Thursday, January 20, 2022

Agric PS, Director of Forestry At The ‘Janneh’ Commission


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By Mamadou Dem

Messrs. Hassan Jallow, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture and Muhammed Jaiteh, Director of Forestry, yesterday appeared before the ‘Janneh’ Commission in connection with the Japanese Food Aid and Timber exportation, respectively.

According to Mr. Jaiteh, the exportation of timber started in 2007 and they constituted a committee to look for those who were interested in its exportation; that the Forestry Act was silent as to how the exportation of timber should be done, further disclosing that a permit is given upon the number of containers one can export.

He further revealed that the exportation of timber was controlled by the Department of Forestry; that West Wood Company was identified together with Universal Trading Company, as stated in a letter by the former president from his office.

Mr. Jaiteh told the Commission that in June 2014, West Wood Company was identified and given an exclusive permit to export timber by the office of the former president (OP); that their department issued license to applicants who satisfied the conditions stipulated in the Act, to export timber and were at the mercy of West Wood Company; that the Company frustrated their efforts.

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He explained to the Commission that the Company should not remove the wood without the consent of the department of forestry.

At this juncture, he presented a letter dated 27th July 2016, to the Commission. However Counsel Bensouda put it to him that $2.5 million was supposed to be paid to the department of forestry. In response, Jaiteh said this was the amount owed and has not been settled; that from 2014 to 2016, 11,710 containers were exported by West Wood Company which should be able to tell the Commission the total number of containers exported.

According to him, the former president annexed some community forests, noting that Nyambai forest was annexed by the former president in 2009. He testified that West Wood Company paid the sum of D77, 954,000 to the forestry department, and no step was taken in 2016 to stop the exportation of timber.

At this juncture, a report prepared by the witness was tendered and admitted in evidence.

Next to testify was Hassan Jallow, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture, who reappeared in connection to the Japanese Food Aid.

Prior to dwelling on the subject matter, PS Jallow was shown some documents for the delivery of rice to KGI which he signed. He said the process was led by the Ministry of Agriculture and he informed KGI in writing about the arrival of the vessel containing the Japanese rice grant; that he was not responsible for the delivery of the rice to KGI.

Mr. Jallow revealed that he was not aware of any arrangements for KGI to pay monies generated from the sale of the rice to the Central Bank, noting that he did not know when the account at the Central Bank was opened.

At this juncture, Counsel Bensouda put it to him that he could have found out what was happening at the Ministry, but the witness declined that he could not and that Cherno Mballow, the then director, would be able to help.

Counsel Bensouda again put it to him that KGI owed the former Government D189,676,154. In response, Jallow said he never dealt with the issue, and did not know whether there was any reconciliation done.

He was urged by the Commission to provide some outstanding information concerning the directors at the Ministry.

Speaking via Skype, Mr. Muhammadou Batata Juwara, former Deputy Chief of Protocol of the former President who is currently based in New York, testified in connection to the lifting of Crude Oil to The Gambia, from the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

He said he was not involved in the lifting of the oil; that he was given a power of attorney by the former president to go to Nigeria to sign for the Crude Oil deal. He however said he could not remember whether it was to sign on behalf of the former Government or the former president in August, 1996.

“I received a letter from Dominic Mendy, dated August 26th 1996, which was a power of attorney and the former president asked me to go to one Mr. Johnson, who gave me some documents which I took to Nigeria,” he testified.

On whether he travelled alone to Nigeria, he responded in the negative; that he went with one Samuel Sarr whom he said was a businessman from Senegal; that he met Sarr and one Mr. Ndow at Kairaba Beach Hotel while strolling with his children; that Ndow introduced Sarr to him and said Sarr wanted to see the former president but it was not possible.

He said when he reported to work the following day, he asked the former president whether he saw Sarr and the former president responded that he did not trust him (Sarr); that he however told the former president that it was important to listen to them at times; that he then asked him to invite Mr. Sarr to come to state house and then told Ndow that Sarr had an appointment with the former president. He said Mr. Sarr told him to travel with him to Niger but he told him that he could not proceed to that country without obtaining permission from home.

He said he then contacted the former president and he (Jammeh) asked him to join Mr. Sarr in Niger. He said upon arrival in that country, he was given a secret code and he went to the French Embassy in Niger and was asked to wait in his hotel in Niger.

Mr. Juwara disclosed that somebody met him at his hotel with a suitcase containing CFA currency which was handed to him and the person left; that Mr. Sarr told him to travel with the suitcase of money to The Gambia. He narrated that he went to the VIP lounge and later travelled to The Gambia.

He stated that the man who met him at the hotel was a French man and the sum of money in the suitcase was 60,000,000 CFA; that he went to Dakar where somebody was waiting for him at the airport, who told him that they should travel by land.

According to him, the man told him that the former president was waiting for him; that he called the former president and asked him whether he was the one who authorized the person to travel with him; that the former president confirmed they both travelled to The Gambia; that the said man was the Gambian High Commissioner to Dakar, Mr. Njogu Bah; that he met Samuel Sarr once or twice regarding the signing of the Crude Oil.

Mr. Juwara told the Commission that he was just like a messenger on his trip to Nigeria, and that he went to the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) with the power of attorney, and Maba Jobe was the High Commissioner to Nigeria then; that he saw no relevance for him to be given a power of attorney when he was travelling with Dominic Mendy to Nigeria as Trade Minister, noting that he also signed a contract with Chanrial Company in France while he was there with Mr. Samuel Sarr.

The former protocol officer disclosed that there was an agreement dated August 23rd 1996 with Nigeria and the former Government, which he signed; that he was only told that Crude Oil was given to the former president but he could not remember how much was allocated to The Gambia.

Hearing continues today.

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