By Nelson Manneh
A former prison warden who is now engaged in farming has on Wednesday, 24th June given evidence surrounding the mysterious escape of Abdoulie Ceesay, the Managing Director of Teranga FM from custody.
Ebrima B. Niie said he was deployed together with one junior prison warden Edrissa Manga at the Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital to guard Ceesay who was a Mile 2 detainee. Njie said the proprietor of Teranga FM was detained because he had a problem with former President Yahya Jammeh and was taken to the hospital because he was ill.
He said it is unusual for two junior prison wardens to be deployed without a senior officer with them. He told the Commission that at the time of leaving Mile 2, Chief Kalilou promised to send him a senior officer but instead sent a private officer of his class. He said nonetheless, they agreed and stayed to guard the patient.
He said at the time, he only had a year and a few months in prison services and Ceesay was the first prison inmate, he guarded. He said in fact, he knew a little about prison services because all through, he was cultivating for their director-general on his farm in Lamin.
He said in the night, at around 12 am, Chief Officer Kalilu Sanneh came inside the private block they were lodged and gave them money to buy bread for dinner. He added that Private Manga was also sent to fetch water while Chief Kalilou stayed with the inmate – Ismaila Ceesay.
He adduced that after buying the dinner the Chief was still generous to them and provided them with fruit juice – ‘Don Simon’ which they drank.
“After drinking the Don Simon I felt something was wrong with me. I felt dizzy and my body was heavy. I slept,” the witness testified.
Njie said it is very seldom to see a senior prison warden treat a junior like the way the way Chief Kalilou did on the night Ceesay escape.
He said Chief Kalilou left them dizzy and informed them that he was leaving for Mile 2. He told the Commission that a lady knocked at their door and when they woke up, the inmate had already escaped.
Njie said Ceesay escaped through the windows by stepping on the pipes and later ran away.
“We were panicked because we knew we got into trouble and we knew what lies ahead won’t be easy for us,” he said.
He said when they contacted Mile 2, not more than ten minutes, Chief Kalilou arrived at the hospital from Mile 2.
“Mile 2 is far but he (Chief Kalilou) came into the ward in less than ten minutes,” he said.
He said they continued with the search until 4 am in the morning when they gave up and decided to go back to Mile 2. He explained that when they reached Mile 2, they were arrested by Chief Kalilou who put them in different cells.
He said in the morning, he was taken before a group of security personnel who were mainly officers and were speaking in a particular dialect. He said when they talked to Manga, he responded in the same language. But when it was his turn, he told them that he could not speak that language. When asked why he came with the bag to work, he said he brought it because he wanted to proceed to Niumi for his weekend after closing for duties. The witness said this was when an order was passed for him to be taken to an empty cell at the Security Wing while Manga was taken to the Remand Wing.
He said the following day, he was taken to the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) headquarters where he was detained for months.
He said he went into the NIA through the back door and was taken straight to Sheikh Omar Jeng’s Office, the then Director of Operations at the NIA. He said their statements were taken
He said he was detained in a dark cell and all through his two months and three days stay, he was in handcuff. He said the cell was smelling and mosquitoes were biting him, but he couldn’t have chased them since his hands were in chains. He said he was moved to Mile 2 where he spent nine months under detention.
He disclosed that he was jointly charged with Manga for aiding Ismaila Ceesay to escape from lawful custody, but at the end of the trial he was acquitted and discharged.
The former prison warden described Mile 2 prison condition as terrible, adding the place was hot and the place where they eat food was unhygienic. He told the TRRC that he was detained together with a mentally unstable inmate which made his detention difficult.
He testified that the food that the inmates are served with was not fit for purpose, adding it should not be given to dogs much more human beings. He said as a consequent of bad food, many of the inmates suffered illnesses.
Njie said ex-DG David Colley does not care what food the inmates were served with.
“Sometimes if a bull is slaughtered, they will remove a share for him (David Colley) and sometimes if you stand with a female Officer, he (David) will charge you,” Njie said.
He alleged that one prison warden by the name Rohey got married to another prison warden and got fired from service by David Colley.
He said while in detention, he was told that Chief Kalilou Sanneh was bribed to help Ceesay to escape from custody.