Atlas operations manager testifies in Gam-Petroleum trial

Jun 21, 2022, 11:20 AM | Article By: Ali Jaw

The operations manager of Atlas Oil Company Ltd., Dodou Njie, has appeared at the High Court of The Gambia in Banjul to give evidence in the Gam-Petroleum case

The case involves Gam-Petroleum's former General Manager Saikou Drammeh and former Operations Manager Lamin Gassama, 1st and 2nd accused respectively. The duo is slammed with 3 charges of economic crime and 5 other charges.

Their arrest and eventual indictment came against the backdrop of a fuel shortage crisis that hit the country in October 2021.

They are being defended by Senior Counsel Christopher E. Mene, B.S. Conteh, S. Akimbo, Bakurin Pauline, and Sasum Sillah.

Giving evidence before presiding Judge Justice Haddy C. Roche, Mr. Njie, who has worked with Atlas for over 25 years, and currently serving as the operations manager, said he keeps daily, weekly and monthly stock information of Atlas Petroleum Company Ltd.

He explained that the shortage of fuel that happened in October 2021 was not the first fuel shortage to have occurred in the country.

Mr. Njie stated that the new price structure introduced by the government through a press release dated 30th September 2021, to take effect in October without consulting the Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) was one of the causes of the fuel shortage in the country.

The Atlas operations manager told the court that he was part of the investigators that went to examine the tanks at Gam-Petroleum, when the fuel shortage hit The Gambia in October 2021.

He noted that they discovered that there was no physical stock at the depot during their investigation, further explaining that his book record showed that Atlas Petrol Station had products at Gam-Petroleum, but there was no physical stock at the depot.

The court also heard that Atlas also had a negative balance as of September 2021, and that the negative balance was due to overshooting at the time of loading.

Further evidence by witnesses revealed to the court that all the OMCs except one had signed a letter that was sent to the government warning of the consequences of the new price structure.

In the letter, the witness explained, the OMCs warned that the new price structure would negatively impact the supply chain of oil and gas.

Mr. Njie told the court that the government’s failure to heed to the admonition of the said letter by the OMCs was a contributing factor to the shortage of the fuel.

“All sectors contributed to the fuel shortage in October including the government,” he disclosed, reacting to a question by Mene, who asked the witness during cross-examination whether it would be fair to blame all others except the government.

The witness added that he did not think that it was fair enough to blame everyone for the fuel crisis except The Gambia government.

“Government’s failure to react should have been a cocktail of all the contributing factors listed in Exhibit D6 and the factors we raised in our letters," the witness said.

Exhibit D6 is the interim report by the taskforce that was set-up to investigate the fuel shortage that hit the country in October 2021.

The report, according to Defence Attorney E. Mene, blames Gam-Petroleum management, the Gam-Petroleum board of directors and Public Utility Regulations Authority (PURA) among others.

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