Writer Urges Barrow Administration To Drop Charges Against Muntaga Sallah

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We are in a new dispensation, where law and justice must and should guide our conduct. We have voted for not only a regime change but system change as well. Many have been victims of the former regime. People have been wrongly charged and arraigned before the courts just to please Jammeh. The new regime should not be seen as an engine to continue that. All the injustices perpetrated by Jammeh should be flushed into the toilet. For we want to see a Gambia free from the remains of Jammeism. “Justice should roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.”

In the last days or months of Jammeh in the Gambia, we have seen and witnessed so many arrests and arraignment of Public Officers in The Gambia, from the top civil servants vehicle saga to the officials of the petroleum case. These had stricken the hearts and souls of many in The Gambia. We commended the new government for dropping charges against top civil servants which eventually led to their discharged by the courts. However, as a concern Gambian and an advocate of justice and rule of law, I want to further challenge the new government on the charges against MUNTAGA SALLAH, the former Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Petroleum.

Muntaga, is currently facing charges with ten other accused persons. They are SIRA WALLY NDOW NJAI, MOMODOU O.S BADJIE, FAFA SANYANG, CHERNO MARENAH, SEEDY KANYI, MOMODOU TAAL, LOUIE MOSES MENDY, NOAH TOURAY AND MADUN SANYANG. In the Bill of Indictment filed on the 7th of November, 2016, Muntaga was charged with others for causing economic loss to the government of The Gambia to the tune of $7, 069, 880.70 which is equivalent to D329, 456, 441 by causing the Gambia government to make such payment to March Trading.

March Trading was a company that was contracted by the Gambia National Petroleum Corporation for the supply of Heavy Fuel Oil, Gasoil and Gasoline. Prior to contracting March Trading, March Trading and two other companies by the name, Transfigura and Adax/Oryx submitted proposals for the supply of the fuel products. Preliminary assessments and evaluations of the bids were done by the entire GNPC board, based on set criteria and other standards as determined by the board of directors, March Trading was considered most responsive to the criteria and standards used in the evaluation of the bids such as price, delivery, credit, security stock and quality, among others. The members of the board are stipulated in section 6 of the GNPC, Act 2014.

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However, the board agreed to conduct a due diligence on March Trading. The board wrote to the office of president for travel clearance to Dubai and it was granted. At the board level, PS Sallah recommended that an independent firm (Mayer Brown) be engaged to conduct a proper due diligence on March Trading citing that the board did not have the capacity to do an appropriate due diligence. The board adopted this recommendation and it was agreed that in addition to the selected board members traveling to Dubai, Mayer Brown would simultaneously conduct an independent due diligence. This is evidence by the witness statements of some of the people charged. This recommendation of Muntaga was never heeded to. Below is a letter about the team that left for Dubai.

Before that a team earlier left for Dubai for the preparation of the contract with March Trading as seen below.

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On the 8th to 15th of September, 2015 another team left for the finalization of the contract between GNPC and March Trading. The said contract was signed on the 11th of September, 2015. It was after the signing of the contract that March Trading started supplying the said fuel.

It is apparent from the above that Muntaga was never part of the team that traveled to Dubai for the preparation of the contract at hand, he never traveled for the due diligence trip and for the finalization of the said contract. One may be tempted to know why. Muntaga was dismissed as Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Petroleum on the 9th of June, 2015. See his dismissal letter.

The alleged payments which were the reasons for the present charges were made when Muntaga was dismissed. This is also evidence below.

It is an affront to even common sense to charge Muntaga in this case. Even a layman would know that this is injustice at its best under the Jammeh regime. I therefore challenged the new justice minister, Ba Tambedou to keep to his word. He said he would not allow himself to be used by anyone to prosecute an innocent soul. I got so much inspired by this statement. Continuing with a charge against Muntaga would mean being used by Jammeh to prosecute an innocent man. And as the saying legal adage goes, “its better for 99 criminals to escape justice than one innocent man to be unjustly incarcerated.” Review the GNPC case, Mr. Justice Minister and free all the innocent souls that Jammeh wanted to see jailed.

It is apparent and not in dispute that there was indeed an over billing up to the tune of D330m which is an amount sufficient to fund eleven Ministries under the current Appropriation Act of 2017. The table below shows it all.

There is indeed an urgency for the fraud to be established in court to enable the government to immediately appoint international law firms with the capacity to recover the amount at hand. Such an appointment of the firm doesn’t necessarily have to involve cash but it can be done on agreement and they be paid when the recovery is done based on the amount recovered.

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