cry.

He and Ismaila Sanyang, the former Agriculture minister appeared before the commission in connection to KGI, MRI and other government accounts and the leases of properties issued to the former president and Gambia Milling Corporation respectively.

Mr. Bayo who appeared in connection to land leased to Yahya Jammeh and Gambia Milling Corporation also gave a background on portfolios he held under the former governments.

Prior to his testimony, Mrs. Bensouda told him that he approved a leased land belonging to the Gambia Ports Authority (GPA) to a private company (Gambia Milling Corporation) to which he responded in the affirmative.

However, the counsel told him that the land was a freehold but he said he rely heavily on technical advice and this matter was dealt with by Physical Planning and the Department of Lands and Survey, including technical staff of his ministry. He added that being a freehold land, there should have been an approval from the National Assembly and the president before it should have been leased.

According to him, his records showed that GPA gave their consent on the leasing of the land. However, he could not produce the document at that spot but was required to produce when next he face the commission.

On the approval of the four properties on the coastal area leased to KFF, he said he did not know how these extensive properties were acquired without following due process as alluded to by the Department of Tourism.

However, he said, as the minister at the time, he relied on his technical staff and if it was pointed out to him that the said land fall under TDA he would have made a second thought.

Mr. Bayo told the commission that it’s not his style to blame his junior staff; adding that he did not only signed the leased documents based on the advice from the technical staff but it was also done out of fear.

He further told commissioners that had it been he refused to approve them, then there would have been consequences which would be detrimental. He said his junior staffs were not consulted prior to granting lease lands to the former president.

On whether the former president discussed with him about land matters, he responded in the affirmative; adding that the former head of state on couple of occasions told him about land affairs.

According to him, during a Cabinet retreat in Kailai, the former president emphasised to him as to why one of his provincial properties was not leased but he responded to him that the documents were yet to reach his desk. Thereby describing the way the former president spoke to him as ‘threatening.’

At this juncture, Commissioner Saine interjected and asked whether there was a culture of collaboration between him and his staff and he responded in the positive. “I do interact with them and they did advise me not to do certain things,” he expounded.

Mr. Bayo is expected to reappear today in connection to the lease surrounding Gambia Milling Corporation.

Mr. Sanyang confirmed to the commission that he was a co-signatory to various accounts namely, Tax Recovery, GNPC, MRI Presidential, Higher Education, PAC/PEC and Kanilai Institute of Technology Account respectively.

On how the MRI was funded, he responded that he has no idea as to how the account was funded because he found the account in operation at the office of the president and it was managed by the permanent secretaries, office of the former president.

At this juncture, commission’s counsel, Amie Bensouda, asked him to explain a transaction for the withdrawal of D7, 000,000 which was authorised by him and Isatou Aurba, he responded it was an instruction from the former president for the said sum to be withdrawn and handed over to him as a matter of urgency.

However, he said he has no idea as to what the fund was intended for while confirming that he physically handed over the said sum to the former president but could not recollect in the presence of whom; adding that it is correct that he authorised the payment of D2,000,000 to Sanna Jarju, former chief of protocol.

Mr. Sanyang further told the commission that it will be difficult to know the purpose of the payment to Mr. Jarju, suggesting that Mr. Jarju should be in a better position to explain considering the condition they were working under and they dare not to ask.

According to him, these were inherited accounts and it would be difficult for him to explain how funds were lodged and withdrawn from the account; adding that the former president was more responsible for the funds than him as he was the chief executive of the country.

“It would be difficult for me to know what the monies were meant for under that circumstance,” he said.

He said if the issue of KGI was brought to his attention earlier as the Agric minister, he would have resolved the matter with regard to the debt amounting to D100, 000,000 it owe to the ministry.

Next to testify was Bakary Biati Trawally, a pathologist who indroduced himself as a former national and international civil servant.

Mr. Trawally who gave synopsis of his career as a civil servant since from 1979 was summoned in connection to the Japanese grants (rice) and testified that Japanese grants came well before Jammeh came into power but then it was in a form pesticides among others.

According to him, when the former president became minister of Agriculture in 2007, he was being move in and out of the ministry and hardly sees or communicates with him.

He alleged that it was very difficult to work with the former president as all correspondences had to be sent to the secretary general rather than the minister responsible for agricultural matters. He said during his time as PS, the ministry used to liaise with Sarja Camara of KGI regarding the Japanese rice, noting that the proceeds would be deposited at the bank but he never dealt with KGI.

“All the time I was at the Department of State for Agriculture (DOSA), there was no sitting minister at Quadrangle,” he said.

With regard to the Japanese grant, he said they were usually asked by the Japanese to list down the items needed prior to disbursement of consignment; that he did not think the Japanese grant help the poor people as intended, noting that the Gambia has a fertile soil and resources to produce what it consumes.

He, however, opined what the country needs to upgrade the soil by applying fertilizer, enhances the capacity of the farmers with farm implements as well as introduced irrigational systems. He said he never knew that KGI belongs to the former president and the Japanese would not specifically identify the companies to award contract for the sales of the rice.

He finally testified that he initially suggested for the sales of Japanese rice to be decentralised among the governors in various regions who will sale and deposit the proceeds into a Trust Bank account which would also in turn and deposit to CBG.

Next to face the commission was Woreh Njie-Ceesay, managing director of Kanilai Group International. She was summoned in connection to KGI accounts and APAM respectively.

During her evidence, Mrs. Ceesay told the commission that she was a banker with First International Bank (FIB) prior to assuming the responsibility of managing director of KGI.

On how she became MD for the said company, she said she was approached by the then Secretary General Momodou Sabally to serve in this portfolio; adding that while at the bank, she was the manager of the JB KGI account which she said was a joint venture investment different from KGI dealing with the importation of cement among others.

According to her, she was appointed as MD on March 14, 2014, and among the payments she was receiving were proceeds from Bakeries and Rental from Futurlec building among others. She added as MD of the company, she reports to Gen. Sulayman Badjie.

At this juncture, she confirmed that Gen. Sulayman Badjie owned 60% of KFF while she owned 40% as per the amendment on the Memorandum of Article and Association.

Mrs. Ceesay further disclosed to the commission that upon her appointment, a meeting was held between the former president, Momodou Sabally and herself and it was at this meeting that she was asked to be reporting to Gen. Badjie.

She finally testified that request for payments from the former president through Gen. Sulayman Badjie were available.

Sittings continue today.