by Alhagie Jobe
Officials of the Petroleum ministry and its board members who were recently arrested and detained at the notorious NIA headquarters were in the rush hours of Wednesday, June 22nd, dragged to court and remanded in Prison custody at the state Central Prison of Mile II.
They were arraigned before Principal Magistrate Omar Cham of the Banjul Magistrate court and charged with economic crimes.
They are Sira Wally Ndow-Njie, former Deputy Minister of Tourism and Culture, Muntaga Sallah, former Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Petroleum, Nuha Touray, for Secretary to Cabinet at the Office of the President Momodou Badjie, former managing director of Gambia National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC), Fafa Sanyang, former Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Petroleum, Seedy Kanyi, former General Manager of Gambia Transport Service Corporation and Cherno Marena, former Solicitor General, amongst others.
The case was only mentioned in court and Principal Magistrate Omar Cham ruled that the matter will be transferred to the High Court on grounds of jurisdiction. He then remanded all the accused persons at Mile II prison.
Lawyers Ida Drammeh and Badou Conteh stood in for the accused person.
Meanwhile, all the accused are reported to have received their dismissal letters on Tuesday at the NIA offices in Banjul before today’s court appearance.
It could be recalled that over the weekend, government security agents mounted a mass arrest in which all these top government official were rounded up from different locations. It was not clear at the onset of what exactly was behind the arrest.
On Monday, the Office of the President issued a statement announcing that it has discovered ‘one of the most serious economic crimes’ in government during the past twenty-two years of the Second Republic and that all those suspected to be involved are currently helping the competent security officers in the execution of their mandate to investigate into the matter. The Office of the President said the cluster of issues concerns the procurement of petroleum and hence the institutions involved include the Ministry of Petroleum, the Gambia National Petroleum Company (GNPC) and the Board of GNPC.